Remember when you were a child. You couldn’t wait for summer; the end of school, the start of days spent outdoors with family and friends enjoying life. For many adults, however, summer is far less enjoyable. Summer depression is a very real. Those of us living in Hong Kong are especially vulnerable as studies have found higher rates of summer depression in parts of the world with warmer climates.
How do I know if I have summer depression?
If you experience the following symptoms during the summer, but not other times of the year, you may have summer depression.
• Consistent feelings of sadness
• Withdrawal or isolation
• Lack of interest or participation in things you usually enjoy
• Feelings of anxiety or hopelessness
• Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
• Loss of energy
• Weight loss
• Loss of appetite
What causes summer depression?
• High temperatures and humidity. For many of us, the combination of Hong Kong’s high temperatures and humidity during the summer is oppressive. You may find yourself cloistered in airconditioned rooms, watching excessive amounts of television, skipping before- or after-dinner walks or other forms of outdoor exercise. In addition, you may eat more unhealthy takeout food as it seems too hot to cook. It is widely accepted that decreased exercise and poor eating habits can contribute to summer depression.
• Lack of routine. Having a routine is very effective in preventing depression. For parents, however, a child’s or children’s days are less scheduled following the end of the school year and afterschool activities. Moreover, holidays, whether in Hong Kong or abroad, can wreak havoc on eating and sleeping habits. These disruptions to our lives may be major contributors to summer depression.
• Financial worries. Although traveling during holidays is exciting, it also is expensive, resulting in worries about finances and increased risk for summer depression.
• Concerns about body image. Of course, we dress more lightly during summer to remain comfortable. However, as we wear clothing that shows more of our bodies, we may become increasingly self-conscious. Feeling embarrassed about wearing shorts or bathing suits may contribute to summer depression.
How can you beat summer depression?
• Plan ahead. If you know that you are vulnerable to summer depression, you have time to prevent it. For example, you can decide when you take leave from work, as well as sign your children up for camp or other summer programmes. By planning in advance, you will be in a better position to reduce the stress you feel over the summer.
• Maintain your exercise regimen. There is considerable research that physical exercise can control the symptoms of depression. Even if it is too hot and humid to engage in your usual exercise activities, try to find other approaches to remaining active. For example, begin your outdoor exercise early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the hottest parts of the day. Another approach is to join a gym.
• Avoid overdoing dieting and fitness. Many people engage in more extreme dieting and exercise to fit into the bathing suits they wore the previous year. Doing so can make you feel more depressed and anxious, especially if you believe you are not meeting your goals. As such, moderation in both exercise and eating is healthier psychologically.
• Don’t be too hard on yourself. You may see other people enjoying themselves and fault yourself for not being able to do so. The worry that arises from comparing yourself with others in generally unproductive. It is better to focus on what has caused your summer depression and how you can address it successfully.
• Get professional help. If you feel depressed, not only during the summer but at any time during the year, make an appointment to see a psychologist, counsellor or psychiatrist. Don’t assume that signs of depression will disappear by themselves.