California residents are reporting depressive symptoms due to lack of sunshine.
Since April, which earned the moniker “Graypril,” through the grays of May and now the gloom of June, San Diego has been experiencing a significant amount of cloud cover. This gloomy weather is particularly unusual for this time of year, according to the National Weather Service, which reported that, throughout May, there was not one day of clear skies recorded at San Diego International Airport.
As a result of the cloud cover and the city’s lack of sunshine, licensed San Diego therapist Kathryn de Bruin said that people feel less energetic and slightly sluggish than usual.
“We are just not used to this kind of gloomy weather in June,” de Bruin said, noting that even though Mental Health Awareness Month just passed, “now is the time people should be looking out for each other.”
Kathryn de Bruin primarily works as a family and marriage therapist and has served the San Diego area for over twenty years. In response to the gloomy weather, she said that her family has worked hard to stay busy to combat feeling unmotivated.
“I think everyone’s affected,” she explained. “I’m glad that people are talking about it because actually reaching out and sharing your feelings with others is the best way to feel better.”
However, de Bruin admits that coping with a lack of sunlight is a relatively new experience for most area residents who start to feel sad because of a literal loss of sunshine and Vitamin D, which our bodies need.
“Many of us have chosen to live in San Diego because we do love the sun,” she said, noting that it is completely normal for people to feel “off” right now. The seasoned therapist suggested that people recognize and honor how they feel while acknowledging that this gloomy weather is not normal and, therefore, requires a bit of an adjustment. She notes that we don’t necessarily need to rely on clear blue skies to lift our spirits.
According to de Bruin, one of the best ways to fight the blues caused by the grays is to spend time with loved ones, replacing the sun’s warmth with the warmth we can get through connecting with friends and family. If sadness caused by the weather is not properly addressed, she said, it can become a more serious mental health issue and open the door to depression.
“When we feel down, sometimes we aren’t reaching out as often, and then we tend to isolate, and the more that you isolate, people tend to feel lonely,” de Bruin said. Therefore, she says that during these never-ending overcast San Diego days, people should check in on others, especially those who might regularly be alone, such as older family members and friends.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a recognized mental health disorder in the current version of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5-TR). SAD may be present when individuals experience symptoms of depression with the change of seasons. Individuals who feel they may be experiencing this condition should reach out to a therapist who can help them build coping skills to combat symptoms.