Podcast: Be wary of 'emotional heatstroke'

Liu Xiaolin
A heat wave can put us in a bind, both physically and psychologically. Shanghai residents are advised to be on the lookout for heat illness as well as "emotional heatstroke."
Liu Xiaolin

Podcast: EP29

A heat wave can put us in a bind, both physically and psychologically. As Shanghai continues to suffer from oppressive heat, residents are advised to be on the lookout for heat illness as well as "emotional heatstroke."

It is a seasonal affective disorder that frequently occurs during the intensely hot summer.

Podcast: Be wary of 'emotional heatstroke'

"When we deal with 'emotional heatstroke,' we are actually attuning ourselves to the external environments," according to Chen Jianhua, therapist and associate chief physician at the Shanghai Mental Health Center.

He suggests "quick freeze" for a quick fix.

"Walk away from the unpleasant environment, cool down, find something soothing to eat or something fun to cheer yourself up," he advised.

On the inside, gradually release your rage through abdominal breathing exercises, breathing slowly and deeply for a few minutes. Allow your imagination to transport you to a relaxing and refreshing location while listening to soothing music and white noise.

Podcast: Be wary of 'emotional heatstroke'
Ti Gong

Chen Jianhua, therapist and associate chief physician at the Shanghai Mental Health Center

Q: Is there such a thing as 'emotional heatstroke?'

A: Yes, there is. Heatstroke is typically used to describe a physical change – people feel unwell on hot summer days. A person's psychological state is closely related to their environment.

It is very likely that emotional reactions, as well as physiological changes, will occur on scorching days like this, with a record-breaking consecutive 40 degrees Celsius. This can include agitation, outbursts and fights over minor issues.

This is known as "emotional heatstroke" or "emotional exhaustion," and it is a type of affective disorder that is common in the summer. It usually happens under the following circumstances: the temperature is above 35 degrees Celsius, with more than 12 hours of sunshine per day and a humidity level of more than 80 percent.

Q: Does the heat wave affect us physically first, then emotionally?

A: That's right. Such weather conditions will have an effect on our hypothalamus, the emotional regulator, which may result in an increase in anxiety levels. People sweat a lot during hot summer days when the temperature is close to their body temperature, which causes electrolyte disturbances and affects metabolism.

Sweating excessively can cause cerebral anoxia, affecting normal brain functions such as slow response and poor memory. Reports claim that the shorter summer nights and mosquito interference will cause fatigue during the day, which will lead to exhaustion, both physically and emotionally.

Q: How can you tell the difference between an 'emotional heatstroke' and normal mood swings?

A: It's normal to feel fidgety. However, you must observe whether it is becoming more frequent or worse, and whether it is affecting your social life. Here are some self-checking tips:

For example, do you frequently feel fidgety, easily provoked and prone to losing your cool over trivial matters? Another is, do you find it difficult to calm down as you become more upset and foggy in your mind? There may also be some attention issues, such as growing forgetfulness.

Third, experiencing sudden depressions that worsen in the afternoons and evenings.

Having relationship issues, becoming indifferent to people close to you, and frequently having disagreements with those around you. Also, some abrupt behavioral changes, such as repeatedly washing hands, faces, and showers.

Another issue is sleep problems, particularly for light sleepers who wake up early in the morning. If you have trouble falling asleep, pay attention.

Do not be concerned if you only have one or two of the symptoms listed above. What matters most is how bad it gets and whether it interferes with your social life. Allow time for self-regulation to kick in; the human body and mind are magical.

Q: Do you have any tips for self-adjustment?

A: It is critical to "cool down" our emotions and become less sensitive to weather conditions. We can begin by changing our habits. Regardless of your appetite, make sure you get enough basic nutrition and drink plenty of water, salty drinks, or juice when you're sweating a lot. Have mung beans, towel gourd, cucumber and balsam pear to reduce body heat and increase vitamin supplies.

Decorate your surroundings, whether in your car, office or home, with light and soothing colors like light blue and green. Add some green plants or a fish aquarium to help you relax when you're upset.

Play soothing music, try sitting still, or meditate. White noise, such as the babble of a brook or the sound of rain, also works. Also, consider being in a forest, under a blue sky, by the sea, or caught in a snowfall, or any other scene that makes you feel cold.

Learn to control your own actions. When you are experiencing negative emotions, walk away. Do not continue to put up with it until the rage explodes. When your mind is clear, talk to friends or family.

Moderate workouts is always beneficial in releasing emotion, especially for white collar workers who sit and work all day in air-conditioned offices. After dinner, go for a walk, ride your bike, or play badminton. Half an hour is enough. Adjust your daily schedule to the summertime circadian rhythm. If possible, go to bed early and take a nap.

Q: How can I assist or persuade family members or friends to seek professional help if they exhibit symptoms of severe mental struggle?

A: First, you have to determine whether things are getting weirder or worse.

If the emotional outburst is normal or a one-time occurrence, let them cool off and they'll get over it. If it's extremely unusual, keep an eye out for hurtful behaviors, either to themselves or to those around them. If necessary, get rid of certain items.

Examine how they comprehend their actions. If possible, persuade or talk them into seeking professional help.

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