I think we can all agree that the weather has been a bit unusual in many parts of the country this year. It’s July, and some people are wondering if they will ever be able to put away their sweaters and winter coats. But many others are experiencing the summer heat with higher than average temperatures.
Extremes in the weather can have an effect on your physical and mental health, your attitude and your temper. This can lead to a greater level of stress, fatigue and irritability. Some of the factors to consider as you endure the hot days are:
Changes in your daily routine
For a lot of people, having the children out of school can be a lot of fun, but it can also add a lot of stress when you have them home all day (often accompanied by boredom and bickering) or when you have to arrange and pay for child care. If possible, coordinate with other parents to take turns supervising, transporting and entertaining the kids this summer. Many churches have vacation Bible school, the YMCA and County Parks & Recreation have summer youth programs and libraries offer special events. While it is healthy for your children to have some time in the summer to do nothing, a few activities can be effective for breaking the boredom.
Your work schedule may be affected by coworkers taking their vacations as well and everyone pitching in to cover responsibilities. Keep in mind, it’s just for a season!
The best times of life are vacations! They can also be stressful because of travel arrangements, altered sleep and meal schedules, and extra expenses. One key to de-stressing your vacation is to save money to spend during the trip. Going into debt can turn your dream vacation into a nightmare! Stick to your normal bedtimes as much as possible and use good sense when trying new foods. Being adventurous is very healthy, but exercising wisdom will keep you feeling well enough to enjoy your vacation.
Overindulging in alcohol
Holidays and backyard barbecues are so much fun during the summer, but for some people it is tempting to drink too much. Increased alcohol intake often contributes to arguments, injury and a variety of other problems with your health (e.g. dehydration) or even the law. If you know it could be a problem for you, ask someone you trust to help you monitor your consumption and stop before trouble starts. And absolutely don’t drink and drive!
Taking care of your health
Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are serious medical conditions that can sneak up very quickly if you are working or playing hard in the heat. As you perspire, your body is losing essential fluid and if you aren’t replacing it with non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drinks just as fast, you can do damage to your heart, brain and other critical functions. As soon as you begin to feel tired, dizzy, lightheaded or nauseated, get to a cool place and rest while you re-hydrate. If symptoms persist, get medical help!
Even under less strenuous conditions it is important to protect your skin with sunscreen, cover your eyes with sunglasses and/or a hat and eat light meals. You may wake up earlier due to longer periods of sunlight, but if you can make time for an afternoon “siesta” you will still get a good number of hours of sleep.
Managing your mood
Most of us are likely to feel a little grouchy and tired when we are hot. That is completely normal. Unfortunately, reports of road rage and domestic violence are often higher when it’s hot, so we need to pay attention to how the heat makes us feel. For people who are managing mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses, I recommend some extra self-care during extremes in weather. The physical discomfort produced by heat – or even cold – can exacerbate mood problems. Practical ways to keep yourself on even keel include trying to stay in and air-conditioned environment most of the time, staying hydrated with water and electrolyte replacements like Gatorade and eating light, nutritious meals regularly. We can all benefit from awareness that others may be as stressed as we are by the uncomfortable weather and allowing each other some extra patience and grace.
While there is nothing we can do to change the weather, there are a few practical ways we can deal with the heat of the summer so we don’t get too hot under the collar!
Live, Work & Relate Well!
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.