Here in Phoenix, we are still in the “dog days of summer.” You can find many posts with the hashtag #dogdaysofsummer, which mostly include cute dogs and beautiful water destinations, but that is not what the original use of the term “dog days of summer” was referring to. For the Romans and Greeks, the “dog days” referred to the Sirius (the dog star) rising just before the sun during the hottest parts of the year which often brought fever & catastrophe (for more, click here) . I imagine this was a much dreaded time of year, and brought fear, distress, and most likely behavioral changes for those living through it.
A select few Phoenicians love the summer months even while most dread them. Many people attempt to escape town on vacations, and almost all of them hole up in their house until October when they experience weather that reminds them of why they moved to Phoenix in the first place.
Seasonal affective disorder (or SAD) is a form of depression. It is often associated with winter and gray weather, but people can be affected by SAD in the summer months in hot climates. Those who are affected by SAD “experience mood changes and symptoms similar to depression.” (Source: Psychiatry.org)
Fatigue – even when getting adequate or more than enough sleep
Feelings of sadness
Feelings of depression
Marked loss of interest in activities that one used to find enjoyable
Changes in appetite
Changes in sleep
Loss of energy
Slowed movements or speech (think sloth like)
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt ridden
Trouble concentrating or making decisions
Thoughts of death or suicide
*You can read more here about SAD here.
Some of these symptoms seem like a very natural response to navigating our environment and weather. For instance, it’s difficult to find interest in any outdoor activities during these months because we instinctively know we could die of heat exhaustion if we stay outside for too long. Therefore, our bodies can feel repulsed by the ideas of hiking or running outside. Those who live in northern parts of our continent view the winter as time to slow down and hibernate. Phoenicians have a similar experience of wanting/needing to stay indoors, but for the summer months instead. No matter what time of year it comes, some of the symptoms of SAD can feel overbearing, scary, and hopeless for those experiencing them or for those who observe someone else experiencing them.
Sometimes naming what is going on and taking measures to help you cope during this season can be helpful. Often times symptoms alleviate once the weather changes, days shorten, and we can step outside without melting. If you think you might be affected by SAD, it can be helpful to increase self care strategies, such as movement (yoga or light exercise), connection with others or pets, spend some time journaling, meditating, or even taking a drive to get a change of scenery and respite from the heat.
Professional help might also be an option for those truly struggling with SAD. Seeking the help of medical and mental health professionals can help you asses what treatments might be a good option for you. Don’t lose heart, while the sun for sure will come out tomorrow with its heat and ferocity, there are ways to manage symptoms, grow in your awareness of yourself, and care for yourself so you don’t have to bear the burden of SAD all on your own.