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Hacking the Heat Waves

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Most of us are not at our best in uncomfortably hot weather. We tend to feel more irritable, tired, or restless. And no one would blame us — the heat can be truly unbearable.

Studies have revealed the psychology of how heat can affect our mood, for better or worse. According to Psych Central, heat waves have been found to increase depression and aggression, and humidity lowers concentration and energy (Grohol). With summer on its way, let’s be mindful of ways to be mentally healthy in the heat.

Here are some simple actions we can take to cope with hot weather: 

Notice your feelings.

Take a moment to think about how temperatures affect your mood (Nyamora). Pay attention to how you are feeling. Do not ignore your feelings, especially when it’s hot out.

Catch yourself before you act.

Half the battle is catching yourself when you feel your mood is being affected by the weather. Take a moment to pause and take some deep breaths. If you can stop yourself before acting out and saying or doing something you might regret, you will feel better in the long run.

Practice self care.

Stay hydrated, in air conditioning, and out of the heat as much as possible. 

Plan your day around the heat waves.

If you know the weather is going to be hot, run errands and exercise when it’s cooler.

Remember to be mindful of your needs and attitude all year round, but be especially careful when it’s hot. It takes little effort to ensure you are doing your best to remain healthy and positive, even when nature gets in the way. On the positive side, hot weather can make swimming and indoor activities feel even nicer! It doesn’t take much to make the best of the summer heat.


References

Grohol, John M. “The Psychology of a Heat Wave.” World of Psychology, Psych Central, 8 July 2018, https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-psychology-of-a-heat-wave/.

Nyamora, Cory. “How Does Hot Weather Affect Your Mental Health? – Endurance: A Sports and Psychology Center.” Endurance, Endurance: A Sports and Psychology Center, 14 Aug. 2019, https://www.endurancecenter.org/join-us-at-this-years-5thannual-svpa-student-research-conference/2019/8/14/how-does-hot-weather-affect-your-mental-health.

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How to Overcome Social Isolation

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

The winter months can be difficult to get through for many people. It’s typically cold, and there are not many hours of daylight. We may not want to go outside and are more likely to isolate ourselves, which can negatively affect our mood.

One of the most common symptoms of anxiety and depression that I have seen is social isolation. There are many reasons we may isolate ourselves. We might feel like it will take too much effort and that we don’t have enough energy to be around others. We might not want to burden other people with our emotions, or maybe we have developed some social anxiety and don’t feel comfortable interacting with others. Whatever the reason, social isolation is not a helpful strategy to combat a depressed mood or anxiety.

Healthy isolation, also known as solitude, is not the same as purposeful social isolation. Sometimes we need time alone to help reset and clear our minds, or we seek solitude as part of a spiritual experience. We may also need time alone to collect our thoughts and gain clarity about our feelings and what is happening in our lives.

Social isolation, on the other hand, is defined as being alone without any social interactions and can come from feelings of shame and depression. Social anxiety or fears of abandonment can also lead someone to isolate themselves from others. If I person has not developed deep, personal relationships with other people, they are more likely to experience social isolation.

Sometimes isolation is out of our hands, but it can also be something we create for ourselves, whether consciously or unconsciously. To have more health and happiness, it is important to find a good balance of solitude and time socializing.

If social isolation is affecting your mood and your life negatively, here are some guidelines for climbing out of it.

  1. When you are invited to do something with family or friends, make your best effort to accept the invitation and follow through with your plans. Try not to cancel the plans once you have agreed to go out with them. 
  2. Figure out how many times a week is feasible for you to make plans with a friend or family member, and make it a weekly goal to see them. Once a week is a fairly reasonable goal for most people.
  3. Try joining a weekly activity where you will meet other people with similar interests. This could include a sports league, a class, such as a fitness class or art class, or a Meetup group.
  4. Get out of the house once a day to take a walk or do errands, and try to interact with at least one person while out. Dogs are also great companions and can help you interact with others.
  5. Join a support group and attend meetings once a week. This could include a social skills group or a social anxiety group.
  6. Work with your therapist on what feelings come up for you when you feel like isolating yourself. They can also help you replace your need for isolation with a healthy coping strategy, which could also combat your anxiety and depression.

References

Good Therapy (n.d.). (20 August 2018). Isolation. Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/isolation.

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