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SAD in the Spring

Spring is here, there's no mistaking

Robins building nests from coast to coast

My heart tries to sing so they won't hear it breaking

Spring can really hang you up the most.

— “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most,” by Ella Fitzgerald

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that typically affects people during fall and winter when short days, long nights, less sunlight, bad weather, and enforced homebody-ness can increase symptoms of depression. Even the most extroverted, social people can feel blah. We anxiously wait for spring to arrive because that’ll solve the problem, right?

It may be surprising, but many people experience SAD in the spring and summer months, too. While the exact cause of spring-onset SAD isn’t entirely understood, the changing of the seasons and longer periods of direct sunlight may actually exacerbate depressive symptoms by disrupting the body's circadian rhythm. Symptoms of both winter SAD and spring-onset SAD (or “reverse SAD”) can be pretty much the same – sadness, irritability, anxiety, increase or decrease in appetite, trouble sleeping, and difficulty concentrating.

More sunshine and warmer weather may open up a lot of opportunities for socializing and outdoor activities, but for someone who’s already depressed and lacking energy or motivation, heightened expectations and social pressures make them feel worse, not better. Some people may also be more vulnerable to seasonal changes due to a family history of depression or existing mental health conditions.

Springtime pollen can also impact our mood. Here in Illinois, abundant native grasses and blooming flowers, as well as the planting and harvesting of crops, provide fertile ground for pollen allergies. The types of pollen can differ by region but the net effect is the same. Pollen can create inflammation throughout the body, and research shows inflammation can often be linked to depression. Watery eyes and a snotty nose don’t exactly contribute to a good mood, either.

Regular exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep hygiene can be beneficial in managing spring-onset SAD. Here are some additional tips if you find yourself feeling blue despite the return of blue skies:

🌞 Just because you can get out more doesn’t mean you have to. You can enjoy spring and summer socializing while still being mindful of your need for self-care and personal time.

🌞 Get a good HEPA filter to trap a lot of that pollen in your home and relieve allergy symptoms, inflammation and general blahness.

🌞 Find constructive ways – both solitary activities as well as group projects – to channel any increased energy. Hobbies like gardening, hiking, biking, and birdwatching can provide sun and fresh air without feeling emotionally or socially overwhelming.

🌞 It’s a challenge to get Vitamin D from sunlight consistently during the winter and, though sunshine is more abundant in warmer months, you may still need a boost. Taking a Vitamin D supplement could be an option.

🌞 And, if you find yourself struggling with spring-onset SAD, be proactive in managing your symptoms and finding ways to improve your mood and daily life by talking to a mental health professional.

At Bodhi Counseling, we believe it’s important to have empathy and compassion, listen without judgment, and offer honest feedback and encouragement. Get in touch if you're experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder or any other mental health challenge. We’re here to collaborate and find a solution together!

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