If more light (and better weather) makes you feel “dark,” you could be suffering from spring depression. This could be related to the perceived pressure to be happier and more social once winter is over.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is typically connected with the winter season because the chilly, short days allow you to avoid the hustle and energy of the world outside your door. It’s less guilt-inducing to spend the day under blankets watching TV when it’s miserable outside. However, there is ample evidence that warmer, longer days are not a panacea for everyone. In fact, for some people, the transition from winter to spring serves as a catalyst for mental health problems.
So, what’s going on here? Is spring depression real, also known as reverse SAD?
Why Do I Feel So Awful in Springtime?
Decades of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other researchers reveal that suicide rates (in the United States) peak between March and August each year.
Experts attribute the increase in warmer weather to elements such as sunshine, air temperature, humidity, air pollution, viruses, parasites, and allergies. Yes, pollen from grass, trees, and flowers aren’t just making your eyes itch and your nose run—it may also be causing your mood to plummet. (Pollen causes inflammation in the body, and there is a body of studies correlating inflammation to mood and depression worsening.)
Do I have Seasonal Affective Disorder? (Self-Assessment)
When the evenings become darker, the weather may alter your mood and sleep patterns. Take our test to determine if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Causes of Spring Depression
Daylight Saving Time (DST)
Some physical causes of springtime depression include the stress on our bodies induced by the changing of the clocks.
In March, 48 of the 50 US states advance their clocks by one hour to observe daylight saving time. (Arizona and Hawaii observe Standard Time all year.) The US Senate just voted overwhelmingly to make daylight saving time permanent (at the time of this writing the US House of Representatives is still considering the legislation).
Getting rid of the time change for good is a controversial idea that has both supporters and detractors. Sleep experts and those who need to be outside early for work say it’s a bad idea; golfers and those who want more light to enjoy a jog or walk after dinner loved it.
Environmental variables may also be at work. A team of researchers from the University of Maryland at Baltimore conducted a study in the journal Bipolar Disorder in 2012 that discovered an increase in depressive symptoms in patients with bipolar disorder who were positive for a specific type of anti-allergen antibody.
Their sad symptoms, as judged by a depressive score, increased as they raised their pollen exposure from low to high—not difficult to do on many spring days when pollen loads can cause agony for persons with seasonal allergies.
Pic: Spring Depression
The Effect of Improved Climate on Social Anxiety
Apart from the physiological effects of spring, depression that arises when we transition from winter might have very genuine psychological foundations. If you take comfort in hunkering down indoors during the colder months, free of expectations that you’ll be particularly social or productive, shedding that protective weather-related shell means facing up to societal expectations, real or imagined.
A person who is suddenly inundated with invitations to barbecues, weddings, or dinners out may feel overwhelmed and unprepared, especially if they already suffer from social anxiety. Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook and seeing how much fun other people are having might increase these feelings.
Butler also mentioned that transitioning into “play” mode can be difficult if you are concerned about the world—the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis—or have suffered economic and financial losses that mean you cannot afford to do what others are doing. All of this might have a severe impact on your mental health as well.
While some people feel entirely depleted of vitality as winter gives way to spring, many others have the opposite feeling. Yet, for persons who are suicidal, an increase in motivation can have negative consequences.
You don’t have to wait for the cooler months to get over spring depression. These measures may help to alleviate discomfort and enhance your mood:
- Maintain proper sleep hygiene. Sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on spring depression symptoms. To help your sleep, use fans, blackout curtains, and layered, breathable bedding to keep your room dark and cool. It also doesn’t hurt to make it a habit to get up and go to bed at the same time every day.
- Maintain your composure. While there is no strong proof that heat sensitivity contributes to spring depression, feeling uncomfortable most of the time is unlikely to enhance your attitude. Keep cool by staying hydrated, using fans (or air conditioning, if available), and dressing in heat-breathable clothing.
- Schedule physical activities. Regular exercise can not only help relieve stress and alleviate symptoms of sadness and anxiety, but it can also lead to better sleep. To stay cool while exercising, try swimming, exercising in an air-conditioned facility, or, if possible, sticking to early morning and nighttime activities.
- Try meditation, journaling, or creating art. Both meditation and journaling can assist you in identifying and accepting tough or unwanted emotions, such as depression. Art therapy may also help, whether you are artistically inclined or not.
- Make contact with family and friends. It may be difficult at first to tell the people in your life what you’re going through. It’s important to remember that your family and friends care about you and want to assist, even if it’s just listening to your feelings or keeping you company while you’re feeling low.
- Maintain a routine. A change in work or school schedule in the spring can leave you feeling sluggish, unmotivated, and disorganized. Developing a daily routine that combines duties, goal-oriented activities such as studying or acquiring new skills, and fun activities can help make everyday living feel more ordered and satisfying.
- Consume a well-balanced diet. Spring depression is frequently accompanied by a loss of appetite. You may not feel like eating, but a lack of nutrition can make you irritated, as well as impair concentration and productivity. Consume healthy, depressive-relieving foods and drink plenty of water when thirsty.