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  • Writer's pictureAlexander James

Can Heatwaves Affect Our Mental Health?

When it comes to the link between the weather and mental health, you might assume that rainy cold days had the most detrimental effect. Sunshine and warmth are traditionally associated with relaxation and happiness in our culture. However, there is a tipping point when the heat all gets too much, and soaring temperatures mean worsening mental health problems.

A recent article in The Conversation explains that there is a documented link between heatwaves and a spike in symptoms of depression and anxiety, and the suicide rate increases by 2.2% for every 1°c increase in the monthly average temperature.

As we face the onset of climate change, temperatures that were once only recorded in the tropical regions of the world are becoming commonplace in continental Europe, and even in the UK.

In fact, the evidence of climate change may even be a trigger for depression and anxiety rather than the heat itself. According to a recent study that is available to view on Science Direct, 45% of young people between the ages of 16 and 25 said that ‘eco-anxiety’ affected them to such an extent that it had a negative impact on their daily lives.

Another adverse consequence of extreme heat, especially here in the UK, is simply that we are just not very used to it, and are less likely to have air-conditioned homes or offices. Our thought processes can become fuddled, and this can lead to mistakes, frustration, and frayed tempers.

In fact, there is a statistical link between violent crime and heatwaves. The difficulty of sleeping in hot weather is another known trigger for anxiety and mood disorders, as sleep is one of the key ways the mind and the nervous system recuperate and process the events of the day. When it doesn’t get chance to do this properly, it can leave us cross and distracted.

There are of course plenty of practical ways we can help ourselves in hot weather. The usual advice, such as staying out of the sun when it is at its peak between 11am and 3pm, is sensible, but not always possible for everyone. We can try and keep our homes cool by leaving the curtains drawn during the day, and the windows shut.

For those who already struggle with symptoms such as stress and low moods, and are used to dealing with it through outdoor exercise, the challenges may be even greater. It is certainly not advisable to go for a run in 30°c heat!

An alternative way to keep our mental health in good order during challenging weather conditions is through mindfulness techniques. This is a form of meditation that encourages us to live in the present moment, and use the breath in a controlled manner to create a sense of groundedness.

Many people find that drawing on their meditation skills helps them to rise above difficult circumstances, and rebalances their emotions. It can take a little practice to really get the most out of mindfulness, which is why some sessions with a qualified professional may be invaluable.

If you would like some information about Harley Street hypnotherapy, please get in touch today!

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