When temperatures peak, our wellbeing can suffer. Here are five tips for taking care of your mental health during heatwaves
There are a lot of pros when it comes to hot, sunny weather. It’s a chance to get our vitamin D levels (a really good mood booster), to slow down, and to get outside. But, when the thermometer tips over a comfortable point, and we don’t have an easy way to cool off, we can find ourselves feeling flustered, sluggish, and irritable.
So, what can we do to make sure that we take care of our mental health during heat waves and hot weather? Try following these tips:
1. Consider your medication
Certain types of mental health medications – tricyclic antidepressants and antipsychotics, including amitriptyline, imipramine, doxepin, mianserin, and trazodone – can impair the part of the brain responsible for temperature regulation. This can mean that you’re more at risk of overheating, and so should take extra precautions in hot weather. If this applies to you, it’s always worth checking in with your GP or mental health team.
In the same vein, medication generally needs to be stored at room temperature – which is about 25°C – and can start to lose potency if the temperature drastically exceeds that. Generally, most medications will make it through heat waves without a problem, but watch out for changes in colour, taste, or structure, and if you’re in any doubt reach out to your pharmacist.
2. Stay hydrated
You probably didn’t need us to tell you that you need to drink more water when it’s hot, but did you know just how important staying hydrated is for our brain function? Drinking enough water has been linked to lower rates of anxiety and depression, but it can also help you stave off brain fog, and help you stay more alert – with studies showing that just being dehydrated by 2% impairs things like memory and focusing on your daily tasks.
3. Understand your feelings
You’ve probably experienced it yourself, but studies have shown a link between hot weather and heightened emotions, particularly anger and hostility. The heat can interfere with the processes that regulate our mood, and we may find that we respond to things in ways we wouldn’t do normally – such as snapping at loved ones, road rage, and quickly escalating disagreements.
If you’ve noticed this is happening, you’re well on your way to taking control. By identifying that we’re not behaving in a way we would normally do, we’re able to take a step back and really assess the situation and put it in perspective. Try to communicate with those around you, let them know that you might be more prickly than normal, and try to keep your cool if you notice others going through the same thing. This could be a good time to amp up your self-care practices or to vent in a journal.
4. Try to get some sleep
Trust us, we know it’s easier said than done, but when we’re not getting enough sleep, everything else becomes so much harder.
It might take some trial and error, but there are some known tricks for sleeping when the temperature rockets. Firstly, keep your curtains shut tight throughout the day, and only open them when the temperature outside drops below the temperature inside, at which point throw those windows open to let the cooler air in. If you have sash windows, open them so that there is a gap at the bottom and a gap at the top, to allow the hot and cold air to circulate.
There are plenty of other tips out there – such as sleeping on your side, filling a hot water bottle with icy water, putting socks in the freezer before putting them on, and avoiding alcohol in the evening – and it’s a case of trial and error to work out what will make a difference to you.
5. Try meditation and mindfulness
When it all gets too much, take some time out, get yourself comfortable, and try a bit of meditation. Meditation can bring us back to our bodies, slow down our heart rate, and fill us with a sense of calm and serenity.
If you’re new to the practice, try following a guided meditation (we love the video below!). It doesn’t have to be for long, five or 10 minutes might do it for you, but settling down and letting go of all that pent-up frustration is a really effective way of managing our mental health and wellbeing.
If you have any concerns or questions, speak to your GP or mental health team.