Sad about the end of winter? It could be Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Sad about the end of winter? It could be Seasonal Affective Disorder.

By Wendy Clinch •  Updated: 04/12/22 •  4 min read

I’ve run a variant of this post each year since 2018, but only because I think it’s important. Seasonal Affective Disorder is real, and it’s something that many of us suffer from at the end of ski season. So here we go again…..

How do you feel when ski season ends? Are you ready to move on to spring and summer? Or are you bummed out that it’s over?

Consider me the latter. Even though the past few seasons have been difficult because of COVID, I’m still in a bit of a funk. It’s not that I don’t like warm weather. I do. But I’m always sad to see ski season end, and yeah, I’m a bit depressed until I get used to the idea and find other things to do (believe me, I have a huge list of things I put off during ski season). Then I’m pretty much okay.

This is me.

For some people, however, the change of season makes them more than just sad. You’ve probably heard about seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, which affects about 4- to 6-percent of the US population. SAD typically causes depression as the days get shorter and colder. But about 10% of people with SAD get it in reverse — the onset of summer triggers their depression symptoms. No, it’s not as common as winter SAD, but yes, it’s definitely something that happens.

According to an article in Psychology Today, while winter SAD is linked to a lack of sunlight, summer SAD may be due to the reverse — possibly too much sunlight, which also leads to modulations in melatonin production. Another theory is that people might stay up later in the summer, throwing their sensitive circadian rhythms for a loop. Or  it could be a reaction to higher heat and humidity, since traveling to a cooler locale sometimes brings relief. There’s even a theory that says summer SAD may involve sensitivity to pollen. One preliminary study in the Journal of Affective Disorders found summer SAD sufferers reported worse moods when the pollen count was high.

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Winter- and summer-related SAD have different symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of winter depression include loss of energy, oversleeping, and weight gain. Summer depression symptoms, however, can include anxiety, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, poor appetite, and weight loss. Summer SAD can also bring a feeling of isolation, too. Most everyone is having a good time; why aren’t you?

So what are you supposed to do?

• Seek medical attention: If it’s getting in the way of your normal life, this is your best course of action. Because who knows: if it’s not SAD, it could be something else. So talk to your doctor. Once you figure out exactly what’s going on, you can explore treatment options.

• Exercise. I can’t think of a single thing that exercise isn’t good for, and this is another case where getting yourself moving can help. Regular exercise can boost serotonin and endorphins, which make our brain feel good.

• Do something you enjoy every day. Find something each day that will make you happy, even if it involves staying indoors.

Relax. Studies show that relaxation techniques can have a profound affect on your ability to overcome depression and anxiety. Try to incorporate meditation, deep breathing, muscle relaxation, or yoga into your daily routine.

• Plan for it. If you know you’re going to experience summer SAD, be ready in advance. Organize your summer ahead of time so you can feel more in control. It’ll make it much less stressful when your symptoms kick in.

• And start planning for next year! Hopefully, we’ll have a season without the restrictions we had this year. I’m already planning to travel out west, something I didn’t do during the pandemic. Having something to look forward to is a great depression buster — there’s a lot of optimism bound up in it — so whether it’s buying next year’s pass or planning a trip, start thinking ahead.