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FRED FIRST: July Is My Least Favorite Month

Photo by Ryan Cryar on Unsplash

My particular misery does not love company.

I’m sorry to learn I am not the only one who grows sullen, irritable and negative when the temperatures soar (meaning above 75 for me), a childhood in Alabama, notwithstanding.

With the increasing prevalence and (at this point) inevitability of global over-heating, we need to understand more about its impact on human (and other animal and plant) health.

And this includes the mental health impact of higher temps than our bodies are equipped to cope with. We just were not built for this warmer world to come.

That said, I link below a post from Neuroscience News that highlights the chemical (serotonin) changes that help explain why some of us lose our positive nature in summer, Get-up-and-go yields to self-imposed house arrest for me during July and August. I feel seriously threatened by heat.

Scorching Stress: The Hidden Mental Toll of Summer Heatwaves

SIDEBAR: What We Should Know About Serotonin (from Bing)

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps relay messages from one area of the brain to another, regulating such functions as mood, sleep, memory, learning, body temperature, digestion, and sexual function1Serotonin also plays a role in the digestive system and sleep cycles2Serotonin is produced in the brain from an amino acid called tryptophan3.

Extreme heat can affect serotonin levels in the brain, leading to emotional and behavioral changes, including increased stress, fatigue, and decreased happiness4Heat can also interfere with the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that helps regulate body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and thirst5Some psychiatric medications can also interfere with thermoregulation and cause heat intolerance or excessive sweating5.

This neurochemical understanding explains to me the reason for my suffocating summer self-loathing. And serotonin level also explains the re-invigoration and sense of rebirth that comes for me with the shorter, cooler days of fall.

Bring. It. On. But briefly yet, a reminder to take heat as a real threat to health:

The So-What of A Hot Future

So get ready: …”even a one degree increase in ambient temperature above the norm contributes to a higher probability of experiencing depression and anxiety. …“There is a growing body of scientific literature that is identifying this link between climate-related factors and adverse mental health outcomes. And every indication is that as the climate change continues to worsen, these links (to suicide, gun violence, etc) will gain in strength.”

And so if I can’t stand the heat…

  • I am out in the garden before 8 in the morning and after 8 at night. And this avoidance behavior reaps wonderful approach-rewards. The day is its most peaceful everywhere I’ve lived, during the hour just after dawn and the one just before dusk. It even smells different.
  • I make use of a “cool cloth” around my neck to cool the blood flow to my head, and control the “heat panic” I might otherwise feel. Truly, I’d not realized that the smothering feelings I have beyond a certain internal temperature was due to serotonin level changes.
  • I am easy on myself for failure to finish a summer outdoor job in an hour if I can stretch it out over a week instead. I have worked long and hard within living memory. To everything there is a season. This is the season to move slowly, if at all. I can be content to be the tortoise. It is my time.
  • I suffer no guilt simply sitting in a rocking chair in the porch shade, a gentle west wind ruffling the plume grass, still in full sun. I get belly rushes watching the darts and dodges of the tree swallows, feeling their oats and soon to depart. I would go with them, but only if heading far enough north.

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