Summertime blues? Japan mental health firm gives tips to beat ‘summer depression’ – The Mainichi

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TOKYO — If you suffer from physical ailments such as summer fatigue, loss of appetite and insomnia, lack of motivation, low mood or other mental symptoms, you may be suffering from “summer depression.” The Mainichi Shimbun asked a company dedicated to providing support for mental health how to prevent it.

Summer depression is not a term used for a medical diagnosis, but rather a type of seasonal affective disorder that occurs from June to September. Similar symptoms that occur in winter are called “winter depression.” Although the exact causes are unknown, it is believed that accumulated fatigue since early spring has a significant impact.

Fatigue begins to gradually increase from March to April, when important events occur in the lives of Japanese people, such as starting school or a job. If it is not relieved during the Golden Week holiday period in late April or early May, physical and mental symptoms may begin to appear around June, when the rainy season begins.

To prevent this, it is recommended to avoid excessive exposure to sunlight, maintain a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep. Sunlight is said to be effective in regulating the autonomic nervous system, but overexposure is harmful. The strong summer sun can be exhausting on the body and lead to fatigue, so it is best to avoid prolonged outdoor activities in the heat. It is also essential to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature according to one’s physical condition, as high indoor temperatures can lead to fatigue and stress.

Diet plays a key role through serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects the autonomic nervous system and mental state. Known as the “happiness hormone,” serotonin is synthesized from tryptophan, a type of protein, so meat, fish, dairy and soy products are recommended.

As for sleep, both quality and quantity have been studied in recent years. According to the guidelines on sleep for health promotion published by the Japanese Ministry of Health in February, the recommended duration of sleep is at least six hours for adults, nine to twelve hours for elementary school children, and eight to ten hours for junior high and high school students.

Tokyo-based Advantage Risk Management Co. recommends creating a good sleeping environment by avoiding smartphone use and caffeine intake before bed and using cool, breathable bedding.

A representative for the company, which also offers counselling, expressed concern, saying: “While we see an increase in inquiries for depressive symptoms in winter, there may be cases where people don’t realise they have summer depression and mistake it for summer fatigue.” The representative added: “Coping strategies for summer depression differ from those for summer fatigue. If you are experiencing symptoms of summer depression, it is important to consult a doctor and get plenty of rest.”

(Original in Japanese by Yuko Shimada, Business News Department)

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