Dealing with Summertime Sadness
Summer has its own darkness. Thunderstorms, closed canopies, forests cast in shadow. Twilight woodlands where mushrooms bloom. For all its long hours of light, summer is a very literally dark time in my house. Built in the middle of a forested grove, every year my home becomes a deeply shaded cave during the summer months. It’s a reprieve from the heat, but the darkness also mirrors a twin side of summer— one we don’t talk about nearly enough.
The term “summertime sadness” has been immortalized by Lana Del Rey’s now-classic ballad, but summertime blues have always been a part of the human experience. Though much less talked about than wintertime doldrums, SAD (or seasonal affective disorder) can also occur during the summer months. For many people, it’s normal to have the height of summer’s bright yang offset by that dark dot of yin.
Part of what makes summer hard is the pressure we put on ourselves to feel as sunny within as it is without. In the warm months there is often a stark contrast between that bright light, party spread, beach for miles vibe— and the reality of what we might be feeling inside. When we’re dealing with grief, loss, depression, or anxiety during the summer months, those feelings can be made more intense by the sense that we’re simply not supposed to feel that way. The gap between how we hoped to feel, and how we do feel, makes our experience seem that much weightier. But it’s entirely normal— and more common than you think— to have the summertime blues.
Summer can be intense in the best of times— especially for sensitive people. Busy schedules, fewer hours of sleep, and endless weeding in the garden. Here in Appalachia, when I poll my friends, most say summer is their least favorite season— and I understand why. Everything that doesn’t move, molds. Pest pressure intensifies and some days are so hot and humid the air feels like soup.
This year, more people than usual seem to be struggling with summertime. After over a year of lockdowns, many of us were ready for the freeing release of summer’s possibilities. But the reality may be a bit different. We hoped to be ignited by all the opened opportunities, and instead we may feel overwhelmed. We expected to launch back into every project that got put on hold, but maybe we aren’t quite ready yet.
The gap between where we wanted to be this summer, and where we are— still processing the enormity of what we went through and who we’ve become on the other side— is just a part of our journey right now. And that’s ok.
If you’ve been struggling this summer, you’re not alone. In fact, it seems more common than ever to feel a bit “off” this season. Luckily, the sea-blue clouds of the hydrangea and mushrooms blooming creekside are all saying the same thing: darkness is a natural part of this season, but that doesn’t mean you need to walk through the shadows alone.
Keep reading for six earth-steeped ways to deal with summertime sadness.
Six Ways to Deal With Summertime Sadness
1. Let however you’re feeling be ok.
We can cause ourselves more pain when we deny or judge how we feel. Simply acknowledging the fact that you are sad, and letting that be ok, can go a long way to take the edge off the intensity of your feelings. If you are down, instead of resisting or criticizing, try embracing that feeling and ask it what it has to say. Where does the sadness live in your body? What does it look or feel like? Trust your process. Know that feelings contain valuable information. When we allow those feelings to flow, we can receive the message our bodies and hearts are trying to send to us.
2. Make a flower essence
Flower essences are my favorite remedies to uplift a downtrodden spirit. Whenever you are in the world, look around to see if there is a flower that lifts your heart or simply intrigues you. Try making an essence from that bloom and taking it every day. Flower essences are some of the most powerful earth medicines I know for shifting our inner landscape.
3. Dip in cold water
Research has shown that cold water immersion can do wonders to alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety. Whenever I dip in the ice-cold streams of these mountains, every other thought flies out of my head and I simply become present with what is: water, light, and my body alive. Whenever you can, try taking a dip in cold water. The ocean, rivers, a lake at night. If you don’t have access to wild water, jump into the pool or take a cold shower first thing in the morning.
4. Plan something to look forward to
Sadness and stuckness go hand-in-hand. Planning something to look forward to can help you feel less stagnant and give your mind something positive to focus on. You don’t have to look too far into the future, just planning a dinner with friends or a hike with your neighbor can break up the doldrums and uplift your heart.
5. Incorporate fresh herbs into your diet
Summer is rich with fragrant, fresh herbs. Many of these herbs have natural anti-anxiety and enlivening properties— just smell a handful of basil and you’ll know what I mean. Crush mint into your sparkly water, sprinkle summer savory over your squash, brush your BBQ with springs of rosemary or use a spike of lavender to stir your tea. Working with fresh herbs brings us into direct contact with their uplifting aromatic compounds and the medicine of coming into bloom.
6. Make a batch of lemon balm lemonade
Lemon balm is one of my all-time favorite garden herbs. A member of the mint family, lemon balm grows prolifically all season long. Lemon balm is known for its fresh citrus-mint scent and is beloved in the herbal community as one of the few herbs that is both an anti-anxiety agent and an anti-depressant. Find some fresh lemon balm in your neighbor’s garden or get some dried herb from the store and make yourself a batch of lemon balm lemonade. Sip whenever you need a lift. (Here’s a great recipe from The Herbal Academy)
As you step into the depths of this summertime, remember that everything has a season— even sadness. If you are in a hard moment, know that, like the hot breezes of summer transitioning to the cool winds of fall, everything shifts with time. Until then, let’s sip our lemonade together on the porch this evening and wait for the fireflies to come out.
P.S. What helps you when you’re feeling those summertime blues? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
I didnt see this earlier..Summer is fun sometimes & I do things like swim & go to the beach, I love the water but its far from my favorite season & I always felt weird for feeling that way!! I can’t tolerate the intense heat, extremes in temps are always hard but the heat kills me inside & out. How refreshing to know I’m not alone!!
I used to burn out in summer. Doing too much in the daylight, to a point I became ravenous with hunger late in the day or evening. I remember I only need to pay attention,.put myself on a baby schedule, nap time, meal time, bed time like clock work. I find this helps with overdoing in daylight and life becomes more enjoyable.
I love this Rose!! I have a note on my phone that says “What if we treated ourselves like children? Careful not to get off schedule.” I made the note to myself when I realized that I deserve the same kind of loving attention to nap time, meal time, bed time as little ones do. This is such an amazing reminder in a season where everything seems to get off kilter so easily!!!! Thank you for this!
it’s nice to see “summer SAD” getting some airtime…i have always felt low, miserable, and occasionally desperate during the summer. it’s just not a nice climate in summer where i live. there is a pervasive belief that summer is all good things, and i never could see it. as someone who is close to nature and makes the natural world the ground of spirituality, i felt churlish and unappreciative of earth’s gifts, which is not really the case. but it is in winter that i feel best; i come into my own from late autumn through late winter. i actually love the time of year that most people seem to find unendurable.
i have wondered if anyone has done studies to see how prevalent summer SAD is relative to the winter form. it feels like there are few of us who do not thrive in summer, but i would love to know if that’s true.
collecting and preserving the herbs and flowers of summer for therapeutic use helps me, as does planning lovely meals based on the produce at the farmers market. it reminds me of the abundance which supports us all, and offsets the struggle with heat and lassitude somewhat. being truly grateful for all that summer richness helps me endure the other aspects.
I feel you! I especially echo your comment about feeling unappreciative of earth’s gifts. It’s perplexing and so disheartening to feel disconnected and almost resentful of nature—the one thing that I know for sure sustains me and which I love so much. Overwhelming is the perfect word for summer, and i get into this place of self criticism like my eyes aren’t big enough to take it all in, my heart isn’t big enough for all these feelings. So I just shut down a little more and a little more til this time of July (also my bday week) I’m miserable. I will be going to the woods/creek this week, and I know for sure it will help. Time alone just sitting in nature is always a good thing, but it’s pretty gnarly how depression can take away your will to act & do the good things. I am appreciative of Asia’s attentiveness and also of your comment. I hope everyone who needs it can find a creek to jump in.
Thank you so much for reading, and stopping in to share with us. I’m envisioning us all being able to dip in a cool creek together. I hope your time in the woods this week is replenishing in every way.
Thank you for this share dear one. You are definitely not alone! I actually adore the winter as well. I come alive in those bare times. And I’d be so curious to see a study about summer SAD as well. If anyone knows of one, please feel free to post here!
Thank you so much, Asia. Your post on “Summertime Sadness” came just in time. Over the last few years, I’ve lost a lot of loved ones. Beginning with several of my spiritual fathers, then my Mom, next my Godmother, to several suicides, to many people in our own building, to extended family members, to my Baby Boy Kitty Kat and now my Dad, It feels like Grief has made its home in me. Being a “sensitive”, some of the deaths I knew were coming but there was nothing I could do about it. It makes me wonder what is the whole purpose of being “sensitive”. After the most recent loss, I was extremely surprised to find out how truly terrified I am of death. I never thought I was. Having had “experiences” and coming close to death several times throughout my life, the most recent experience being in December 2019, I thought would make me immune to such fear. I was so wrong. Your posts are a blessing. Thank you, again. Blessings always!
Thank you for sharing here with us Dawn. Two things feel very clear to me from reading your comment: you are on a very profound journey and your have a seriously powerful heart! Sometimes, I literally say to my guides “you must have a high opinion of me if you think I can handle this!” This Earth, your guides, and your wider self clearly have a very high opinion of you dear one– your magic, your strength, and your medicine in this world. Please know that you are not walking this path alone. Sending you much love, warmth and companionship on the journey.
**Sometimes, I literally say to my guides “you must have a high opinion of me if you think I can handle this!”**
This is a wonderful new way for me to observe and react to some intensely hard & scary chronic issues currently in my life. Thank you <3 <3 <3