Person Sitting in Front of Body of Water

Summertime Blues: Summer Seasonal Depression Really Is A Thing

The concept of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is pretty widely known — in its most common form. Plenty of folks dislike cold weather, shorter days, and abundant darkness. However, there’s more to SAD than dreading the winter. While roughly 5 percent of U.S. adults are diagnosed with SAD, some of them have the summertime blues.

Seasonal depression is less common in the summer but it impacts more people than we might imagine. Thus, like any type of depression, summer SAD requires our attention and must be taken seriously. So, if you feel irritable and struggle with low energy when everyone else is rushing to the beach, get ready to be validated. 

Common Signs of Summertime SAD

  • Irritability and restlessness

  • Insomnia 

  • Anxiety

  • Loss of appetite 

  • Headaches  (or  migraines)

  • A general lack of motivation 

Any or all of the above will arrive like clockwork as the heat and humidity kick into high gear. In some cases, individuals will experience such symptoms sporadically. But if these signs return year after year, there’s probably something more serious happening. 

What Causes Summertime SAD?

Person Sitting in Front of Body of Water

Like any mental health issue, the summertime blues can have discrete causes from person to person. However, beneath these variables, there are usually similar environmental and physiological factors, for example: 

Summer Allergies

If seasonal allergies are a part of your life, the summer months have their share of triggers, e.g. high rates of pollen. The worsening of allergy symptoms like inflammation has been linked to depression.

Your Body is Not in Tune With the Heat

All weather extremes can be disturbing but some of us respond more severely to higher temperatures. It’s a genetic predisposition that can turn even a short walk to run errands into an awful experience. 

Societal Pressure 

Many people — especially on social media — talk about the summer months before the season arrives. This slow-building peer pressure makes you feel self-conscious about preferring the cooler months. Too much talk about beach bodies, sun worship, and travel plans can send you into a funk. 

Internal Clock

Summer days are longer and with the aforementioned peer pressure, your daily routines may get highjacked. You might get to bed later or spend more time outside. Work and school schedules can change. For those who aren’t fans of summer, this is a recipe for mood swings. 

Keep in Mind

Summertime SAD is typically more common in

  • Women

  • Young adults 

  • People who live slower to the equator

  • Individuals already dealing with a mood disorder 

Self-Help Steps For the Summertime Blues

Maintain a Self-Care Routine 

You’ll want to focus on some basics, of course. This means keeping regular sleep patterns, making healthy eating and drinking choices (stay hydrated!), exercising at a time of day that feels best, and practicing stress management. Take active steps to keep your body cool and get comfortable with declining summer invitations when you need some cool time for yourself. Set boundaries but do not let yourself slip into long stretches of self-isolation. 

Take Tech Breaks

As discussed above, peer pressure and the fear of missing out (FOMO) can exacerbate summertime SAD. Give your mind a break by powering down your devices and using that time to engage in relaxation techniques. 

Keep a Journal

Monitoring your moods helps avoid triggers. Also, that journal can be where you keep track of what you’re grateful for. While we’re on this general vibe, lean more on your particular spiritual faith in the summer and seek out ways to help others.

Don’t Minimize What You’re Feeling

Any type of SAD is a diagnosable disorder. If the summertime blues have you feeling stuck, talk to an experienced professional and book a session of depression treatment with us soon.

bipoc woman in therapy

How to Cope With Depression As a BIPOC

Depression is a genuine concern for all people. This is especially true if they are trying to cope with ongoing stress or a family history of mental illness. In addition, depression is more common in anyone who does not practice steady self-care. All that said, black, indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) face a higher risk than most.

A prominent example is that 1 in 5 Americans with depression are Black while Blacks make up only 13 percent of the population. Issues like grief, discrimination, and generational trauma are just a few of the reasons for this trend. Obviously, this reality must be addressed.

What Are Some of the Common
Depression Symptoms?

bipoc woman in therapyPeople with depression display emotions like guilt, sadness, and hopelessness. They struggle to stay focused and make decisions. Activities they once enjoyed no longer hold their interest and they can slide into patterns of self-harm.

Physically, anyone dealing with depression will experience bodily symptoms. These may involve sleep issues, fatigue, and digestive disturbances (including weight gain or loss). Unexplained aches and pains are also common.

While such symptoms may transcend race or ethnicity, some of the risks BIPOC face can be mostly specific to them.

What Causes Depression Among BIPOC?

Clinician Perception

Why this is not a “cause” in a strip sense, it continues mightily to the spread and worsening of this mood disorder among BIPOC. Research shows that BIPOC are often under-diagnosed. Even if a doctor is aware and anti-racist, they may not recognize depression symptoms that are more common for BIPOC. Depression can look and feel different for different people. If this is missed, the entire diagnosis can be inaccurate.

Financial Problems

Lack of money is a major cause of mental illness and it can limit one’s access to healthcare. BIPOC tend to experience poverty at rates higher than white people. The intersection of race and financial class is a recipe for depression and untreated depression.

Stigma

While mental health stigma affects all people, it appears to be strongest in Black communities. Males are likely to be called “weak” while females are viewed as “hysterical.” This contributes to a situation in which BIPOC choose to remain silent about what they’re feeling. As a result, a condition like depression is left to develop and worsen without any kind of medical intervention.

How to Cope With Depression As a BIPOC

Remember: Depression is Not a Sin

It’s not unusual to experience guilt trips from your church community if you talk about mental health issues. Depression is an insidious medical condition that is not a reflection of one’s faith or strength. Just as a person of faith you’d seek medical care for a twisted ankle or flu symptoms, it’s logical to speak to a professional if you suspect depression is present in your life. Someone with depression cannot just “cheer up” and more than a person with diabetes could “snap out of it.”

Challenge Myths

Historically, BIPOC have faced relentless hardships. But it’s a myth to believe that the struggles are “over.” You don’t have to endure systemic discrimination to be worthy of help. Mental health disorders are genuine crises. There’s no need to rank hardships, justify your pain, or compare your struggle with anyone else.

Connect With the Help You Need

The Internet can sometimes be the source of mental distress. But it also enables people to learn about something like depression with a few clicks. In addition, it’s never been easier to link up with BIPOC who understand what you’re feeling.

Also, it can be life-changing to connect with a therapist who “gets” it. I’m here to help and invite you to reach out and learn more about depression therapy.

therapist writing in notebook

How to Participate in May’s Mental Health Awareness Month

The designation of May as Mental Health Awareness Month in 1949 was a much-needed step. Even so, millions of people throughout the world are dealing with mental health conditions. Additionally, the amount of children who are dealing with mental health conditions is, unfortunately on the rise. Even though there are treatments for mental health issues, many people are hesitant to reach out for support.

Stigma must be decreased, and awareness must be increased. Therefore, this month can be a powerful catalyst for improving our collective well-being. Effective treatments have been developed in the past 75 years. But what can we each be doing this Mental Health Awareness Month?

How to Participate in May’s Mental Health Awareness Month

Don’t Keep It to Yourself

therapist writing in notebookSilence leads to more problems. When we talk about mental health and mental health months, we create space for crucial conversations to happen. This May, you can:

  • Tell your own story and lead by example
  • Engage in self-education to better understand the scope of mental health issues and how you can be a supportive friend, partner, neighbor, and co-worker
  • Don’t allow stigmas to go unchallenged
  • Let the people in your life know that you’re present and available

Add Some Basics Into Your Life

Caring for your mental health is much more than an official treatment plan. The choices you make all day long play a major role. Why not integrate some positive practices into your life and invite others to join in? For example:

  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Gentle movements like yoga and tai chi
  • Aromatherapy
  • Maintain a daily gratitude practice

Learn to Recognize Possible Signs of Mental Distress

This goes for yourself and the people around you. Some red flags to identify are:

  • Chronic sadness
  • Low energy
  • Inability to concentrate and focus
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sleep issues
  • Unexplained physical symptoms
  • A general sense of restlessness
  • Ongoing worry and nervousness

Of course, learning the signs and symptoms does not give you permission to diagnose yourself or anyone else. Basically, it allows you to better gauge your own health and be more empathetic toward others.

Learn How to Stay Calm and Healthy Even When Stress Closes In

Whether you’re at home, work, or play, some crises will inevitably arise. It’s a powerful form of solace to discover that you can handle these moments without getting triggered. While panic might be your first impulse, you can do well when you have a toolbox of productive coping skills, e.g. journaling, tech breaks, regular sleep patterns, relying on your social support system, healthy eating choices, maintaining positive routines and schedules, be active (especially outdoors), doing something creative, resist self-medication, positive self-talk, and leaning on whatever spiritual practice you follow.

Shout It Out Loud

Social media can have far more powerful and productive uses than just selfies and flame wars. Use your platform to create a safe space for anyone who wants to learn about or talk about mental health. It can start with private groups but ultimately, if you stay public, you increase the number of people you can inspire and health. It’s time to help more people feel comfortable in seeking help.

Therapy is Available for All 12 Months

As you learn more and hear more from others, you’ll undoubtedly encounter many therapy success stories. So, do not forget that you can ask for help all year round. Mental Health Awareness Month is a great reminder for everyone but the positive energy does not end on June 1. What a gift to give to yourself or anyone else to benefit from the wide range of mental health professionals who are ready to be your advocate. Let the month of May be a launching pad for deeper awareness and plenty of healing!

Reach out to learn more about our services such as anxiety or depression treatment and we would be happy to help you or your loved one.

Kristy Hommerding

Kristy Hommerding, MA, LPCCkristy@affinitypsych.com

Kristy has worked in the mental and behavioral health field for over 10 years, specializing in eating disorders and the new-to-therapy client who is less than enthusiastic about the traditional therapy process.

Angela Djoumbaye, MSW, LICSW angela.djoumbaye@affinitypsych.com

Angela works with adults that have experienced trauma, those navigating substance use, those with sleep challenges, and the military community. Her goal is to help you overcome and navigate life struggles by challenging you to see the struggles differently.

photo of a man with back turned from camera staring at mountains

Feeling Depressed After the Holidays? You Aren’t Alone

There are three words in the title to keep in mind. You aren’t alone. People may not talk about it openly but post-holiday depression is a common issue. After the lights are taken down and guests return home, there can be a time of adjustment. It’s usually a blend of sadness and emptiness — with some guilt or shame in the mix.

Post-holiday depression is not a statement about you; it’s more about our collective traditions. Fortunately, there are proven self-help methods for addressing this silent problem. As we’ll touch on below, a huge first step is understanding what’s happening and why.

What Causes Post-Holiday Depression?

Of course, the reasons can vary widely but here are a few common trends:

  • For at least six weeks, most of us toss our schedules and routines out the window. This means more eating and drinking — and less sleep and exercise. This is a recipe for emotional ups and downs.
  • For much of the year, life can settle into a rut without us realizing it. Suddenly, we’re going to parties, seeing people we rarely see, and attending events with gifts, music, drinks, and more. When the holidays end, you may not be ready to return to the grind.
  • Just because everyone is celebrating doesn’t mean you want to join in. You might be grieving, sick, or struggling in other ways. Such a scenario leaves you feeling guilty or resentful about missing out.

Variations and combinations exist, but the post-holiday blues can sneak up on you and throw you for a loop. You’re not alone. This can be true for any of us.

photo of a man with back turned from camera staring at mountainsSteps to Take When Feeling Depressed After the Holidays

Acceptance

You’re moving closer to acceptance once you identify some triggers and causes. You feel a certain way, and you know why, so now it’s time to manage and address the situation. Many folks have a tendency to shrug off mental distress. When you accept the presence of post-holiday depression, you lay bare the need for action.

Nurture Yourself

Your mind and body are not feeling 100 percent right now. Why not treat yourself with the compassion you’d get from a parent, spouse, or good friend? Daily self-care is a crucial practice all year round. But, after the holidays, it becomes non-negotiable, e.g.

  • Get back into a steady sleep routine
  • Commit to exercise and physical activity every day
  • Recalibrate your eating habits

On that last note, don’t allow poor dietary momentum to build into January. Nip it in the bud, and you’ll likely experience some rapid mood enhancement.

Practice Gratitude

Your mind can slide into a particular mood and then find reasons to stay there. To counter this, actively express gratitude for everything — big or small — that makes you smile throughout the day. Keep a journal and review it whenever you sense negativity trying to take over.

Make New Plans — Short-Term and Long-Term

What better way to get unstuck than by giving yourself something to look forward to? Sure, post-holidays, things can feel a little empty or drab but you have more control than you might imagine. It begins by making some small plans to get you focused on creating your own joy.

No Matter What, Take Depression Seriously

The holiday blues typically resolve in a matter of days or weeks. Even so, do not take them lightly. If you get the sense that this is more than a minor funk, reach out to talk about it. Depression is a serious condition. The sooner it’s addressed, the easier it is to treat. So, if your January isn’t getting any better, reach out to learn more about depression treatment.

photo of a person holding a cup of tree with a christmas tree lit up in the background

Why Does My Depression Get Worse Around Holiday Seasons?

Right about the time the Halloween decorations make their first appearance, most folks are gearing up for the holiday season. Family, traditions, parties, and lots of gifts — what’s not to like? In reality, all of us know that the end-of-the-year holidays can be a mixed bag. This goes double for anyone already struggling with depression.

Schedules get disrupted, financial pressure increases and social demands skyrocket. All of this adds up to more stress and, depending on your circumstances, some serious challenges. However, with some advance planning, you can prepare for those challenges and find some joy. Let’s take a closer look.

A Few Common Reasons Why Depression Can Feel Worse During the Holidays

Drama

If we were to believe holiday movies and lyrics to seasonal music, we’d think harmony rules the day. Meanwhile, plenty of people have preexisting family issues that serve to get exacerbated by the holiday scene. You may be dealing with a divorce or the loss of a loved one. Then you have those relatives who love to provoke fights. Any or all of this is made trickier when dealing with depression.

Isolation

Not everyone has family nearby and/or a big social circle. The prospect of not getting or giving many gifts can be daunting. Not having anywhere to go on the big day can bring up feelings of shame. The holiday season can make it appear that everyone has their act together except you.

Expectations

Sure, there’s the gift-giving, the decorating, and the gatherings. But perhaps the biggest expectation this time of year is for you to be happy and merry. Someone with depression is already juggling some tough symptoms. The pressure to be smiling and joyous is unfair and often results in depression symptoms worsening.

photo of a person holding a cup of tree with a christmas tree lit  up in the backgroundGrief

On some level, the goings-on can help distract you from your loss. But since the season is sustained, it will likely make the grief more acute. Even when you have fun, you may wish your loved one could experience it, too. You may even feel guilty for having fun.

Guilt

Depression can temporarily take away the joy you once found in certain activities. During the holidays, you may feel guilty for not appreciating the traditions and together-time. Such guilt can deepen the depressive experience as you believe you’re letting others down.

Self-Help Suggestions

It will be necessary to work with a mental health professional but, at the same time, self-care is a powerful complementary option, e.g.

  • Modulate your expectations. No one — depression or not — can satisfy everyone’s needs this time of year. So, decide how much you’re willing and able to do, and then set boundaries. This is not rude, selfish, or anti-social. It’s self-love.
  • Create a plan in advance to escape the scene if family drama explodes. Work with your therapist to formulate an exit strategy that will spare you the pain without causing a scene for leaving.
  • Talk to loved ones. Don’t struggle alone. Let trusted friends and family members know what you’re feeling. Recruit them to help you maintain balance amidst the celebratory chaos. It could be a loved one who is instrumental in the exit strategies mentioned above.
  • Don’t overindulge. Too much food and alcohol will make things worse — as will disrupting your sleep and exercise schedules.

Adhering to tips like this will go a long way in navigating holiday season depression but again, connect with a therapist. Having the benefit of an experienced guide is a giant step toward keeping yourself centered in a time of high expectations.

If depression has you dreading the holidays, we should talk soon. Let’s connect for a free consultation for depression therapy.

man sitting on floor resting head in hand

How To Deal With Depression After A Divorce

Take a look at any list of life’s most stressful events and you’ll find divorce or separation up near the top. Sure, some divorces are for the better but that most definitely does not mean it isn’t stressful. It’s a form of loss and that means you will grieve. All of this adds up to a high risk of depression.

Post-divorce depression is a very common situational disorder. This is not to say it has to expand into full-blown clinical depression — but it can. Therefore, it demands your full attention and a willingness to do some changing, adjusting, and adapting.

The Stress-Depression Connection

Studies have found that high levels of stress can increase a person’s risk of depression by tenfold. Thus, it should come as no surprise that divorced people display depression at a much higher rate than those in a relationship. Then, of course, you must factor in the possibility that you may have been dealing with some level of depression even before the divorce happened. In other words, stress can lead to depression and/or make it worse.

What Does Depression After A Divorce Look And Feel Like?

It’s not always easy to identify. After all, when going through a divorce, you will undoubtedly show signs and symptoms that can appear normal under the circumstances. What you want to watch for is if the symptoms like this do not lessen even when things have calmed a little:

  • Fatigue and low energy — even if you’ve been sleeping more than usual
  • Irritability that can escalate into outbursts of anger
  • Withdrawal and social isolation
  • Lack of concentration that borders on dissociation
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying, or suicide

What is crucial to remember is that you can snuggle with situational depression even though you’re relieved to be getting divorced.

man sitting on floor resting head in hand

How To Deal With Depression After A Divorce

Accept, Feel, & Connect

It’s not unusual, especially with men, for people to pretend all is well. Suppressed emotions, however, will surface in a negative way (like being depressed). So, let yourself feel what you need to feel, and don’t hesitate to talk about your emotions with people you trust. Keeping to yourself will typically increase the kind of rumination that fuels depression. So, even when you don’t want to talk about emotions, just being out and about with friends will have a positive impact.

Add Joy To Your Schedule

Make a list of activities that bring you happiness. It doesn’t have to be about extravagance. It could be riding your bike or getting a massage. What you put on your list is up to you. But, what’s not negotiable is the need to make these joyful moments happen on a regular basis. Also, since a divorce will bring about many changes to your routines, why not use this time to try something new?

Make Self-Care A Daily Reality

With so much change happening in your life, it can be quite calming to create your own rituals and patterns. A self-care regimen is an ideal step in that direction. It adds structure while enhancing your overall well-being. Self-care also serves as a reminder that you are absolutely worth the daily commitment to yourself.

For starters:

  • Commit to healthy choices in terms of what you eat and drink
  • Establish and maintain steady sleep habits
  • Get your body moving every day
  • Practice stress management tactics like meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, and more

Through it all, never lose sight of the reality that depression can be a serious mental health condition. In the time period after a divorce, it only makes sense that you’d connect with an experienced therapist to learn more. Reach out to learn more about depression treatment.

Christine Dudero, MA, LMFTchristine.dudero@affinitypsych.com

Christine Dudero is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist experienced in working with individuals, couples & families across the lifespan. Christine takes a collaborative approach towards empowering you to achieve your therapy goals.

woman sitting in a car looking out the windshield

What Is Bipolar Depression?

When discussing or possibly addressing depression, understanding the distinctions is crucial. Everyone gets sad or feels down at times. This is normal and inevitable. Depression, on the other hand, is a diagnosable issue that requires treatment. So, that’s one huge distinction. Something else to keep in mind is that depression is often part of a separate condition called Bipolar Disorder (BP) — formerly known as Manic-Depressive Disorder.

Generally speaking, someone is diagnosed with BP if they experience a manic episode that lasts at least one week. In most cases, that same person will also struggle with depressive episodes. In this post, we’ll focus on Bipolar Depression.

About Those Manic Episodes

For the sake of context and contrast, I’ll start by sharing some of the many symptoms of a BP manic episode:

  • Thoughts are racing
  • Talking rapidly and non-stop
  • Displaying extreme excitement and happiness
  • Restlessness
  • Behaving impulsively in ways that can be self-harming, e.g. risky sex, quitting your job, and substance abuse
  • Feeling so energized that you do not sleep
  • Formulating unattainable plans with unrealistic goals
  • Seeing yourself as important or famous
  • In extreme instances, a BP manic episode can produce hallucinations and delusions

Contrast That With Signs of a BP Depressive Episode

In order to be considered a BP depressive episode, the person in question must experience a depressed mood virtually every day over (at least) a two-week time period. In particular, during these two weeks (or more), the person must display a marked loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed. For example, someone may love riding their bicycle but suddenly now never leaves the house.

Other symptoms of a BP Depressive episode may include:

  • Overwhelming feelings of sadness, guilt, hopelessness, worthlessness, or shame
  • Lacking energy and motivation
  • Irritability with occasional angry outbursts
  • Sleep disturbances ranging from too much to insomnia
  • Appetite swings from more to less and back — with subsequent weight gain or loss
  • Unable to concentrate or make decisions
  • Sorrow that causes unpredictable and uncontrollable crying spells
  • Self-harm
  • Thoughts of death, dying, or suicide

woman sitting in a car looking out the windshieldSigns like this, in conjunction with manic episodes, make it advisable to seek advice from a medical professional. One of the first things to find out is if there are factors that would rule out BP as a likely diagnosis. For example, substance abuse, a legal medication, or side effects of an existing medical condition could each be playing a role.

Can You Have a Mixed Episode?

Unfortunately, yes, you can. A mixed episode would see a person juggling depressive and manic symptoms simultaneously. Imagine, for example, feeling super high energy while experiencing a spiral of negative thoughts.

Other Things to Know About Bipolar Disorder

  • As many as 3 percent of Americans (close to 6 million) have BP
  • It impacts people of all ages but the average onset age is 25
  • Men and women are diagnosed at roughly equal rates
  • Women with BP tend to endure more depressive episodes than men
  • BP is diagnosed via physical exam, medical history, and blood tests aiming to rule out other conditions

The exact cause of BP is not yet known. Genetic factors are highly suspected to play a big role. In addition, stressful events have been seen to trigger either manic or depressive episodes.

Getting Treatment for Bipolar Depression

There is currently no cure for BP but treatment can ease symptoms dramatically. In some cases, medication is prescribed (mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants). But talk therapy combined with self-management steps has a solid track record of effective relief. If you or someone you know may be struggling with Bipolar Disorder, I invite you to reach out soon. Let’s get you set up with a free and confidential consultation for depression treatment.