Hot Weather Can Cause Anxiety, Stress

If you feel like the heat waves are stressing you out, it’s not in your head. Heatwaves can give us lots of concrete worries. We worry about our health, about the electricity going out, wildfires and more. But, in addition to these tangible causes of anxiety, the heat itself adds to mental health strain.

Your body wants to be at a specific temperature. Being either too hot or too cold can be a problem. Even if you don’t experience heatstroke, being too warm causes physical symptoms. Being hot can cause the symptoms of a panic attack. You can feel out of breath with a racing heart. Even before you start to panic, you’re already hot, sweaty and possibly dehydrated, which can negatively impact your blood pressure. It can make a recursive loop of feeling unwell, having the symptoms of having a panic attack and then actually having a panic attack.

Summer can be especially anxiety-producing for those who have experienced panic attacks in the past,” said psychotherapist Ellen Yom. “The felt physiological symptoms are very intense during a panic attack, so a lot of people with this history can experience higher levels of anxiety during the summer months when the same physiological symptoms (sweating, palpitations, shaking, shortness of breath, feeling faint) are triggered.”

Heat can increase your pulse and breathing. “The brain is likely to interpret those physical symptoms as being caused by anxiety rather than the heat,” said psychiatrist Carlene MacMillan.

And, in hot weather, sleep can be harder to come by. A room that is just one or two degrees too warm can be hard to sleep in. If your body can’t cool down, you can’t drift off, making it so that your mind can’t rest. In turn, that can make your waking hours more fractious and lead you to feel more anxious.

While the summer heat is raging, do your best to stay cool. Stay inside during the hottest parts of the day. Stay out of the sun. Use air conditioning if possible. And, speak to your doctor if you think you’re being significantly impacted by the heat. It’s especially important to talk to your doctor if you are taking any medications, as changes in the temperature can affect how medicines impact your body. It is possible that simply being aware of this problem can help you cope with it. Knowing that being hot can lead to stress can make handling that stress more manageable as you aren’t looking for an additional explanation.  

Banner image: Cottonbro via Pexels
July 21, 2021
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