Summer Depression Is For Real

Heard of winter depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD? Yes. What about summer depression? Apparently, depression can affect you at any time of the year.

I have lived in Denmark, which was assessed as the world’s happiest country until a couple of years ago. With everything from liberal views to a lively bicycling culture to the quintessential European charm, it was easy to fall impossibly in love with Denmark. With a terrific public transportation system, long daylight hours and gardens galore, I wanted to settle down in Copenhagen…that is, until the winter came along.

The winter blues

Autumn came and there was so much colour. The mellow colours of summer gave away to warm oranges and yellows. But the short season wound off its magic colours too soon. The early winter was bleak: the endless days became short and dull, the streets lost their charm with less traffic and people, the lush green trees with pretty flowers became but black trunks, and people changed their colourful summer wardrobe for neutral-coloured jackets. Abruptly, my colourful world turned grey.

And it was cold, really cold — of the bone-numbing type. I stayed at home to keep myself warm, but I was too depressed to even get out of my bed. Of course, the winter depression. My body pains became worse and a blood test later, my doctor diagnosed me with severe Vitamin D deficiency.

Along with supplements, I was advised to expose myself to sunlight every day. Even in the short winter days, I had to undergo the painful process of dressing myself and a protesting toddler in multiple layers and go out. Whether it helped my Vitamin D levels or not I don’t know, but to revive me, it helped greatly. Come rain or shine or snow or storm, I dutifully went out every day for a bit of sunlight and a breath of fresh air.

Sunny days

I decided that my depressing days were behind me when we relocated to the overly sun-kissed Chennai. Even during the great floods of December 2015, when the government and electricity failed us, I stayed calm. Then summer came with full vengeance, and once again I was confined to the indoors. I became grumpy and tired. Staying with a three-year-old full-time was unnerving — the meltdowns and tantrums added pressure on my sanity.

Google affirmed my self-diagnosis of summer depression. The term that aptly described my condition was “seasonal depression”. The season was never my problem, but the lack of the outdoors was. That also explained why I stopped climbing the corporate ladder years ago to become a stay-at-home parent. If there is one thing that scares me more than the sight of that dreaded house lizard or mouse, it is being confined to a desk job.

Come out, now

Research has time and again shown us the importance of being in nature. Sunlight cures many conditions from simple body aches to cardiovascular problems. Many of us work so hard in artificially lit cubicles and forget the wonders of the outdoors. You don’t have to climb the Himalayas or get sunburnt in Phuket every day, but make sure to expose yourself to sunlight daily, preferably at midday, to get your daily dose of Vitamin D.

Here are some more ideas to beat the seasonal blues:

Go for morning or evening walks, preferably in a park or away from heavy traffic;

Work out outdoors instead of in a gym. Beach yoga, anyone?

Make time to hike during weekends;

Try gardening even if it’s only a balcony garden;

Take small vacations now and then to refresh yourself.

A daily dose of exposure to sunlight and nature is essential for healthy living. So, don’t just wait for the perfect weather, just get out. Take care to dress appropriately for the weather, and soak in the sunshine.

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