Aside from what we could do to keep ourselves safe from the heat physically, there is much to consider when we examine how the summertime can affect our mental health. Gouri Mukerjea, R.S.W., a mental health counsellor from Sherbourne Health, discusses some of the ways summer can affect our mental health while providing some insight on what we can do to promote body positivity and mental wellness.
Oftentimes when we discuss how seasons can affect our mental health we tend to focus on the colder months, but what impact does the summer months have on our mental health, especially during a heat wave? And how can the summer heat make it even more difficult for those living with a mental health disorder especially during a pandemic?
Mukerjea: Extreme heat can have significant effects on mental health and behavior. There is evidence linking extreme heat with aggression, mood, cognition and insomnia. Seasonal change can create imbalances in anyone who lives with a mental health disorder. Depression and anxiety can aggravate with long days of summer, heat, and humidity. Dehydration from being in the heat can cause brain functioning to slow down, affecting the mood.
Additionally, COVID has led to confinement and loneliness which could amplify existing conditions. Access to air conditioning and drinking water can make a difference.
Summer is here and even with a pandemic there is an increase in social activity. A lot of the time with social media we can be overwhelmed with seeing posts online of everyone having fun while you are at home. How can one combat the fear of missing out? And do you think that there is an increased pressure to be social during the summer months?
Mukerjea: The social pressure to go out and have fun in the summer months is real. Seeing others going out, doing fun things in the sun can lead to high levels of anxiety. It can be stressful not being able to participate in a summer vacation or outdoor activities due to limited finances or health. Fear of missing out can be dealt with by restricting time on social media, setting aside a certain time of day to check all social media, practicing mindfulness (that refers to a nonjudgmental observation or awareness that is focused on the present experience) and practicing gratitude.