If you find yourself having more anxiety these days, you might not be wrong to blame the heat.
“Extreme heat can take a toll on your mental health,” says Amanda Stelzel, behavioral health nurse practitioner at Aurora Behavioral Health Center in Summit, Wis. “When the weather rises, fighting off heat-related symptoms can sometimes be difficult and mental health incidences can increase. Also, many of the medications people take for mental health reasons can affect their body’s ability to regulate their internal body temperature. So high temperatures can definitely be more dangerous.”
The Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) offers the following warning signs that heat might be affecting your mental health:
- Scattered sleep pattern: Irregular sleep from excessive heat, especially during sleeping hours.
- Mood changes: Feeling more aggressive, grumpy or anxious.
- Trouble concentrating: Finding it more difficult to complete minor tasks.
- Unusually stressed: Feeling more frazzled than usual or overwhelmed.
High temperatures can cause an array of physiological reactions in your body, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This may range from a more superficial response like heat rash, irritability or muscle cramps, to a more severe response, like heat stroke.
“One of the biggest things I worry about as an emergency room physician is heat stroke,” says Dr. Oyinkansola Okubanjo, emergency medicine physician at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “Heat stroke can happen when the body is overwhelmed by heat and begins to stop functioning properly. Experiencing a heat stroke can be life-ending and it can cause a lot of serious illnesses.”
Stelzel recommends the following to stay safe both mentally and physically in extreme heat:
- Drink a lot of fluids: Having an adequate water intake during summer heat can keep your body hydrated.
- Keep cool: Stay indoors and in air-conditioned locations as much as possible.
- Cancel or postpone mid-day outings: Avoid being out in the sun during the hottest part of the day.
- Wear cool clothing: Choose light-weight, lighter-colored fabrics to minimize heat absorption.
- Keep an extra eye on very young children and older adults: They are the most vulnerable age groups when it comes to high temperatures.