For many people, intense heat can be just as distressing as intense cold, or worse. About ten percent of people whose mental illness is affected by the weather report being more depressed during the summer months.
2015 was the hottest summer on record, and we’re unlikely to see a return to cooler summers anytime soon. As the nation starts to heat up again, here are some tips from Therese Borchard at EverydayHealth on how to beat the summer blues:
1. Get out of the house and into the water.
This is advice you’re likely to hear all through the summer, but it does ring true. Not everyone enjoys the beach equally, but being near water (even if you don’t go swimming) is known to have a calming effect on mood, as well as being a great way to stay cool. Whether or not it involves water, scheduling fun activities is always a good way to break the cycle of depression.
2. Stick to a routine.
This applies both to day and night. If you’re a student, teacher, or other seasonal worker, you might be “free” the whole summer; even if you’re working, holidays and vacations might make your schedule more relaxed. If you find your mood worsening, it might be due to a lack of routine. Daily routine is important, but so is nightly routine–during summer nights, it’s easy to let your sleep schedule fall to ruin, but a regular sleep schedule is one of the best things you can do for your mental health.
3. Stay hydrated.
The best thing for you during the summer is water–or, if not water, a healthy, electrolyte-boosting alternative. You don’t need to measure out how many cups of water to drink each day–just make sure you have water on hand to drink when you’re thirsty.
Remember that both caffeine and alcohol can cause dehydration when the body tries to flush the drug out of your body. However, drinking coffee is associated with slightly lower rates of depression, so there’s no need to cut out caffeine if you’re also drinking water.
Diet soda may also be detrimental to mental health, according to one study, possibly because of the use of the artificial sweetener Aspartame. Aspartame hasn’t been strongly linked to any negative mental health, but if you want to play it safe, Diet Pepsi has been reformulated in the past year to no longer include Aspartame.
4. Eat well.
What food do you associate with summer? For many, it’s cookout food–popsicles, ice cream, hamburgers and hot dogs on white bread–and carnival or “beach food” such as fried dough. Eating lots of sugar and processed food might be making you feel worse over the summer.
You can eat for your mental health without punishing yourself with a restrictive diet. Try subbing in some trail mix, seafood, dark chocolate, and occasionally some leafy greens. Salty snacks carry their own health problems if you have too much, but sodium deficiency from sweating can lead to decreased mood as well, so don’t shy away from lightly salted snacks (especially nuts and seeds). The salt may help remind you to hydrate as well.
5. Stay active and engaged.
Just like the winter holidays, the most active weekends of summer can make social interactions seem overwhelming. You might be tempted to just stay in with the A/C or a fan and avoid human contact. However, staying around people–whether in a relaxed or an active setting–is key to beating back depression.
Summer is a good time to figure out what sort of social life you want to have. You might not be much for beach parties, but you may be able to get a few close friends together for a backpacking trick or for some kayaking. This is a great time to learn new skills and see new things. On the days when you aren’t up for staying out in the heat, bring someone to a movie theater or to the mall to stay cool.