What to do if extreme weather is causing you emotional stress

Extreme heat can cause stress and harm people’s emotional wellness. A D.C. psychologist has tips for recognizing when the heat is getting to them and advice to counter the effects.

So how do you know if you’re stressed or emotionally disturbed based on the extreme heat? Perhaps you’re much more irritable than usual or more than circumstances warrant.

“Just like depression or anxiety, people may react or respond differently based on their stressors,” said Jean Moise, deputy director of Adult Services at the Department of Behavioral Health for the District.

They may have changes in their eating or sleeping habits, isolate themselves or stay in bed all day trying to get comfortable.

Jean Moise is deputy director of Adult Services at D.C.’s Department of Behavioral Health. (WTOP/Kristi King)

“Those are all signs that you’re not coping well and you need to do something different,” he said. “Whatever changes you see in your pattern ought to be a signal and a sign that you may need to pay attention to your emotional well-being and wellness.”

Moise said people may feel anxious, overly irritable or stressed but be unable to determine the cause.

“Take a moment, take a timeout and think about what’s going on. Is it family, is it tensions, is it work? Because all of those natural stressors that we may have are further exacerbated in a situation like this,” Moise said of continuous days of enduring extreme heat.

So, what can you do?

The first answer is obvious: Do what you can to stay cool, stay hydrated, get indoors and stay as physically comfortable and cool as you can.

Don’t isolate. Instead, stay connected to people you love who provide support to you.

“When people are isolated, they’re less connected to others and have less ability to cope and get less support. And so whatever you’re dealing with to begin with is exacerbated and causes more stress and discomfort,” Moise said.

Other tips:

  • Stay active. Do something like taking a walk in an air-conditioned mall or going to a movie.
  • Stay connected. Visit with friends for some activity such as board games in an air-conditioned space.
  • Take a timeout to get re-centered to refocus. It could include meditating, watching TV or listening to music.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough rest.
  • Do something you enjoy that gives you purpose and satisfaction.
  • Stay connected to your passions and what gives you pleasure and joy.
  • Pay attention to your feelings.

“Then, if you’re still having difficulties with all of those things, please reach out to the Department of Behavioral Health. You can reach us at 888-7WE-HELP (888-793-4357),” Moise said.


Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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