There’s no better season than summer. School’s out, living is easy, the sunshine is golden, the skies are blue and the beach calls. Even Shakespeare waxed poetic in his Elizabeth doublet: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” But there is also another side of summer that rises up once the romanticization gets over. As soon as temperatures run too high, that happy-go-lucky smile washes away with beads of sweat trickling down your face. Summer doesn’t always mean fun in the sun for everyone. So, is the summer heat affecting your mood?
We’ve all faced the extreme heat on our way to work or on an errand, battling ridiculous traffic and crowds, sweating profusely, and hoping for a miracle that drops the temperature exponentially. The months of March to May in India are so tropical and excruciating, that only Indians can understand the pain of it. And while we don’t realize it, this rise in summer temperatures can have a major effect on us not only physically but also mentally. As the less-than-pleasant weather drags on and outdoor plans become a hassle, our overall mood drops. And it doesn’t get better once we’re in the air conditioning.
But is the weather to blame for our mood drop?
At present, during the summer of 2022, there is an intense heatwave covering much of India. This rise in temperatures has caused alarm among the health and mental health community. The heat changes our body significantly leading to exhaustion, aggressive behaviour, and mood changes. Sweating can cause loss of water in the body, leading to dehydration, heatstroke, or a rise in blood pressure. Research also proves that weather’s daily influence has a negative impact on a person’s mood. Higher temperatures are associated with an increase in a person’s negative feelings like irritability, distress, and jitteriness. But the researchers also concluded that greater amounts of sunlight and fewer amounts of wind decreased such negative feelings.
Bright lights, sleep problems
Some people become sick with the arrival of summer. This condition, though mostly felt during the winters, is known as a seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. While most cases are related to winter since the days are shorter, the nights are colder, there’s less sunlight and the overall mood is down and low, the rise in temperatures and heatwaves could cause something called reverse SAD. So, someone who is diagnosed with summer SAD may display manic behaviours as opposed to someone suffering from winter SAD, who is often depressed and lack energy and motivation.
Too much sunlight can reduce melatonin production in the body. Melatonin drives your sleep-wake cycle and keeps it at a healthy pace. In addition to this, the blinding sun disrupts your circadian rhythm, making it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep, resulting in anxiety and anger. You probably don’t need a study to tell you that excruciating heat can make us hostile and aggressive. Another reason why the heat impacts our mood is that we can get dehydrated very easily during the summers. This leads us to become tired and unfocused, we fail to concentrate better and end up getting tense and anxious. Plus, the warm temperatures can push us into heatstroke, symptoms of which include confusion, agitation, and irritability. The cold can always be beaten with more layers but the hot weather is harder to escape, making us frustrated and sweating all our fluids out.
While the seasonal dilemmas are umpteen, the impact of weather may also depend on your weather personality type. There are four general weather personality types:
Summer lovers – Those who rejoice when summer arrives and bask in the glory of the sun however hot it may get.
Summer haters – Less happy over the arrival of summer and angrier due to the heat of the weather.
Rain haters – Those who despise precipitation and getting wet in the rain. They feel happier over sunshine-filled days and hotter temperatures.
Unaffected by weather – These people are largely unimpacted by weather changes.
But this doesn’t mean that you always have to let the weather impact your mood. While the weather does have a measurable impact on many people’s behaviour and mood, it’s also dependent on many factors. The impact of the season would probably be higher in geographically extreme locations in terms of unusual weather. That being said, there are still several ways you can combat the heat and not let it bring your energy down.
Make restful sleep an absolute priority
Long, sunny days and warm nights can make sleep an unattainable task. Seeking relaxation techniques like meditation before bed, calming sounds or online relaxation aids and apps can help you get some restful shuteye.
Make space for your emotions
Yes, summer does make most people agitated and anxious but battling these emotions makes us feel even more on edge. Rather, we need to provide a space to actually experience these feelings so that our body doesn’t shut down completely. Sitting down for 10 minutes in a quiet space, closing your eyes and feeling all your feelings can help you be mindful of what’s happening inside of you and why.
Keep it cool
Although summers mean spending time outdoors, don’t feel pressurized into doing something you dislike or get anxious over. Seek shade, air-conditioning, and indoor spaces whenever possible to avoid a dip in your mood. Keep a cool water bottle handy to drop the temperatures of your body and use hats, lightweight clothes, and sunglasses to keep your skin and face protected.
Summer doesn’t have to be a season of anger and frustration for you. Conscious actions and decisions to stay cool – literally and figuratively will have you sailing through the season.