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How the Heat Can Impact your Mood

If you find yourself more irritable or stressed when the temperatures spike, you're not alone. A psychologist explains how the heat can mess with your mood.

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CLEVELAND - Have you ever noticed you feel more anxious or stressed when it gets really hot outside? 

Well, you’re not alone.

Research shows the heat can actually mess with your mood.

“Studies indicate that excessive heat triggers feelings of anxiety, agitation, irritation, and cognitive difficulties,” said Susan Albers, PsyD, psychologist for Cleveland Clinic. “In fact, during heat waves, we see an increase of suicides, substance use, domestic violence and emergency room visits due to mental health issues. The heat doesn’t cause mental health issues, but it does exacerbate many of the symptoms that people experience.”

Dr. Albers said in extreme temperatures, our bodies have to work harder to keep us cool and that can cause the release of cortisol. Cortisol is our body’s main stress hormone.

She notes the heat can also disrupt our sleep, which can make us more irritable and also make it harder to focus and function in general.

The best way to combat these issues is by drinking plenty of water.

Eating foods with high water content can be helpful too. Some examples include cantaloupe, strawberries, watermelon and grapes.

“It's important to stay cool. You can do this by staying indoors. Don't go out between the hours of 10 and 4,the hottest part of the day,” said Dr. Albers. “If you don't have air conditioning, you can go to the library, walk around a shopping mall. You can also take a cold shower or put a cold washcloth on your forehead. This is going to instantly help with the cognitive symptoms that you may be experiencing during heat waves, such as focus and attention.”

Dr. Albers said be sure to keep an eye on signs of heat exhaustion.

They can include heavy sweating, dizziness, fatigue, headache, fast heartbeat, swelling in the hands and feet, and low blood pressure when you stand up.

About Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. Cleveland Clinic is consistently recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for its expertise and care. Among Cleveland Clinic’s 81,000 employees worldwide are more than 5,743 salaried physicians and researchers, and 20,160 registered nurses and advanced practice providers, representing 140 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic is a 6,690-bed health system that includes a 173-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 23 hospitals, 276 outpatient facilities, including locations in northeast Ohio; Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; Toronto, Canada; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and London, England. In 2023, there were 13.7 million outpatient encounters, 323,000 hospital admissions and observations, and 301,000 surgeries and procedures throughout Cleveland Clinic’s health system. Patients came for treatment from every state and 132 countries. Visit us at clevelandclinic.org. Follow us at twitter.com/CleClinicNews. News and resources available at newsroom.clevelandclinic.org.

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