Updated: Jan 25
by Larissa Long
It’s officially Spring! That time of year that the flowers begin blooming, the sun is shining more, and the energy is feeling lighter and more inspired.
But despite all of this positivity, you may find yourself feeling more depressed. You may feel like you are struggling with energy and frustrated by all of the positive energy you see around you. You WANT to join in on the Spring celebrations, but also feel like you can’t and you don’t understand why.
If this describes how you are feeling right now, know that you are not alone! You may actually be dealing with a phenomenon known as Springtime Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder? According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD “is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. These symptoms often resolve during the spring and summer months. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer and resolves during the fall or winter months.”
Winter SAD symptoms may include:
Food cravings/weight gain
However, the symptoms change a bit when it comes to springtime SAD. They may include:
Lack of appetite/weight loss
Increased feelings of aggression
As you can see, the symptoms for spring SAD are a bit opposite of the symptoms for winter SAD. So what causes these symptoms?
Wintertime SAD has been attributed to a lack of sunshine. Without as much sunlight, our vitamin D levels drop. This can lower our serotonin levels, too. Serotonin is known as the “happy chemical” in our brains. The extra darkness also makes our melatonin levels increase. This causes us to feel tired and unmotivated.
When Daylight Savings Time ends, we get more sunshine which should mean more happiness, right? The days have gotten longer, we are outside in the warmth, our bodies are producing more vitamin D. Vitamin D regulates the absorption of phosphorus and calcium. Phosphorus is found in our bones and teeth. It filters waste from our kidneys and is pivotal in helping our bodies store and use energy. Calcium is also found in the teeth and bones but it plays an important role in blood clotting, muscle contraction, and regulating normal heart rhythms and nerve functioning.
Known as “the sunshine vitamin,” it is naturally produced by our bodies when directly exposed to sunlight. It also facilitates normal immune system functioning. For many people who have been suffering from winter SAD symptoms, the increased light becomes a beacon of hope and their depression symptoms ease. For about 15% of those suffering from SAD, however, this is actually not the case.
Springtime SAD has many different causes that all come together to form the perfect emotional storm:
Disrupted sleep patterns due to sunlight, heat, and other spring and summer discomforts
Feeling left out or pressured to participate as you see others having fun (such as in vacation photos)
Avoidance of warm weather activities due to health or appearance concerns
Heat and humidity (The inflammation from heat, humidity, and seasonal allergies is associated with depression and other mood disorders)
As the Earth shifts and the Northern Hemisphere gets closer to the sun, it’s impossible for us to control the length of days. But there are other options for feeling better when we get that Springtime Sadness.
Setting yourself up for a good night of sleep is important no matter what time of year it is. During the spring and summer, make sure your bedroom is dark and cool while you sleep. Limiting the light and heat when you’re asleep is a great way to get that deep, recharging slumber you need to be your best self each day. Try to go to bed around the same time each night, as well.
Ease into the time change and create a new routine for yourself as necessary. Having a dependable daily schedule helps ease anxiety. Prioritizing your routine and putting yourself first can help you feel better about missing plans with friends. This may take a few weeks to settle in so be gentle with yourself as you adjust to the changing light.
Lowering inflammation in the body can also help. Take cool baths and showers. Avoid spicy and acidic foods and stimulants like caffeine. Try to integrate turmeric into your diet as it has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Swimming or going for an evening walk are great ways to exercise without getting too overheated.
If your symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks or are interfering with your normal functioning, reaching out to your doctor about medication may be the next step in healing. Antidepressants known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) can be utilized to treat SAD and Major Depressive Disorder by introducing more serotonin into the brain.
Changing our routines seasonally is hard enough. Dealing with depression during a time when most people seem to be having a ball is even harder! With patience, practice, and kindness, you can ease your symptoms and start enjoying the changing seasons.
And of course, if you are still struggling to maintain daily functioning, we are here for you. Talking to a trained mental health professional can help you decide on the best treatments for your symptoms, understand your changing emotions, and make you feel grounded as the world around you seems to take off. To learn more about how we can help you with Springtime SAD, book your free consultation HERE!