Warning that hot weather can trigger mental health condition

A male tourist having fever and severe stomach ache, maybe he is having Malaria in the tropical surrounding,
-Credit: (Image: Jan-Otto/Getty)

You might be familiar with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but what about "summer anxiety"? As temperatures rise, so do the anxieties of many individuals who find the summer months challenging for their mental health.

The phrase "summer anxiety" has been mentioned a lot on social media, with numerous people searching for ways to manage their unease during the warmer months. Anxiety doesn't just mess with your mind; it can also cause physical issues such as disrupted sleep, decreased appetite, weight loss, and a spike in irritability.

For some, the mere idea of donning swimwear and engaging in more outdoor social activities is intimidating - not to mention the heightened fear of 'FOMO' (fear of missing out). But Paul Guess, a mental-wellbeing expert, has come forward with advice on how to tackle these negative emotions when the heat is on.

What is 'summer anxiety'?

This condition is essentially the reverse of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is characterised by increased stress or discomfort specifically during the summer period.

Physical signs of this anxiety may include a racing heart, breathlessness, and clammy hands. Mentally, it can manifest as a surge in worrisome thoughts or even unexpected panic attacks.

Factors triggering summer anxiety range from the sudden spike in temperatures to a packed social calendar and the pervasive dread of missing out on the fun, known as FOMO.

What's the difference between SAD and summer anxiety?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is often linked to the chillier months. Those suffering from SAD may experience a notable shift in their mood at the same time each year - coinciding with the seasonal changes during the cold, dark winter months.

This happens because the reduced exposure to sunlight and warmth results in a deficiency of serotonin in the human body. Serotonin is a crucial brain chemical that impacts your mood, emotions, and sleep.

In contrast, reverse SAD (summer anxiety) takes place when you feel anxious or depressed with the seasonal change in early summer as the human body absorbs too much light and overproduces melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that naturally develops overnight to regulate how and when you sleep.

The shorter nights in summer can have negative effects on your melatonin levels and sleep cycle, which can adversely affect your mood.

Why does summer trigger my anxiety?

While seasonal changes can significantly impact your hormone levels and body function, several other factors may heighten your anxiety during summer. Here are just a few reasons why some may struggle to enjoy the summer:

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) : Seeing others seemingly enjoying the summer lifestyle can amplify your fear of missing out, creating internal pressure to participate in more activities than you feel comfortable with.

Social Anxiety Amplified : The pressure to attend social gatherings can heighten social anxiety, leading to feelings of being overwhelmed. This could be due to multiple invites or the annoyance of a significant person because you're not ready yet.

Heat Stress : High temperatures can elevate cortisol levels, the stress hormone. Humidity can also cause dizziness and dehydration, adding to your discomfort.

Holiday Hassles : Planning holidays and financial considerations can ramp up anxiety and stress. You might also feel uneasy about societal expectations to behave in a certain way while on holiday with loved ones.

Body Image Concerns : Feeling self-conscious or stressed about how you look when wearing summer clothes like shorts or swimsuits can intensify negative thoughts about your body. This might go unnoticed by some, but it's crucial to identify your triggers (like looking in the mirror) and prevent them from happening.

How can I manage my summer anxiety?

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is often talked about, but remember, maintaining a healthy social-personal balance is equally important.

Set realistic expectations : Accept that your summer doesn't have to be perfect, with you attending every social event. Instead, prioritise your personal care and set achievable social expectations to manage stress or anxiety.

Limit social media exposure : I recommend taking regular breaks from social media to avoid the comparison of your summer and someone else's. If you feel your anxious thoughts are growing, take a break.

Balance indoor and outdoor activities : Enjoy outdoor activities during mornings or evenings when UV levels are moderate to low. Balance this with relaxing, therapeutic indoor activities which offer protection from the heat and calm your thoughts.

Keep your bedroom comfortable : To optimise your sleep quality, create a calm environment with fans or air conditioning for your sleep sanctuary. Small changes like linen or satin bedsheets and a cool shower before bed can also help improve your sleep.

Practice mindfulness and positive self-talk : Ground yourself with positive affirmations and slow breathing exercises during moments to help with depression and anxiety. You can incorporate this into your life simply while sitting in bed or having your morning tea.

It doesn't always have to be an extra task in your day. You can also try mindfulness activities like meditation or yoga. These can help you release negative thoughts and create a safe space.

Embrace a balanced summer

Balancing social engagement and personal care is key to managing summer anxiety. Remember, it's okay to step back and prioritise yourself, even if it means taking a break from the excitement this season can offer.

By setting realistic expectations and avoiding the pressure to be perfect, you can free yourself from unnecessary anxiety. We all deserve to experience a summer that nourishes our mind, body, and soul.

If summer anxiety significantly impacts your daily life and wellbeing, please don't hesitate to seek professional help. A GP, therapist, or mental health counsellor can provide valuable guidance and support tailored to your needs. Additionally, trusted organisations can offer helpful resources and services to assist you in healing and recovery.