Mind Well-being

How to Cope With Summer When You’d Rather Not

July 5, 2018
© Treasures and Travels / Stocksy United

Not everyone loves summer. It’s a shock, I know, but it’s true.

You know that feeling in the fall when the days get precipitously shorter, the heat lamps on your favorite bar patio no longer seem absurd and the Seattle omni-cloud descends like a literal wet blanket? That sense of impending gloom and back-of-mind worry that this winter is going to be the one that finally sends you into the abyss?

That’s how I feel every year when Juneuary gives way to Actual Summer.

The rain ends, the temperature hits eighty, the grass turns brown overnight and everybody frolics gleefully around Green Lake like they’ve just escaped from enforced hibernation. Meanwhile I begin my annual panic.

What do I panic about? What don’t I panic about. My mostly black and heavy-on-layers wardrobe. My children’s desire for a hot dinner every night no matter how broiling the kitchen gets at 5 p.m. My body’s propensity for migraines in the sun and heat. My inability to be Zen about the whine of lawn mowers and weed wackers and hedge trimmers when I’m just trying to find the shadiest, breeziest spot in my yard to drink an ice-cold adult beverage in peace so that I do not accidentally yell at anyone I love, thank you very much.

Sometime in June the daily pep talks to myself begin: The heat isn’t going to kill me. I am not literally going to die of sweat. The house may feel like a furnace, but it’s actually still just a house. I can always find an air-conditioned movie theater somewhere in the suburbs. Summer doesn’t last forever. Maybe this is the year the children will finally learn to love salad.

I’ve got that summertime, summertime sadness

I used to joke that I had Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in reverse—but it turns out it’s not much of a joke. Summertime SAD is a thing, albeit a rare one.

“Seasonal Affective Disorder is considered a subtype of depression that occurs with a seasonal pattern,” says clinical psychiatrist Daniel Evans, Ph.D., who sees patients at UW Neighborhood Northgate Clinic.

There has not yet been a lot of research on the summertime variant of SAD. What is known, according to Evans, is that about 5 to 10 percent of people with major depression have seasonal depression, and about 10 percent of those whose depression is seasonal experience it in summer.

“I would recommend that anyone who thinks they might be suffering from depression, whether it's wintertime seasonal, summertime seasonal, or non-seasonally related, talk with their primary care provider or a licensed mental health professional,” says Evans. “Depression of any stripe is common, but there are effective pharmacological and psychotherapy treatment options.”

A person’s bleak mood has to meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression for at least two seasons in a row for it to be considered Seasonal Affective Disorder. I myself do not officially have SADness in the summer—just sadness. And really not so much sadness as crankiness.

Cranky that I can’t cool down my bedroom enough to get good sleep and that I wake up with new outcroppings of heat rash. Cranky that everything that smells gross in the winter—the garbage, the compost, the kitchen sink drain, the dog’s collar, the dog—smells even grosser when the mercury hits 75. Cranky that I have to lather my children with sunscreen. Every. Single. Day. Cranky that sunscreen makes my eyes water. (I’m not crying—really—it’s just the sunscreen, I swear!)

I get extra cranky that while anyone will give you sympathy—empathy even—for having the blues in the winter around here, complaining about summer in Seattle only gets you befuddlement if not outright hostility.

You wish it were 50 degrees and raining? What is wrong with you? Go jump in a lake!

(Have I mentioned I don’t like lakes?)

Cool it already

If you, too, are a sufferer of summertime aversion, check out these scientifically untested tips on how to cope until mid-September-ish when all will be right in our world again—at least in terms of the weather.

Crank up the A/C

Seek out air conditioning during particularly trying heat waves. If you’re lucky enough to have A/C in your home, use it. If you’re among the two-thirds of Seattleites who do not, make a public library or other official designated cooling shelter your home away from home. If you’re feeling crafty and/or desperate, you can make your own air-conditioning-esque cooling device by positioning a fan to blow into a large pan filled with ice. Sit in the path of the cooler air, close your eyes, and pretend you are elsewhere. Just remember not to electrocute yourself because then you’ll feel really hot.

If it looks wilty, water it

Drink water to stay hydrated, obviously. Spray water on your skin with a spritzer bottle and sit in front of a fan. Take cool showers or baths if you can stand to. Check out your nearest spray park or wading pool. They’re not just for kids, technically speaking! If anyone looks at you funny, tell them that adults are people too and then splash them.

Ice, ice, baby

Put ice cubes in your water. Put ice cubes in an old-fashioned hot water bottle and place it in your bed at night. Put your bottom sheet in the freezer during the day so that it’s nice and cool for 30 seconds when you lay down at night. Spritz your top sheet with ice water if you’re like me and need a layer of bedding on top of you to be able to sleep no matter how hot the room is. If none of this sufficiently improves your life, you can always freeze yourself cryogenically until fall. (Kidding. Not legal. Among other problems.)

Cover up

The windows, that is. Shades, blinds, shutters, curtains, quilts, towels, duvets—the sky is the limit for blocking out that heat-monster in the sky. If friends or neighbors make disparaging comments about your new haphazard aesthetic, put it back on them—don’t they know “desperate chic” is all the rage?

Just say no (to beach volleyball)

Summer comes with pressure to recreate outdoors with balls and sticks and paddles no matter how uncoordinated or just plain disinclined you might be. For those of us who feel pressured to do certain activities that we don’t want to do, Evans recommends taking some time to reflect on what is most meaningful or valuable in life.

“See if it's possible to take a couple of small steps each day towards this more meaningful life. This is intrinsically rewarding and tends to help people feel better emotionally as well,” says Evans.

I’m pretty certain this means I never have to feel bad about turning down an invitation to play or watch beach volleyball ever again as long as I live.

Now if you’ll please excuse me, I’m off to put Lana Del Rey on repeat and resume my online search for plane tickets to cooler climates right where I left off last August. Hmm … would this be a good year to visit Norway? Greenland? Siberia?