Beverly majored in psychology and health science and has a strong interest in improving the mental, spiritual, and physical lives of others.
Sometimes the day seems grey and cloudy, but you can still make the best of it and see the sun through the haze.
If you dread to see one season fade into the next, you are not alone
It's the end of summer and depending on where you stand, you may dread the coming fall or cheer it on like a long lost friend. For many, the thought of cooler temperatures, pumpkin lattes, log fires, football games and pulling their favorite jacket and sweater out of storage and the wearing of jeans and boots is a much anticipated event, but for others there is dread or at the very least a sense of sadness at seeing pool parties, beach attire, short shorts and flip flops go back into storage for three more seasons. It can be depressing even if you are not prone to mood swings.
Summer marks a time of freedom for many who no longer have to wake up before dawn to get to school. There is more daylight and outdoor events. There are vegetable gardens, tasty fruits in season and flowers to brighten the dullest of days. It's hard to transition from one season to the next even when a part of you looks forward to the change, but along with fun holiday events, football games and get-togethers with friends, as well as decorating for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas with New Year's celebrations, Valentine's Day and Easter to come, there is often a sinking feeling that the year is almost over and there is so much more you needed to do that you did not get done. There is a sense that you are running out of time and have nothing or little to show for two thirds of the year which has already passed.
For everything there is a season, but it's hard to let the season's go and prepare for new ones
Some people love the fall with pumpkin pie, spices, Oktoberfests, jacket weather, snuggling by the fire and roasting marshmallows without attracting a million bugs that bite and suck your blood. Some people love winter with snow and skiing and football play offs, Christmas lights, New Year celebrations and so many parties and festive feasts that it is impossible to attend them all.
Spring is a time for celebrating the return of warmer weather, flowers, growing fruits and vegetables, taking trips to the beaches in warmer climates to remind you that summer is on the way. Summer is the time for warm winds, friendly blue skies, the deep penetrating rays of the sun which seem to rejuvenate your whole spirit and fill the skies with laughter as children break from school and enjoy playing outdoors and taking camping trips to learn new things while having fun outside of school.
Each season brings its own joys for most people, though some dread one season more than another. Still, no matter what your favorite season is, there is often as much dread as anticipation when the current season ends and a new season begins. Why is that?
What Psychologists Say About Mood and the Changing Seasons
If you own a pet, whether bird, cat, dog, horse or other furry beast you might notice some changes in their coats or feathers as one season moves to the next. Birds often molt in late summer and horses shed their coats in early summer and begin putting on new thicker coats as summer ends. This helps prepare them for cooler temperatures or migration to warmer zones. These changes in hair and feather growth and loss are triggered by hormonal responses largely controlled by the amount of sunlight entering the eye.
In humans we refer to depression caused by lower light as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. The theory is that sunlight or bright light beyond normal household bulbs increases your production of melatonin and serotonin in the brain. Melatonin helps regulate your sleep patterns so you fall asleep more easily at night, whereas serotonin helps keep you awake and contributes to happiness and a feel-good sense of well-being. It is more complicated than that, but basically, if you are exposed to bright sunlight, you will have a more elevated mood. There is actually some research that blind people are able to absorb this light by neural pathways even though they can't see it.
SAD is more common as daylight hours shorten – usually early to mid-August and especially in areas where Daylight Saving Time shortens the evening light by an hour. Leaving home in the dark for school or work and coming home in the dark from work is depressing enough without factoring in neuro-chemical changes in the brain.
Most symptoms of sadness or depression as the season changes is temporary and will diminish as the season moves deeper. It takes a while for some people to adjust to change. For many the new season means new clothes which are less comfortable and more cumbersome than summer-wear.
If you are a teacher it means going back to a classroom of strangers and getting to know a new set of faces and personalities all over again. You may have an increased workload and expectations of attending events, parties, giving gifts, cooking holiday meals and driving kids to practice, meetings and events, while trying to find time for yourself to recharge and relax. It may be harder to go for a walk or sit in the park to relax. In areas of the country where cold kills anything green or fragrant, you may feel a part of you has died along with it. The cold wind may actually seem to bite you and cause pain and discomfort and getting out the house even to pick something out the yard may take several minutes to bundle up and pull on boots and gloves and hat and scarf. Life may seem more complicated than it needs to be.
The American Behavioral Clinic confirms that many people become sad or depressed when winter turns to spring. They actually refer to it as Reverse-SAD and cite a National Institute of Mental Health study which shows spring is when the suicide rate peaks. Their first hypothesis for this is that people are starting to come out of a depressed state and have more energy to commit suicide. This seems unlikely though. Their second hypothesis seems more realistic. The thinking is that people who are depressed sort of hibernate and shelter-in-place over the winter and do not feel abnormal because most people are doing the same, but in the spring, people are starting to get happy and excited about getting back out in nature and having more daylight hours and enjoying new growth in themselves as well as the world around them and for someone who feels isolated, this expectation of reawakening joy may cause them to see their own sense of failure and isolation as a fatal flaw from which there is no escape other than death.
For many though, changing seasons may mean more work, more need for action. If you are like most people you spring clean, put up winter clothes, stow away winter gear, maybe even swap out tires on the car or insulation on pipes. It can mean a lot of work going from one season to the next.
You may also look back on the past season and wonder where time went. It is common for people to forget what holiday is coming up after the Christmas season. Which comes first the chocolate candy in the heart or the Bunny and the peeps? The repetition of the holidays can also be depressing, especially if you have a loved one who passed away at that time or a still living loved one who may get peeved if you do not buy them flowers and gifts or take them out to celebrate. It takes a toll on those who are already feeling overwhelmed with everyday necessities to survive.
How to Cope with Changing Seasons
One of the best things you can do to ease your way out of one season and into the next is to write a list of the things you like most about each change.
Fall may include - warm fuzzy pull overs and cookouts and sports.
Winter might be - snow, fire places, an excuse to curl up by a warm space and do nothing but read or watch TV or it might motivate you to hit the gym or try out a new class and learn a new skill – working on self improvement.
Spring - brings new colors and sounds and scents. If you have allergies, think of spring as your winter and hit the gym or stay inside and read or start an indoor project. If you garden, plan a garden plot and search new ways to grow in limited spaces.
Summer - Most people love summer and hanging outside with friends and going on vacations and new adventures. If you dread the heat try to plan outdoor events early in the morning and invest in cool, sweat wicking clothes. Join a pool or plan a vacation to cooler climes. Find fun things for the kids to do so they don't get bored and drink lots of icy beverages or set up summer activities to help you keep your cool.
Overall, don't feel like you are alone if you get a bit sad when one season ends and another begins. In one sense it is like having a good friend move away. It is normal to miss what you had and take a while to adapt to what is to come.
If you are severely depressed seek professional help. If you are mildly depressed look into light therapy. Brighten your surroundings. Listen to upbeat music, watch uplifting shows, talk with people who love and care about you and want to see you happy. Don't dwell on past failures or things you should have or could have done and didn't. Instead focus on what you can do and what steps you need to take to break out of that rut and get involved with others so the focus on your anxiety and depression are lessened.
Hanging out with people with a sunny attitude is almost as important to your mental health as hanging out in the bright sunshine. Both are good for the spirit unless you happen to be allergic and then there are artificial lights or metaphysically speaking, surround yourself with the brightness of life, focusing on all things good and noble and true instead of on worries and dislikes and feeling like the whole world is against you.
If you look for the good things, you will find them. If you can't find them, do something good for someone else and make the world brighter by your presence. Sometimes it takes a while to adjust from swapping out shorts and t-shirts to cumbersome clothing you have to work harder to get into and out of! There is more traffic, more concentration on spending money, political elections, board of education rules and sometimes greater isolation and less freedom, but once you get into that grove, you will roll along like a well primed engine and find it wasn't really as bad as you imagined and your favorite season is never more than nine months away anyhow. You can do it.
If you really feel depressed and feel like you cannot take life anymore, please contact someone who can help, but if you are feeling a bit down in the dumps, be assured their is a biological or treatable psychological reason behind it and there are things you can do, outside of taking drugs, which can help get you back to a better place of being.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 hours a day and speak English and Spanish. If you are feeling so depressed that you don't want to keep living, please contact them first. Learn more 800-273-8255.