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Cooling Your Mind in Extreme Heat

If you’ve been feeling a little hot under the collar lately, you’re not alone. The extreme heat affects our health and mood. Temperatures of 100 degrees create discomfort for everyone, but when the thermometer seems stuck at 100 degrees for days at a time, people stay inside and irritation, restlessness, and stress settle in. Hot and especially humid weather is associated with increased aggression and violence as well as elevated anxiety and depression. Studies from Northwestern University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences suggest rising temperatures disturb sleep patterns and dehydrate individuals, thus depressing moods and amplifying reactivity and volatility.

If you find yourself snapping at your children more often or engaging in more arguments with your partner, practicing these cool-down techniques will help you feel calmer in spite of the temperatures outside.

1. Stay hydrated with water and avoid alcohol. What’s the best way to hydrate? Consuming water, of course! The more water you drink, the greater your body’s ability to cool. Although alcohol may sound enticing, it is a diuretic and Central Nervous System depressant. This means that the first sip may feel good, but it will ultimately backfire, leaving you hot and sad.

2. Practice breathing slow and deep. When you become overheated and begin feeling frustrated, annoyed, and mad, your body reacts with shallow quick breaths. This raises blood pressure and heart rate. To counteract this phenomenon, take long slow breaths, hold briefly, and then slowly release. Your heart rate and blood pressure will lower, helping you to feel calmer.

3. Be active in the morning and evening. Developing an exercise program, such as walking or cycling, in the morning and/or evening helps you avoid the sun and heat of the day and assists your body in temperature regulation during the day. The psychological benefits of exercise, including lower anxiety and depression, cannot be overstated either.

4. Get creative in the kitchen. Our bodies respond better to lighter foods when it’s hot. Serving cold fruits, raw vegetables, and cold soups cools your mood. Not only that - you can challenge yourself to eat healthier on 100-degree days. We cannot control the weather, but we can control our lifestyle to better suit the weather.

5. Give everyone in your family more space and slow down. A hidden tip for couples when the temperature soars: offer your partner more emotional space and demand less to avoid conflicts and feel closer. When your annoyance with the heat increases demands, partners react to each other with more caustic responses. Slow down and allow each other more “me” instead of “we” time.

The increasing temperatures amplify everyone’s moodiness. So if you find yourself more annoyed and crankier than usual, take a breather, grab a cold water, and give yourself permission to slow down.


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