For many, the changing of the seasons is often a happy time — a breath of fresh air bringing on a new season with new characteristics. A new season is commonly seen as a fresh start. Indeed, a seasonal change can be a pleasant break from what has become the mundane over the last 3-4 months. However, for another portion of Americans, the changing of seasons can actually bring about quite the opposite, generating feelings of anxiety, melancholy, and even depression. Continue reading to learn more about how seasonality can affect your mental health.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a disorder that affects roughly 5% of Americans, and is often referred to simply as “seasonal depression.” SAD is a mood disorder where people who typically have average mental health for a majority of the year develop depression during certain seasons each year — most commonly during the fall and winter months. Symptoms of SAD include overeating, persistent feelings of exhaustion or lethargy, and increased anxiety. If you think you may suffer from seasonal depression, reach out to your Hermosa Beach psychologist.
Getting that extra hour when we “fall back” at the end of Daylight Saving Time can certainly feel great at the time, but for many — especially those dealing with seasonal depression — the joy often fades as quickly as the daylight. Not only can the change in schedule disrupt your body’s natural schedule, but the lack of sunlight during the fall and winter months can take a heavy toll on mental health, as well. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, and not only is vitamin D vital to many of our body’s basic functions, but studies have shown a lack of vitamin D to be directly linked with depression.
While commonly portrayed solely as joyful, heart-warming events where families gather to spend quality time together, the fact of the matter is, not everyone has a family they feel loved and supported by. For some, the holidays can mean choosing between visiting with unkind or even hostile in-laws, or going home to abusive family members of their own. If you’ve had a loved one pass away, it can also be a painful reminder of what you’ve lost, bringing about feelings of grief.
Even with a supportive, loving family, holidays can still trigger stress with the seemingly never-ending list of to-dos to accomplish, from buying gifts to preparing large family meals. From fall to winter it can feel like a cascade from one holiday to the next, with little time to relax in between. Skipping any of these events may lead to a sense of overwhelming guilt, with the alternative being stretching yourself thin and burning out — so for many, the holidays may make them feel as if they just can’t win.
Something you may find surprising is the fact that fall and winter aren’t the only seasons which can negatively impact your mental health. The frequent rainy days during the spring can quickly bring about depressive symptoms due to the lack of sunlight and gloomy weather. Summer can feel like a pleasant change from this, however, the summer sun and heat can wear you down quickly, too. Excessive exposure to sun and heat can lead to dehydration, lethargy, decreased appetite, and trouble sleeping — all of which can lead to an increase in aggressive behavior.
If you notice you often struggle with your mental health during certain times of the year, it may be time to speak to your South Bay and Hermosa Beach psychologist about it. Dr. Kelly Mothner is a psychologist specializing in adult, adolescent, and couples therapy, serving the Hermosa Beach and South Bay areas. Dr. Mothner is a proud member of the American Psychological Association, the California Psychological Association, and the Los Angeles Psychological Association. If you’re ready to speak to a licensed psychologist, contact Dr. Kelly Mothner and her skilled team of staff therapists today.