Why does the hot weather affect our mood and what can we do about it?

Is this heat making you feel frustrated? You are not alone.

The sunshine is supposed to make us happy and boost our mood, right? So why is this blue-sky heatwave making us feel agitated and irritable?

‘There is little doubt that the winter months can be utterly depressing not only to look at, but high reported cases of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – also known as winter depression, occur amongst the British population,’ mental health and leadership expert, Ngozi Cadmus tells Metro.co.uk.

‘But not much consideration is given to the irritability and mood swings experienced during the summer months.’

Since the recent heatwaves, Ngozi notes that people have been experiencing changes in their moods.

‘A recent study in Poland investigating why people get grumpy in warm weather found that the rising temperature is linked to the increased stress hormone cortisol,’ Ngozi explains. ‘Cortisol is lower in the winter months, and rises while the temperature gets warmer.’

Why hot weather makes us grumpy

Along with hormonal changes, the practical issues of the summer months can trigger irritation.

‘Hot weather can disrupt and affect a person’s sleep, cause dehydration, and being cooped inside or at work with no AC can contribute to worsening mood in very warm weather,’ Ngozi says. 

‘The fact that there is nothing anyone can do about the weather can also increase irritation.’

The warm temperature heightens our body’s stress response, which adds to feelings of agitation.

This is much more likely to happen if we are trying to accomplish all of our everyday tasks in the heat, says Dr Charlotte Russell, a clinical psychologist working in adult mental health and the founder of The Travel Psychologist. 

‘Many people don’t feel irritated in hot weather when we’re lying on a sun lounger next to the pool,’ Charlotte notes.

‘But when we add in the usual stresses of life, like meeting deadlines at work, picking the kids up and doing the shopping, the heat can amplify our usual stress.

‘During hot weather, we may find it more difficult to concentrate because our body and brain will naturally focus on wanting to cool ourselves down.

‘Feeling hot and sweaty can also make us feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. When we don’t feel comfortable physically, this may add to feelings of irritability.’

Research has also suggested that by losing just 2% of the body’s water, we can end up struggling with tasks that ‘demand mental and physical attention and coordination, which can add to our emotional turmoil as we become increasingly frustrated with our inability to focus or work effectively,’ says Kirsty Leah, a wellbeing psychologist and Coach at the SupportRoom.

‘If we get too hot, we can also begin to suffer the effects of heatstroke, which can increase feelings of confusion and agitation as well as make us feel physically nauseous or fatigued, further contributing to our feelings of discomfort and amping up our irritability.’

Charlotte also notes that heat can also exacerbate physical symptoms, including chronic pain and skin conditions.

‘We may also worry about our own health or the health of others. This worry and additional discomfort can also make people feel more irritable than they usually would,’ she says.

So what can we do about it?

How to deal with the hot weather’s effect on your mood

‘The single most helpful piece of advice I can give is that it is important to adjust our expectations of what we can achieve during times of extreme heat,’ Charlotte says.

‘If you are working, you are probably not going to be as productive as usual. If you try to be, you are likely to struggle and become frustrated and irritated. I would suggest focusing on the key priorities and trying to get any important or stressful tasks done earlier in the day before the peak of the heat.

‘If you are not working, think about focusing on what you only have to do and consider changing your plans if they no longer seem sensible in unusual heat.’

Kirsty warns against making any big or rash decisions during a heatwave.

‘It’s common to see us snapping at others or making rash decisions when the heat has us struggling, so it’s important to not make any big decisions until you are well-rested and feel you can make a well-informed choice,’ she advises.

‘Remember that if you’re feeling it, others are too, so try to be extra patient and lower your expectations until things are cooler.’

Ngozi states that: ‘We can also take small but practical steps to reduce our irritability and try to remain as cool in mood and body temperature as we can,’ 

They suggest the following:

  • If you are inside, you might be tempted to open all the windows, but that increases the likelihood that you will be sweating buckets; close the windows and curtains, and you will find that your house will be much cooler.
  • Cool showers are essential in sweltering weather, refreshing, and an excellent time to reflect on the last person you yelled at.
  • Cucumbers are very hydrating and especially good for essential nutrients.
  • Sip plenty of water, rather than gulping it down; sipping it gradually helps bring your temperature down.
  • A cool flannel on the back of your neck can help decrease your body’s temperature.
  • Kirsty suggests investing in lighter bedsheets and a fan to help navigate the heat.

Best products to help you beat the heat

Shopping: This factbox contains affiliate links. We will earn a small commission on purchases made through one of these links but this never influences our experts’ opinions. Products are tested and reviewed independently of commercial initiatives.

Please note that prices were correct at the time of writing, but may have since changed.

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Portable air conditioner

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Pro Breeze Oscillating 40-inch Tower Fan

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Elegear Cooling Blanket for Night Sweats

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Ergoflex 5G mattress

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Kookaburra Waterproof Garden Sun Shade Canopy

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Black and Decker Portable 3-in-1 Air Conditioner, Dehumidifier, and Cooling Fan

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SIMIYA 3 Pack Seamless Anti Chafing Boy Shorts

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KLIM Wind Laptop Cooling Pad

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4 in 1 Quiet Portable Air Cooler

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Luxear Cooling Pillowcases 2 Pack

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Self-cooling mat for pets

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Jumbo inflatable pool

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Cooling towels

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However, when the rising mercury becomes more irritating than enjoyable, reach for these items for some sweet relief.

Pro Breeze Turbo Desk Fan

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Misting sports bottle

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Retro Pineapple Ice Bucket

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Chillmax Pillow cooling gel insert

Say goodbye to night sweats by placing this over your pillow before you sleep (Picture: Amazon)

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Duronic ice cream maker

Nothing better than an ice cream on a hot day – especially when it’s homemade (Picture: Amazon)

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onaEz Cooling Sleep Mask

Cool for 20 minutes for cold therapy – it’s also great for relieving the pain of tension headaches (Picture: Amazon)

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