Could hot weather be making you irritable?

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Qualified Life Coach
@MariannaKilburn
Ask Marianna


09 September 2016

Your mood and the weather

When we think about mood and the weather, we tend to think about how cold winter days, lack of sunshine and long nights can make us feel miserable and tired. Sometimes we think about how much happier we feel when enjoying a day of sunshine in the garden or out with friends.

One thing we don’t often think about is how hot weather can actually have a negative effect on us – making us grumpy and irritable.

The effect that the weather has on our mood is a mixture between the physical and the psychological. For example, we often feel more tired during the winter because our sleep hormones are triggered by changes in light. Darkness triggers the release of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy – so longer nights means more melatonin! On the other hand, winter can make us miserable because we often can’t enjoy the same hobbies as we do in summer, and end up cooped up inside a lot of the time.

But what factors might be making us feel irritable in hotter weather?

Dehydration

It’s amazing how many illnesses and complaints can be cured by just drinking more water! Most people don’t drink enough water anyway, and this problem becomes more pronounced in the summer months. As temperatures increase, people often forget to increase their water intake. The more we sweat in the sun, or cooped up inside stuffy rooms, the more dehydrated we become.

This is particularly exacerbated by the fact that many people spend their days off and evenings drinking cocktails, wine and cold beers in the sun, which actually dehydrates you faster than not drinking water at all!

So what is it about dehydration that causes irritability? Well, when you become dehydrated your kidneys have to work harder to retain water, which can actually increase your blood pressure. This can lead to palpitations, which are often mistaken for feelings of anxiety. This can make you feel generally more tense, wound up and irritable.

Dehydration also means that your vital organs are not getting enough water, oxygen and nutrients. Water is vital for metabolising energy from food, so if you don’t have enough you will quickly become sluggish and lethargic – and with tiredness often comes grumpiness!

Make sure to drink plenty of plain water – between 1.5 litres and 2 litres a day. Everyone is different though, so checking your urine is a good indication of whether or not you are properly hydrated. Your urine should be clear, and either colourless or slightly yellow. Have a look at the picture below for a better idea.


For more advice on avoiding dehydration this summer, click on the link.

Lack of sleep

We all know that not getting enough sleep can leave us worn out and irritable the next day, and difficulty sleeping is a common complaint in summer. As the temperature increases our rooms become stuffy and hot, which causes us to become too hot, to sweat, to toss and turn to get comfortable, and to wake up throughout the night.

To counter this common cause, take some measures to ensure you keep cool during the night. Make sure to wear light, cotton pyjamas (or none at all!) and switch your sheets and duvet covers for light cotton rather than synthetic material. You can also half-fill a hot water bottle and place it in the freezer to keep you cool through the night. For some more tips, read our blog post on 7 tips to keep cool at night.

If you need some help getting to sleep you could try Dormeasan, a herbal remedy that aids your natural sleep cycle.

If you are finding that menopausal sweats and hot flushes are causing your sleep problems, try an extract of sage, which naturally eases these symptoms.

Lack of exercise

It is sometimes difficult to exercise in the summer with it being so warm outside – and not all of us can afford gym memberships! This lack of activity can make you feel tired and lethargic, slows down circulation and can make you feel tense, uptight and restless. It is then harder to find the motivation to exercise, as you already feel sluggish and tired!

To counter this, really try and find the motivation to get out there and exercise – if you can do it once, it’ll be easier to do again.
Try exercising earlier in the morning or later at night when the temperature cools. You could try yoga, which is less cardio demanding, but still gives you a good workout and wakes you up. You can do it at home as well, so it requires less motivation to get up and out!

Make sure to eat energy-rich foods like leafy greens (kale and spinach) nuts and chia seeds. Read more about the foods that fight fatigue here.

Generally feeling uncomfortable

Summer can often bring with it a general feeling of discomfort – feeling thirsty, tired, itchy (from bug bites or prickly heat) and sticky – which can make it easy to become irritable and snap at people.

Wear light cotton clothes so your skin can breathe and take cool showers whenever you can to wash away excess sweat and cool the body down. Wear a wide-brimmed hat when out in the sun, or sit in the shade! There’s no shame in retreating indoors if it gets too hot for you. Sitting inside or in the shade has the added bonus of not needing to wear as much sun cream – which means you will feel significantly less sticky.

Make sure to eat a good diet – feeling bloated, sluggish or constipated won’t help matters! Lots of fruit and veg, fibre and complex carbohydrates, as well as, of course, water!

Stress

For some, it may not be the hot weather itself that makes you irritable, but the usual stresses that accompany this time of year: your children may be home all day rather than in school, demanding attention and entertainment; you may be paying for expensive holidays or extra child care while your children are on holiday; and simply losing your routine can lead to stress.

There are loads of ways to help manage stress; yoga, mindfulness, diet, exercise. You could also try a stress relieving herb. Avenacalm helps you to relax and cope with stress, and it is gentle enough that it can be used as long-term stress relief. It also works relatively quickly (within a couple of days). Take this alongside a magnesium supplement to help settle nervousness, tension and irritability.

If you’re looking for something stronger, try Stress Relief Daytime. This fast-acting herb helps calm you down when stress suddenly builds up. It can be taken long term as well, but is generally recommended for shorter term use, because if you are feeling highly stressed for a long period of time, you should aim to fix the root cause of the problem.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a kind of depression only experienced at a certain time of year. In the majority of cases, SAD is experienced in winter, as the shorter days and decreased sunlight leads to increased melatonin production (the hormone that makes you tired).

However, a very small percentage of people experience SAD in the summer. No one has really found an explanation for this, as it can’t be explained in physiological terms like winter SAD can. Biologically, there is no reason why longer, sunnier days should cause depression, anxiety or irritability.

Since there is currently no solid explanation for this kind of SAD, it is difficult to give advice to sufferers. As with the above, try to consider what other things are happening at this time of year which may be causing stress – holidays, kids, finances.

Try getting more exercise, as this stimulates the release of endorphins (chemicals that make you feel good). Make sure to eat a healthy diet of complex carbohydrates, fresh fruit and veg, nuts and seeds to make sure your body has all the nutrients and energy it needs, and try to cut down on refined sugar, simple carbohydrates (like white bread and white rice), and caffeine, all of which can have a profound impact on your mood.

You could take a herb like St John’s Wort which helps elevate mood – just make sure to check it doesn’t interfere with any other medication you’re on. If you feel stressed and anxious over the summer, try a stress remedy like AvenaCalm to gently calm you.

Look out for heat stroke or heat exhaustion

One final thing I’d like to mention is heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Irritability and agitation are also symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, so if your irritability comes on suddenly, and is accompanied by symptoms such as dizziness, excessive sweating, fatigue, thirst and dark urine, you may be suffering from heat exhaustion. This can usually be treated by quickly cooling the body and drinking plenty of water.

If these symptoms are very severe, or if you also experience slurred speech, fever, fainting and a lack of sweat despite the obvious heat, then you may be suffering from heat stroke and should seek medical help immediately.

For more information, follow the links to the heat exhaustion blog post and the heat stroke blog post.

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For low mood and anxiety. Made from freshly harvested herbs.
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As the A. Vogel Mood advisor, I recommend St. John’s wort made from freshly harvested Hypericum, to help with feelings of low mood.

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