Spring is here! The weather is starting to get warmer, everything is blooming and growing, people are hurrying outside to soak up the sun, and for some reason, you feel terrible. You have no motivation, nothing brings you joy, and you just want to curl up and sleep. You’ve probably heard about winter blues, but what about spring blues? What is it about spring that often leaves our mental health in shambles?
Spring depression is a type of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and it’s a type of recurrent depression that is linked with seasonal changes. SAD symptoms typically start in the fall and continue into the winter months, resolving themselves during the spring and summer months. But there’s the other way around, where 10% of the population experience these symptoms during the spring and summer months, usually lasting throughout April and May. The National Institutes of Mental Health conducted research that shows that suicide rates hit their peak in spring.
Here are the most common symptoms of spring depression:
- Feeling sad or down almost every day
- Not enjoying activities that brought you joy
- Having low energy
- Sleep problems
- Having problem concentrating
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Feeling hopeless
- Increased irritability and anxiety issues
- Aggressive behavior
- Having suicidal thoughts
The exact cause of spring depression is still unknown, but researchers have compiled a list of possible contributing factors:
- Heat and warm weather. If you don’t handle heat well, this period can bring you a lot of discomfort.
- Longer days. This can disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it more difficult to get back on track with your sleep schedule.
- The feeling of missing things (vacation, traveling, etc.). Especially nowadays, when everything is public and social media makes it seem like people just travel and have a good time, you might feel like you’re left behind.
- Body and health concerns which lead to avoiding summer activities. Anything from body dysmorphia to simply not being comfortable in your own skin might be a trigger for low mood in anticipation of “bikini season.”
- Allergies. Spring might make you feel congested and groggy, which can also affect your mood.
Women are more likely to get affected by SAD than men, and it usually occurs between the ages of 18 and 30. Family history plays a big part, but previous medical conditions are a major factor. Seasonal depression affects up to 20% of people with depression and around 25% of people with bipolar disorder. People with ADHD, eating disorders, anxiety disorder, or panic disorder are also at a higher risk of having SAD.
A lot of people tend to write off these symptoms as seasonal funk, but the better thing to do would be to take steps to keep your mood steady throughout the year. Medication is always an option, but let’s focus on less invasive treatments.
- One of the first things you can do is to practice good sleep hygiene. Lack of sleep has a lot of negative side effects, and it can increase spring depression symptoms. So, focus on keeping your room cool and dark, and make sure you have a comfortable mattress and breathable bedding. Also, getting up and going to bed at the same time is a good practice.
- Even though there’s no proven link between heat sensitivity and spring depression, feeling uncomfortable will definitely not improve your mood. So keep yourself cool with fans or air conditioning, drink a lot of water, and wear breathable clothes.
- Stick to a reasonable routine, even though you don’t feel like it. You might feel sluggish and totally unmotivated, but not doing things you’re supposed to will make those feelings even worse. So create a schedule and stick to it. It’s not going to be easy, but you’ll feel much more accomplished and satisfied afterward.
- You should always make some time for physical exercise. It’s well known that it relieves stress and has a positive impact on fighting depression and anxiety. To avoid the heat, you can practice swimming, work out early in the morning, or simply exercise in an air-conditioned facility.
- You might not have an appetite in this period, but a balanced diet is very important for proper functioning, and it’s especially important when you’re trying to overcome spring depression. Not including enough of the right nutrients in your diet can make you irritable, less productive, and just all-around sluggish. So focus on nutrient-rich, depression-relieving food, and always drink plenty of water.
- If you feel you need someone to talk to in order to better understand all of those feelings you experience, you can talk to your loved ones or to a specialized therapist. If you don’t feel like talking, you can do some journaling or focus on meditation.
And if none of these work, you can always go for professional help. Light therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have shown good results in relieving the symptoms of SAD.
It’s not easy to be constantly feeling tired and unproductive when everything around you is awake and booming. But that does not mean you should lean into those feelings and let them consume you. Little by little, step by step, you can make this period work for you. The important thing to remember is not to compare yourself with other people and simply do your best. We’re rooting for you!