Here in the Mid-Atlantic, we have four seasons, which means more barometric pressure and seasonal flux to impact our bodies and minds. Sometimes people are surprised to learn that spring and summer are busy times for mental health practitioners. This time of year is difficult for many, and it feels counter-intuitive. The nicer weather coupled with longer days seem to instrinsically mean we don’t struggle with our moods or anxiety.
In fact, the opposite is often true. At times, the opposing situation can highlight something you didn’t notice originally as striking in contrast. You’re reading this text on a different color as the background; a black paper isn’t as noticeable on a dark table. When colors oppose one another, they become more obvious to our eyes. The same is true for our brains and how we see our moods. Perspective shifts occur when the outside world looks so wonderful: budding flowers, fuller trees, more sun, and longer days can make our low moods or buzzing anxiety feel louder and at the forefront. Everyone around us is happier, which also highlights a contrast. There is more comradery in the winter when many others (even those without a diagnosis) feel lower and more lethargic, so there is strength in numbers. We all talk about how the early darkness and cold temperatures affect our moods, whether we have a diagnosis or not. It’s “normal” to be bad in the winter. When spring hits and everyone bounces upward, it can be hard for those who don’t despite their best efforts.
It’s also true that people with seasonal shifts to their moods will have more difficulty in the spring instead of during the winter, which seems to not fit our stereotypical idea of seasonal patterns. We’re supposed to feel more depressed in winter, right? But that’s not what always happens.
Unfortunately, much like the holiday season, spring and summer come with travel plans, vacations, and family outings. Individuals who don’t have much family, do not have financial means to travel, or who choose not to associate with unhealthy members face this discrepancy from others around them. Social media makes it harder to escape the trips and family photos, and this again can contrast not only with a person’s chemical imbalance, but lack of healthy, supportive friends and family.
If you know someone who has a diagnosis, please take this opportunity to reach out to them. Do not assume that because there is more warmth and sunshine that they are feeling better. They may be having a more difficult time and they may have a harder time saying it, so try to be sensitive to this.
Try to be patient with yourself if you are one of many who are struggling now. Take care of yourself and focus on your wellness plan, even if you have to let other less important things go a bit. Take this time as an opportunity to educate others on the stereotypes of mental health stigma, especially at this time of year. Remember to keep on going-and what they say in Delaware: If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes! Our brain chemistry may not change so quickly, but we can keep at our wellness and our skills.Take on your wellness, and take on your mental health.