Managing End-of-Summer Stress
Most people are familiar with the winter blues, but have you heard of autumn anxiety? If you’re experiencing anxiety or mood changes as the end of summer nears, you may be experiencing feelings of summertime SAD.
Chances are when you think of summer, you imagine hot nights, languid days, and plenty of time in the sun. Your summer memories are likely surrounded by a warm glow and maybe even a sense of nostalgia. Unfortunately, summer must eventually give way to brisk air and falling leaves.
No one likes to see summer end, but some people experience an end-of-summer mood shift that is more than just a passing disappointment or jitters about the looming school year.
Studies show that as the days begin to shorten, many people experience marked anxiety and depression — an end-of-summer experience similar to seasonal affective disorder, also known as autumn anxiety.
What is SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder — SAD — is a form of depression that is linked to the passing of the seasons. Most commonly, people experience SAD during the winter months, when the days are short and the weather is cold.
Research indicates that winter conditions can impact the chemical balance of your brain. The decrease in daylight hours and exposure to sunlight may cause a drastic dropoff in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is essential for mood regulation. Meanwhile, your level of melatonin — the hormone responsible for regulating sleep — is likely to rise.
When both hormones fluctuate simultaneously, you may experience a misalignment in your sleep and waking patterns. Paired with vitamin deficiencies, this imbalance often leads to symptoms of depression and anxiety, including:
- Noticeable feelings of fatigue
- Constant tiredness, even with plenty of sleep
- Persistent feelings of sadness, irritability, guilt, or despair
- Dramatic changes in sleeping habits
- Apathy or disinterest in work and hobbies
- Drastic changes in appetite
- Brain fog
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
Does SAD happen in the summer?
SAD is typically associated with winter months and the inevitably shorter days it brings with it — so how does summertime version of SAD or autumn anxiety happen?
For many people, the end of summer brings with it major life changes, be it a return to school, a new job, and new schedules. Naturally, these looming changes can create a sense of panic or anxiety. The prolonged sense of stress — paired with the gradual shortening of daylight hours — can trigger an experience similar to SAD.
Though the symptoms are often mild enough to evade diagnosis, summer feelings of depression and anxiety are very real for many people. It is important to note that summer SAD is not considered a formal condition that can be diagnosed. Rather, it is a phenomenon that describes intensifying feelings of stress in late summer.
Managing end-of-summer stress
If you’re feeling the pressure of autumn waiting just around the corner, there are several stress management methods you can try to boost your mood. Tips for managing end-of-summer stress include:
Taking care of your health
As it is during every season, it is important to maintain your overall health and well-being during the summer. Summer may be care-free, but many people are still struggling with the realities of the pandemic, financial hardship, and more. As we head into another uncertain fall, it is more important than ever to maintain a robust self care routine that includes a healthy diet and exercise.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Feelings of anxiety and depression can often lead to unhealthy eating, lethargy, and weight gain. Unfortunately, these symptoms can aggravate changes in mood — creating a negative cycle. One of the keys to managing stress is maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise and healthy eating.
Following a regular sleep schedule
It’s no secret that sleep and mental health go hand-in-hand. Sleep deprivation can quickly lead to turbulent emotions and anxious thoughts, thanks to the spike in the stress hormone cortisol. If you’re feeling the weight of the end of summer, build a sleep schedule that will carry you into a healthy, well-rested autumn.
Soaking up the sun
Feelings of anxiety and depression can cause you to want to spend more time indoors and in bed. However, one of the most effective ways to combat end-of-summer stress is by spending time outdoors.
You may prefer the cool air-conditioning to the heat of summer, but you won’t regret soaking up the sun while summer is still here. Studies show that spending time in the sun — with proper sun protection and hydration, of course — can help boost mood and brain function. Spending time moving your body in the great outdoors is a powerful way to manage stress.
Talk to your doctor about mood changes
While summer SAD is not considered to be a diagnosable condition, it is important to take any feeling of anxiety or depression seriously. Take honest note of your focus levels, moods, and emotions. If you are noticing that symptoms are impairing your daily life and relationships, it is important to talk to your doctor.
Summer can undoubtedly be a time for new adventures and fond memories created with family and friends, but the joy of the season doesn’t negate any SAD-like symptoms you may be experiencing. Your mental health can suffer at any time of year.
When it comes to choosing the best stress management strategy for your needs, your health care provider is the ultimate resource. Your doctor can help you understand how different factors, including the seasons, might be impacting your mental health.
Before prescribing medication, your healthcare provider may recommend lifestyle or dietary changes to help support your overall health. Be ready to discuss your current sleep schedule, eating and fitness habits, your mental health history, and more with your doctor.
Alpha Medical offers online medical consultations as well as prescriptions for depression and anxiety. To get started, you will complete an online consultation and an Alpha Provider will work with you to help you best manage your health.
To learn more about the conditions Alpha addresses and start your online consultation, visit the website.