Why hot weather isn’t always good for our mental health

As I write this we’ve been experiencing some hot, hot weather! I always feel better when the sky is blue and the sun is shining. It brings a smile to my face and makes me feel happier and positive. But weirdly when the temperature rises dramatically it can have a negative impact on my mental health. But why would hot weather affect our mental health?

Why hot weather isn't always good for our mental health.
Photo by Ethan Robertson on Unsplash

Heat and Anxiety

We can quickly and easily become dehydrated when it’s hot. And the feelings of dehydration can be a similar sensation to a panic attack and contribute to you feeling more anxious. Research has shown that people who drink more water have a lower risk of anxiety and depression so it makes sense that if we’re getting dehydrated we might feel more anxious and our mood might be lower.

Sleep

We’ve all experienced not sleeping well when it’s hot. Poor sleep can impact your mental health and make it worse. When it’s hot and you’re tired it can be easy to get stressed or quickly become angry (there’s the phrase hot and bothered for a reason!) so please be kind to yourself and others around you.

Body Image

Body image is such a tricky subject. When it gets hot, the way I feel about my body definitely worsens. The temperature rises and suddenly, clothes don’t fit right, there’s a lot more skin on show and I feel uncomfortable. There’s also pressure to have the perfect ‘summer body’ or the feeling that you can only wear sleeveless tops when you have slim arms. And don’t even get me started on chub rub (if you don’t know what that is then you’re lucky!)

This all means that sometimes I wear trousers when it’s hot and I never wear skirts unless I’ve got shorts or leggings on underneath. It also means that I’ll spend a bit more time in front of the mirror wondering if I’m happy to leave the house looking the way I look. All of this can start to affect your self-esteem, confidence and increase anxiety.

Have you heard of the phrase – all bodies are summer bodies? It’s a phrase we should all subscribe to and be kind to ourselves (and others) about how they look or what they’re wearing during hot weather.

Antidepressants

There is research that shows that some medication (including antidepressants) can make you more sensitive to the sun and can affect how your body regulates temperature. I take the antidepressant Sertraline and have done for a long time now. I’m not sure if I’ve noticed that it has had an impact on how sensitive I am to temperature, because I think I’ve always been sensitive to heat! I often have headaches when it’s hot and often feel thirsty so I am pretty fanatical about carrying a water bottle with me! One of the side effects of Sertraline is having a dry mouth, which is a side effect that I definitely experience.

This heat sensitivity or temperature regulation side effect is not a reason to not take antidepressant medication. But it is something to be aware of. We should all be aware of the impact of the sun and heat but perhaps if you take antidepressants just be even more careful and if you have any concerns speak to your doctor. Never stop taking antidepressants without speaking to your doctor.

5 Self Care tips for Hot Weather

  1. Stay hydrated. Obviously, you can do this by drinking more water but even eating more fruit and salad helps.
  2. Listen to your body. Take it easy and know your limits. We are all different and have different levels of heat that we can cope with. Don’t feel that you have to spend all of your time outside sunbathing of hiking if you don’t want to. Take time to relax.
  3. Change your exercise habits. Perhaps choose a gentle yoga session, a swim or a late evening stroll instead of a run or HITT session.
  4. Embrace the positive things. Listen to summery music, eat ice cream and spend time outside in nature.
  5. Be sun savvy. Use suncream and spend time in the shade.