The Impact of Summer’s Heat on Anxiety

The sun is shining bright, the beaches are open, the temperature’s rising…and so is your anxiety? Increased anxiety in hotter weather is a real thing, and if you experience it, you are not alone.

Research, such as a study done by the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology backs the association between increased temperatures and increased anxiety. As does a 2018 study published by the American Physiological Society. Both studies found that higher temperatures can trigger an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. This increase in cortisol can lead to restlessness, palpitations, increased heart rate, nausea, and tiredness – which are all common symptoms of anxiety.

The increased heart rate, dizziness, palpitations, and dehydration that are associated with hot and humid temperatures, can increase anxiety and mirror the symptoms of a panic attack. But it’s not just the temperature that can contribute to these experiences- it can be an increase in social activity and the social anxiety that can go along with that.

Summer is a time of travel, weddings, vacations, family reunions, and all sorts of social outings that, when combined with the hot weather, can create the perfect storm of anxiety symptoms. In fact, some people become anxious just thinking about planning and going on vacation. Add in the increased pressure to be social, even when it’s 100 degrees out, and the feeling that you should be accepting every invite that comes your way, just makes it worse.

So what’s the solution?

Should you just stay indoors all summer long?

Of course not. While there are plenty of enjoyable indoor activities that can be done during particularly hot days, there are also many things you can do to lower your anxiety symptoms when you are outdoors.

Let’s take a look at some of them:

  • Dress in cool, loose-fitting, and light-colored clothing.
  • Limit your time in the sun.
  • Drink plenty of fluids even though you might not feel thirsty.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which dehydrate.
  • Take extra precautions with your medication, such as spending less time outdoors on warmer days, spending less time in the sun, and ensuring you have access to a cooler environment when needed.
  • Plan regular intervals in a cool environment.
  • Avoid hot environments or make sure you have access to air-conditioning to escape the heat.
  • Keep your activities to a minimum during the warmest part of the day.
  • Get regular good sleep.
  • Practice a daily deep relaxation routine to manage stress.
  • Be realistic about the activities you participate in during the warmer hours of the day.
  • Stay inside during the hottest part of the day.
  • Avoid outside chores during the hottest part of the day.
  • Contain your anxiousness to prevent anxiety from escalating.
  • Avoid recreational drug use.
  • Work with a therapist to manage your anxiety, including worries about storms, bugs, and wild animals.
  • Set realistic expectations about holidays, and summer in general.
  • Keep your stress in a healthy range.
  • Check on loved ones who don’t have access to a cooler environment.

If your heat anxiety is making it difficult for you to live a full life, or you think you may have an anxiety disorder, it’s important to seek professional help. Together, you can work through the thoughts, feelings, and emotions associated with the higher temperatures, as well as make a plan for how to manage these. With a little help, you’ll find yourself able to go to that barbecue, the beach, or just lay out by the pool with ease- and plenty of water.

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