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How do Heat Waves Impact Our Mental Health?

Heat waves cause deleterious effects on communities and their resources available to rebuild after the physical damage they cause. But how do heat waves impact our mental health?
Ecology News
2023-07-26T00:00:00.000Z
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This summer hasn’t left a corner of the Earth in the Northern Hemisphere untouched – many regions of the world infamously known for cloudy summers have depicted the antithesis of their typical weather, such as the U.K., hitting all time high temperatures with only worsening weather conditions in sight.

It’s no secret that heat waves aren’t physically good for our bodies. But how do heat waves impact our mental health? 

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Why are heat waves physically difficult for the body?

Heat waves are really bad for the human body. 

Heat waves don’t only cause immense environmental damage, but they impact human health in both a physical and mental sense. 

Heat waves aren’t what they used to be anymore – they’ve grown frequent and intense in temperature alongside global warming. As these heat waves grow in severity, humans will continue to suffer the physical effects that heat waves bring along with them.

Long-term, intensive heat waves can cause physical health issues, and sometimes – even death.

⚠️ Physical health issues that could arise due to heat waves include suffering a heat stroke, cardiovascular issues, or respiratory problems. However, the most alarming physical effect of heat waves is the chance of suffering from a heat stroke.

A heat heat stroke happens when you can’t regulate your own body temperature due to the intense heat, which results in your body spiking in temperature resulting in a spike in body temperature because your body is unable to cool itself down.

People most likely to suffer from a heat stroke include the elderly, people who suffer from chronic diseases, outdoor workers, and those in low-income communities or developing countries without central air conditioning systems or other resources available to help take care of themselves during extreme heat.

Heat waves also exacerbate the amount of harmful pollutants in the air when temperatures are extremely high. Therefore, heat waves can also cause respiratory problems and make it difficult to breathe.

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Do heat waves also impact our mental health?

Mental health is already constantly talked about. In an age where incessantly digital stimulation is already negatively impacting our mindsets around the clock, it’s hard for Millenials and Gen Z goers to not be mentally impacted by the world around them. 

But can a heat wave make maintaining a good mental state of mind even more difficult than it already is?

The answer is an astounding yes. Heat waves bring extreme temperatures and sometimes humidity – both of which are linked to an increase of people who experience depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

👉 In fact, for every time the average monthly temperature increases by one degree celsius – deaths caused by mental-health related illnesses increase by over two percent. 

Even if a heat wave doesn’t provoke a full on mental health problem, extreme temperatures can still impair one’s cognitive abilities, accentuate already existing aggressive behavior, or influence people to commit crimes that they otherwise wouldn’t. 

Heat waves can deter existing, successful methods to treat mental illness as well. High temperatures can impair the bodily functions necessary for one to process medication for mental illnesses. For example, antipsychotics are known to provoke dehydration, and during a heat wave – this risk is only amplified.

Therefore, the effectiveness of many medications may not work as well during a heat wave, as many will inevitably experience dehydration of some sort. 

When they said that heat makes you cranky, they weren’t kidding. High temperatures can provoke moodiness and irritability to the extreme, sometimes even to the extent that they influence people to commit crimes. In fact, by 2090 – climate change could be the reason for a five percent increase in global crimes. This is because high temperatures prevent a balance of serotonin, otherwise known as the “happy hormone” in the brain – leading to unusually aggressive behavior.  

Long story short, heat waves absolutely impact our mental health in a multitude of ways. 

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If heat waves impact our mental health, can heat waves impact our overall productivity?

Heat waves, and extreme temperatures in general, can have the power to stop many activities – many that serve as outlets to aid our mental health. For instance, working out isn’t recommended during extreme heat – and many rely on a run or spending time in nature with a hike to recenter themselves and to care for their mental health.

During a heat wave, this is a common mental health outlet that is taken away – and when we are preoccupied with our mental health like anxiety or depression, it’s difficult to focus on the first place.

Even if you don’t work in an outdoor sector, where the heat is more likely to take a physical and mental toll on your body, employees are still generally less productive in extreme temperatures. It’s important that employers are vigilant of their employee’s physical and mental health in order to ensure meaningful work takes place. Air conditioning and a temporary pause on any compulsory dress codes can help employees feel more comfortable at work in the midst of an intense heat wave.  

When possible, remote work might be better during a heat wave for mental health needs. This way, the employee has more flexibility in their work schedule to take frequent breaks if needed or to arrange time for self-care to manage their mental health. 

Why is mental health so important?

👉 Mental health pertains to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being – so in turn, it can have an effect on a multitude of things we do in our daily lives for survival and personal satisfaction as human beings, such as interacting with co-workers or attending social events. 

Since mental health affects how we feel, it directly impacts how we think and act. Therefore, mental health serves as the basis for how to cope with stress and make all major life decisions.

In short, our mental state of mind impacts all other areas of our lives – making it a crucial component in everything one sets out to do in their life. 

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How can you take care of your mental health during a heatwave?

It may sound counter-intuitive, but it really is important to take care of your physical health in order to feel better mentally. Think of when people say, “from the inside out” – you’re much more likely to mentally cope with something if you eat well, get enough sleep, and drink enough. Whoever coined the term, “your body is a temple” was thinking about the concept of nourishing your body as a whole.

You can be in a good physical state without being in a good mental state, but it’s hard to be in a good mental state if your physical health is suffering as well. That’s why so many studies have shown that if you get dressed, go out, and do something when you aren’t feeling well mentally – that there’s a chance it could end up being true. In other words, “fake it until you make it” just might be onto something real, here. 

But you can’t fake it if you aren’t in good physical condition. There are too many stereotypes around how much everyone should be exercising, what we should be eating that qualifies as “healthy”, or how many hours of sleep we should get to be considered well rested. 

The truth is, everyone’s bodies are different – how much sleep I need may not be how much you need. What I eat in a day could be considered wildly unhealthy to one, but health conscientiousness to another. 

Taking care of your mental health during a heatwave ultimately means learning what physical components are most imperative for you to keep up with in stressful times. Once you can determine which physical factors affect your mental health the most, then you can proceed to deal with the impact that a heat wave is having on your mental health.

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Mental health is not a one size fits all approach. It gets tiring to hear your friends recommending which remedies to take to improve your mental health, but the truth is, just like your physical health – only you know what’s best for you and what will prove most effective. 

As an artistic person, I often have to do something cathartic in order to feel better when I’m having a bad mental health day – but that may not work for everyone. For some people, they find solace in speaking with a therapist, meditating, or practicing gratitude. 

The bottom line is, everyone cares for their mental health in a different way. If you’re still trying to figure out which remedies are most effective for you, some other common methods of maintaining your mental health include setting goals for the day to stay focused or doing something relaxing for yourself such as a face mask or treating yourself to something you normally wouldn’t. 

It’s important to keep in mind that these self-care tactics can’t cure our mental health problems, but they can help us to manage them and live our lives to the fullest we can. 

👉 Remember to check in on your other friends and family during a heatwave, too. Staying connected is a great way to ensure that you don’t fall down the rabbit hole of a dark mental health day. 

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What can be done to prevent future heat waves? 

So, heat waves clearly aren’t good for anyone involved – they have detrimental effects on the body, mind, and planet… all at the same time. 

Is there anything that can be done to prevent heat waves like this from happening in the future? 

Truthfully, the only way to stop heat waves from getting worse than they already are is to make sure we all play our part in the fight against climate change.

Businesses and individuals should strive to implement more sustainable habits that don’t contribute to more carbon emissions of greenhouse gasses that are causing the Earth’s temperature to rise. 

In the end, as long as global warming persists – heat waves are here to stay. They will continue to impact our mental health, and while we all have the tools necessary to combat difficult mental health days – we should remain vigilant about the unexpected effects climate change can and will continue to have on our lives. 

What about Greenly?

If reading this article about heat waves having an effect on one’s mental health has made you interested in reducing your carbon emission to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

Click here to learn more about Greenly and how we can help you reduce your carbon footprint. 

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