How to cope
You don’t have to wait for the cooler months to return to get relief from spring depression. These strategies may help ease symptoms and improve your overall mood:
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Lack of sleep can have a major impact on spring depression symptoms. To improve your sleep, aim to keep your room dark and cool with fans, blackout curtains, and layered, breathable bedding. Making it a habit to get up and go to bed at the same time every day doesn’t hurt, either.
- Keep your cool. While there’s no conclusive evidence that sensitivity to heat contributes to spring depression, feeling uncomfortably hot most of the time likely won’t do much to improve your mood. Cool off by keeping hydrated, turning on fans (or air conditioning, when possible), and dressing in breathable clothing.
- Make time for physical activity. Not only can regular exercise help relieve stress and ease symptoms of depression and anxiety, it can also lead to better sleep. To stay cool during exercise, try swimming, exercising in an air-conditioned facility, or sticking to early morning and evening workouts, if you’re able to.
- Try meditation, journaling, or art. Both meditation and journaling can help you identify and accept difficult or unwanted emotions, including feelings of depression. Art therapy may also make a difference, whether you’re artistically inclined or not.
- Reach out to loved ones. Letting the people in your life know what you’re going through might feel tough at first. It can help to remember that your family and friends care for you and likely want to offer support, even if that just means listening to your feelings or keeping you company when you feel down.
- Stick to a routine. A work or school schedule that changes in the spring can leave you feeling lethargic, unmotivated, and at loose ends. Creating a daily routine that balances chores, goal-directed activities like studying or learning new skills, and enjoyable activities can help daily life feel more structured and satisfying.
- Eat a balanced diet. Lack of appetite is pretty common with spring depression. You may not feel like eating, but not getting the right nutrients can leave you irritable, not to mention affect concentration and productivity. Reach for nourishing, depression-relieving foods, and drink plenty of water when you feel thirsty.
As with all other types of depression, spring depression may not improve without support from a trained mental health professional. Coping strategies can help, but they won’t always lead to lasting relief.
Reaching out for professional support is always a good idea when:
- feelings of depression and other seasonal mood changes last for longer than 2 weeks
- symptoms begin to affect your daily life and relationships
- you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide
- you have difficulty regulating intense emotions, like anger, worry, and sadness, on your own
- your symptoms get worse over time
To receive a diagnosis of MDD with a seasonal pattern, you’ll need to experience the same pattern of symptoms, over the same seasonal period, for at least 2 years in a row.
Initially, a healthcare professional might diagnose MDD, or another subtype of depression, if your symptoms meet the diagnostic criteria outlined in the DSM-5.
A therapist can offer more guidance with tracking patterns in your symptoms and helping you find the most helpful treatment. Treatment typically involves therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), an approach often used to treat depression, teaches techniques to help you identify and address unwanted thoughts and behavior patterns.
Techniques used in CBT for seasonal depression (CBT-SAD) might include:
- cognitive restructuring, which involves reframing unhelpful thoughts about the season and related mood symptoms
- behavioral activation, which helps you create a routine of enjoyable activities and positive or rewarding habits
Interpersonal therapy, an approach specifically developed to treat depression, helps you explore issues in your personal and professional life and relationships that could contribute to symptoms of depression.
If spring depression relates to a shifting schedule or seasonal changes in your home life, for example, your therapist might help you identify and practice new strategies to address those concerns and any emotions they bring up.
If you’d like to try treating seasonal depression with medication, a psychiatrist or other prescribing clinician may prescribe antidepressant medication, such as:
- a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), or paroxetine (Paxil)
- extended-release bupropion, which you’ll begin taking in early spring and stop taking once summer ends