We tend to associate springtime with sunlight, warmer weather, and renewal. But for some people, the term "spring fever" coincides with seasonal depression, spring anxiety, and other mental health issues.
Although the winter months are typically linked to winter depression and hopelessness, research shows that depression symptoms and suicide rates peak during the late spring and early summer. Here's why certain mental health conditions peak during the spring—and how you can prioritize your mental wellness during the seasonal variation.
Why does springtime exacerbate mental disorders?
Spring comes with more sunlight, longer days, and warmer weather, but it also comes with increased pressure to participate in social activities, mentally draining changes to daily routines, and seasonal allergies, which can contribute to mental health symptoms. Sometimes, these mental health challenges can manifest as mild mood swings or feelings of anxiety. For other people, spring depression can evolve into seasonal affective disorder.
Seasonal affective disorder is characterized by depressive symptoms at the same time each year. Seasonal depression is more common during the winter months when people experience lower energy levels, fatigue, and listlessness due to the lack of sunlight. Seasonal depression during the winter months is often referred to as "winter blues."
Meanwhile, during the spring months, seasonal depression can come with irritability, agitation, and thoughts of suicide. For people with bipolar disorder, springtime may also come with frequent manic episodes due to increased sunlight and changes in the regularity of the circadian rhythm.
How can you take care of your mental health during springtime?
If left unchecked, anxiety and depression in the early spring and summer months can develop into a diagnosable mental health condition. Therefore, during the spring (and throughout the year), it's important to practice self-care, prioritize your mental health, and recognize your mental health symptoms. Here are some tips for taking care of yourself during the springtime:
- Make time to journal. Try getting into the habit of writing down your feelings each day. Journaling can boost your mood, self-esteem, and ability to live in the present moment. It's an opportunity to be truly honest with yourself, evaluate your behaviors, and confront any issues you might be experiencing.
- Track your mood changes. Make mood tracking a part of your daily routine. This way, you'll be able to identify any warning signs or triggers that worsen your mental health symptoms. Tracking mood changes can be especially helpful for people with bipolar disorder, as they can recognize the red flags leading up to a depressive or manic episode.
- Get enough sleep. Switching from daylight saving time can mess with your sleep patterns, and disrupted sleep can take a major toll on your mental health. Be sure to practice healthy sleep hygiene, like putting your phone away before bed and following a regular sleep schedule to combat the lack of energy, insomnia, and restlessness that come with the seasonal change.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness might come in the form of simple mindful thinking in a dark room, or you can use a meditation app to guide you through the process. The more you practice, the better you'll become at being mindful.
- Stay connected. It might be tempting to avoid social activities during this time of year, but social isolation only exacerbates the symptoms of seasonal depression. Try scheduling some upcoming time with a close friend, whether it's a phone call or a walk outside.
Navigating seasonal changes can feel overwhelming, but you don't have to do it alone. Psychotherapy can help you develop healthy coping strategies, manage your mental health, and build resilience so you can become the best version of yourself.
At Charlie Health, we provide comprehensive mental health treatment for adolescents, young adults, and their families. Our intensive outpatient program (IOP) combines individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and access to medication management (if needed) to create a personalized treatment plan for every client. No matter where you are in your mental health journey, our team of experienced mental health professionals will help you start the healing process.