Personally, I've always been very sensitive to heat. Feeling hot used to make me feel a whole lot of feelings... I'd feel dizzy, my heart rate would increase, and my mind would start racing. Sound familiar? For myself and many of my clients, heat can really trigger many feelings and sensations related to anxiety.
But before we get started, I first want to give some backstory on my personal experience with heat anxiety. When I was about six years old, I was camping with my family. It was a fun day, filled with lots of exploring and playing in the water...but I actually did pass out that day. Looking back, I likely was experiencing heat stroke. It was warm outside, I wasn't hydrated, and I'd never been very tolerant of the heat. Obviously, this experience was scary, especially as a little kid! Maybe you've had an experience like mine that has made you extra anxious in the heat. But even if you haven't had a bad experience, it makes a lot of sense that you don't particularly love the feeling of being hot. After all, it's not the most comfortable thing!
And then years later, when I was working at my job in healthcare, one of my bosses was acting strange in a meeting. She got really quiet, her face was red, and all of a sudden she shot out of her seat and said: "It's really hot in here. I get anxious when I'm hot, so I'm going to open the door". I still remember her words because, at the time, I couldn't imagine saying such a thing! I mean, wouldn't everyone think I was crazy?! After struggling for years with heat anxiety, seeing my boss be so honest, blunt, and unashamed, was incredibly inspiring. At that moment, I learned that I definitely wasn't crazy, and I certainly wasn't alone. And I want you to know that neither are you, my friend!
When it comes to anxiety about warm weather, there are a couple of really important things I want you to recognize. So let's jump into some...
TIPS FOR RELIEVING HEAT ANXIETY
Heat Mimics The Anxious Feelings
Feeling hot usually triggered many of the anxious feelings I dreaded the most, like feeling woozy, out of breath, and dizzy. In fact, I hated these feelings so much that I started to avoid places where I would feel hot, and also trapped. What I didn't realize back then was that simply being hot can actually mimic these same feelings of anxiety. It's very common, but it can also be very triggering. I want to take a moment to remind you that nothing is wrong with you if you're experiencing heat anxiety. Believe it or not, it actually makes sense that you don't like feeling hot. Simply put, it's not the greatest feeling! You don't like how it makes you feel, and you are definitely not alone.
The Fear of Passing Out is Not the Worst-Case Scenario
When we're hot, our fear of passing out might be a little heightened. The sensation of being hot can trick you into thinking you might actually pass out. But I want to let you in on a little secret... passing out during anxious moments is actually super unlikely. Because when your fight or flight kicks in, your heart rate actually increases! If you were going to pass out, your heart rate would decrease.
Usually, when we're afraid of passing out, we are just trying to protect ourselves from what we think is the worst-case scenario. But what if I told you that passing out isn't the worst-case scenario? Yep, you heard me! Here's the thing... the worst-case scenario is that you feel really uncomfortable. And that's it! What you're really trying to prevent when you're experiencing heat anxiety isn't passing out, it's actually just all of the uncomfortable feelings and sensations.
You CAN Handle The Discomfort
I want to remind you that feelings are just that... feelings! The way we respond to these feelings is what determines whether or not they keep coming back. In fact, changing the relationship with your thoughts and feelings is one of the modules I cover in my program, Panic to Peace. Often, it's the resisting and preventing that keeps us feeling heat anxiety time and time again. And it's okay to be sensitive to these feelings. In fact, I think it's a pretty good thing! But you can be gentle with yourself while still responding in a healthy way. With that being said, you can handle all of the uncomfortable thoughts, sensations, and feelings. And if warm weather is a trigger for you, I want you to practice slowing down during the anxious moments.
As the summer approaches, I want you to start becoming aware of how you respond to these anxious thoughts and feelings. Do you immediately run from them, or can you practice allowing them for even a few minutes at a time? You can handle the discomfort, and you are capable of working through it, regardless of the weather. Most importantly, remember that feeling uncomfortable doesn't mean you are in any danger. So as we enter these warmer months, I want to remind you to stay hydrated, and keep taking healthy action!
If you enjoyed this topic, make sure to listen to this week's podcast for even more information!