Summer Depression: Embracing the Warmth Within
Typically summer is thought of as a more care-free, lighthearted time – so what if you are struggling with summer depression?
Therapist Claudia Behnke offers her advice from a psychosynthesis perspective
We have therapists available to support you with depression here
As summer unfolds and the world around us blossoms with life, some people find themselves trapped in the depths of summer depression. While it may seem contradictory to associate depression with a season typically linked to joy and happiness, this is the reality for some people that plunge into darkness during this time of the year.
This article will examine how psychosynthesis can be used as a tool to help understand and manage some symptoms connected to summer depression. Psychosynthesis aims to help individuals find inner harmony and regain joy and purpose.
Understanding summer depression
Summer depression is also called summer-onset seasonal depressive disorder (SAD). It affects people during the warmer months.
Summer depression is different from the usual form of SAD that occurs during the darker winter months. It can be caused by factors like excessive heat, disruptions in routines, social stress, and feelings of isolation.
Summer can be a time of intense pressure for people to stay active and happy. This can lead them to feel out of synch with their surroundings (Magnusson & Partonen, 2005; Rohan, 2015).
Relationships and social expectations
Increased social expectations in the summer can bring on feelings of loneliness and isolation as well as heighten feelings of inadequacy. The pressure to conform to society's expectations for engagement in social activities during the summer months can be particularly difficult. Invitations to hen/stag dos, garden parties and barbecues can seem very daunting when we are feeling low.
Psychosynthesis emphasises the importance of authentic relationships in which people feel comfortable setting healthy boundaries and expressing their needs. Setting realistic expectations and boundaries around social engagements can reduce feelings of overwhelm.
Seeking out support from good friends, family members or therapists and engaging in meaningful conversations, sharing your experiences and creating a support system can reduce feelings of loneliness and help to create a sense of belonging.
Body image issues
We typically spend more time outside in the summer months to enjoy activities such as swimming, picnics, beach trips, and wearing lighter clothes. This can trigger a judgemental part of us which critiques our bodies and compares ourselves to models and influencers.
Body image issues can be exacerbated by the pressure of the cultural ideal of a beach body, summer diets, internalised societal standards of beauty, as well as increased skin exposure.
To fully enjoy the summer, it's important to look at our own internalised expectations of beauty and the mindsets we are holding around them. It's important to question our narrative and work on self-acceptance, rather than trying to aspire to an unrealistic body ideal.
Embrace body confidence in a variety of ways: challenge beauty ideals and understand that every body is a beach body, practise self-compassion and confront negative thoughts. Engage in activities that promote your overall wellbeing. Accept as well as appreciate your bodies for what it is, to help you create an environment of support and empowerment that will allow you to enjoy the warmth and beauty the season has to offer without having to worry about wearing a bikini.
Environmental factors play a significant role in the development and exacerbation of summer depression. The longer daylight hours, heat, disruptions in routine, and social expectations associated with the summer season can contribute to increased stress and emotional distress. High temperatures and humidity can directly impact mood and energy levels, making it more challenging to cope with depressive symptoms.
To improve the impact of these environmental factors, it is crucial to prioritise self-care and make adjustments that support mental wellbeing. Seeking cooler environments and staying hydrated can help alleviate some physical discomfort and fatigue. Establishing a consistent daily routine, even amidst changes in vacation schedules, can provide more of a sense of structure and stability.
Engaging in activities that promote relaxation, such as practising mindfulness, spending time in nature (my favourite place in the heat is Highgate Woods which provides shade, has a great café and plenty of space for my pup Luna to roam around!), or participating in creative outlets, can also help counterbalance the negative impact of environmental factors and promote a sense of emotional well-being. By taking proactive steps to create a supportive and nurturing environment, we can mitigate the effects of environmental stressors and better manage depressive symptoms.
The essence of psychosynthesis
Psychosynthesis, developed by psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli (2000), emphasises the integration of various aspects of the self to achieve wholeness and inner harmony. It acknowledges that people are more than their parts, and aims to integrate spiritual, emotional and mental dimensions. Psychosynthesis can help individuals to explore their distress, and find meaningful solutions.
1. Exploring inner awareness
Self-awareness is at the heart of psychosynthesis. Introspection and mindfulness can help individuals gain a better understanding of their emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations.
This awareness helps identify negative thought patterns, self-criticism, and limiting beliefs that can contribute to summer depression. These patterns can be challenged and eventually transformed by recognising them, paving the way to personal growth and healing.
2. Reconnecting with purpose
Psychosynthesis includes the exploration of one's purpose and meaning in life. Depression can leave people feeling disconnected and lost, without a sense of direction or fulfilment. Self-reflection exercises and guided reflection can help individuals rediscover passions, values and aspirations. Finding and engaging in activities that are aligned with your purpose can give you renewed energy and joy.
Depression can cast a dark shadow on those warm summer months. Some psychosynthesis principles can help embark on a path of inner growth and self-discovery. Individuals can work on their summer depression by cultivating self-awareness and reconnecting to their purpose, cultivating healthy relationships and seeking support. It's okay not to feel happy just because it’s sunny outside. With the right tools and techniques, the summer can be an empowering season for personal growth and healing.
Assagioli, R. (2000). Psychosynthesis: A Manual of Principles and Techniques. Synthesis Center Inc.
Magnusson, A., & Partonen, T. (2005). The diagnosis, symptomatology, and epidemiology of seasonal affective disorder. CNS Spectrums, 10(8), 625-634.
Rohan, K. J. (2015). Seasonal affective disorder and its variants. In R. J. McNally (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Clinical Psychology (pp. 1013-1036). Oxford University Press.