Heat wave: How extreme heat can affect your mental health

The soaring heat doesn't just impact our physical health. A heat wave can end up affecting mental health, causing mood swings and anxiety.
Impact of heat waves on mental health
Heat waves can negatively affect your mental health and trigger existing conditions. Follow these tips to stay cool!
Purvi Kalra Published: 4 Jun 2024, 08:59 am IST
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When maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40 degrees Celsius or more for plains and at least 30 degree Celsius or more for hilly regions, that is a state of heat wave. This extreme heat can bring along a host of illnesses and even cause death in more serious cases. The harsh rays of the sun leave people feeling sweaty and dehydrated. But apart apart from experiencing those bouts, do you know that heat wave can also impact mental health? It can lead to changes in mood, disrupted sleep cycles and even worsen our existing health conditions, to name a few. So, if you end feeling grumpy and irritated in the hot weather time, you know what to blame for the mood swings! Let us dive deeper into the effect of heat wave on mental health.

Signs heat affects your mental health

Extreme heat has been related to changes in mood, sleep and emotional regulation responses. During extreme heat, it is observed that people are more irritable and impulsive. Some people might also experience decreased sleep and, as a result, might feel tired and unable to sustain focus on day-to-day activities, says psychologist Geetika Kapoor.

As per Health Science Reports, high temperatures can increase feelings of discomfort, hinder sleep patterns, alter daily routines, and even worsen signs of stress or anxiety, leading to cognitive impairment, if left unattended.

Impact of heat wave on mental health
Beat the heat by staying hydrated and nourished this summer! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Here are some of the signs that heat might be negatively impacting your mental health:

1. Mood swings

If you are feeling more irritable, uneasy, anxious, or depressed than usual, then understand that it is all happening under the effect of the ongoing heat wave. Experiencing persistent mood swings or feeling more aggressive are also common for some people under this weather.

2. Difficulty in focusing

People can find it harder to concentrate or think clearly under extreme heat. You might face difficulty in finishing tasks that have usually been simpler to complete for you.

3. Disrupted sleep patterns

Extreme high temperatures, especially at night, can hinder your sleep pattern. Lack of quality sleep leaves you feeling weary and grumpy all day long. It can also aggravate mental health conditions like anxiety or depression.

4. Stressed or overwhelmed

Heat can leave you feeling unusually worried or overwhelmed. This could even be because you are worried about living under extreme heat, or if that is worsening your existing problems in life.

5. Physical symptoms

It is not just your mind that gets affected under heat, the impact of heat can also show up in the form of physical symptoms. For instance, feeling more fatigue in the body, having more headaches, or feeling dizzy or nauseous are some of the physical symptoms of heat. Feeling such uneasy symptoms in your body can make you all the more anxious.

6. Behavioral changes

You can even notice changes in your behavior under heat waves. For instance, you might have a hard time controlling your anger might become more impulsive or might act differently when it is extremely hot.

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Heat wave can make existing mental health conditions worse

An increase in temperature is also associated with the worsening of already existing psychiatric conditions, such as substance abuse, anxiety and schizophrenia. People with already existing psychiatric diagnoses may find their symptoms worsening under extreme heat conditions.

impact of heat wave on mental health
Heat waves can trigger and aggravate mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. Learn to manage them with these tips! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How to manage your mental health during heat wave

A heat wave can negatively influence your mental health, but there are ways you can manage your symptoms.

1. Increase your fluid intake

Dehydration can trigger feelings of anxiety or depression. To manage such issues and keep them at bay, stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and fluids. A well-hydrated body would feel healthier and have more tolerance to increased temperatures. Also, you sweat a lot under extreme heat, so make sure you make up for it by increasing your water intake.

2. Wear the right clothing

Wear loose-fitted clothes that allow skin to breathe. The body will likely be able to regulate temperature better with lighter and non-synthetic clothing, reckons the expert. Also, try to wear light-coloured clothing as they aid in reflecting the sun’s rays.

3. Stay indoors during the hottest part of the day, if possible

Avoid going outdoors during the hottest hours of the day which are usually between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you need to be out, make sure you can keep your body hydrated and in a comfortable temperature, possibly in the shade.

4. Try to stay in cooler places

Maintain comfortable room temperatures, when indoors. Try spending more time indoors in air-conditioned places. If you notice a lot of continuous perspiration, move to cooler spots. If you do not have an air-conditioning facility at home, try moving to cooler places like a shopping mall, a library, or a café to escape the heat for a while. Alongside, you can also take cold showers or use ice packs to help decrease your body temperature.

5. Take breaks and take good care of yourself

Take regular physical and mental breaks so that the body and mind can restore energy. Make sure that you can grab good quality sleep and consume a nutritious diet that has all essential vitamins and minerals to help increase your body’s immunity to be able to fight the effect of heat on health.

6. Practice compassion

Maintain awareness of the effect of heat on other people around you. Practice compassion for self and others. Practice speaking in softer volumes and giving people leverage with lighter deadlines. When driving, avoid honking or suddenly overtaking or changing lanes, suggests the expert. Pay attention to children, elderly and people with disabilities who might not be able to monitor themselves.

7. Manage your stress using various techniques

Practice stress-management techniques like deep breathing, yoga, or meditation to help manage feelings of stress or anxiety.

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About the Author

After testing her skill-set in the field of management and marketing, Purvi Kalra is exploring the world of turning thoughts to words. Her penchant for writing stems for being an avid reader all her life. Her work drives her to be better every day. ...Read More

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