By: Marylin Salgado
September 9, 2019
If you are anything like me, a slight change in weather will give you the seasonal blues; causing you to hide in a shell and want to hibernate until next spring. Unfortunately, if you are like most of us, you have to work and take care of children or other family members, so hibernation is not an option. And even for those who are financially well off, this kind of “hibernation” state can cause some serious depression and isolation.
Mental DOMS, as I call it, is not only referring to the emotional side effects caused by a change in weather, but also the physical symptoms that manifest themselves. But, just as some of us function better in hot weather, some function better in the cold. Below I will list the changes our body go through with both hot and cold weather.
Body changes in Hot Weather
- For those of us who are not used to working in hot conditions, or our bodies just can’t tolerate heat, we might experience heat edema, or heat swelling. Swelling is usually most noticeable in the ankles. I love the heat and I experience this as well, so this heat swelling is not exclusive to just people with heat intolerance. I usually experience the swelling in my hands.
- Rashes or heat rashes are usually caused by sweat clogging up our sweat glands. These glands in turn become inflamed, leaving our skin with red, tiny bumps.
- Heat cramps are caused by lack of sodium, or salt, in the muscles. Just drinking wont help ease these painful cramps. An electrolyte drinking is usually needed, or a plain 8 oz glass of water with a teaspoon of salt will certainly help. Although unpleasant, the flavor will only last a few seconds and the benefits are far greater.
- Exhaustion causes the following symptoms after being exposed to intense heat; hallucinations, weakness, dizziness, vomiting, thirst, palpitations and numbness.
- An individual can also experience fainting or heat stroke. Heat stroke needs to be treated immediately. If not treat promptly, it may cause death.
Long term effects of constant heat exposure can cause the following:
- Although yet inconclusive, it is thought some heart, kidney and liver damage may be caused by constant heat exposure. The study is ongoing.
- Sleep disturbances
- It may cause temporary infertility in both women in men, with men being the most highly affected, especially with sperm motility, density and shape.
Body changes in Cold Weather
If you are a New Englander, stories of frostbite are not foreign to you. Your fingers and toes don’t suffer frostbite just because it is extremely cold outside, although this is a one the main factors. It also happens your blood will pool and travel to the major organs to keep them at a normal body temperature and protect them. Our body is a very smart machine and it knows you don’t need fingers and toes to live, but you certainly need your heart and brain, among other major organs in your body.
- Hypothermia can happen in extremely cold temperatures, but it can also happen in warmer temps. For example, if you were outside running in the rain and had a fainting episode, your body temperature might drop from being sweaty, wet from the rain and due to exposure in cooler temperatures.
- You will experience the following body changes from exposure to the cold; shivering, confusion, memory loss and slurred speech. These symptoms require immediate medical attention. Extreme hypothermia can lead to death.
Long term effects of constant cold exposure can cause the following:
As mentioned before, frostbite and hypothermia.
- Heart problems. Since your heart has to pump faster to keep you warm, it therefore increases your heart rate and blood pressure, increasing the risk of a heart attack.
What I have described previously are obvious forms of extreme heat and cold temperature changes in your body, and not the seasonal blues that I had initially started writing about. The reason why I added these extreme examples it’s because it helps provide a vision of how weather changes can affect your body from slight changes in weather patterns to the most extreme hot and cold changes in temperature, in turn making you feel tired, depressed or even physically sore.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or what I like to call mental DOMS, is a seasonal mood disorder with depression that occurs to an individual at the same time every year. For me it occurs twice during two seasonal changes; fall and winter. I also experience it during the spring; if the temperature drops below 60.
Some general and mild symptoms of SAD include:
- Feeling depressed throughout the day
- Losing interest in activities
- Decreased or increased appetite
- Problems sleeping
- Difficult concentrating
Severe cases of SAD may cause individuals to feel worthless and guilty and even have thoughts of suicide. Interestingly enough, symptoms for SAD in spring/summer and fall/winter differ.
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Weight gain
- Craving high carb food
- Low energy or general feeling of being tired
Women experience SAD more then men. It is advisable to tell a friend or family member when you are feeling worse than usual. They can help keep you from sinking into worse depression and can also get medical help, if needed.
Exercise and activity are the best ways to treat SAD. If you spend most of your time alone, like some of us do, then it is harder to get moving some days. Create a routine and stick to it, even when you don’t feel like it. Focus on your professional and/or fitness goals. It will help keep you from having severe symptoms of SAD. And as always, speak to a professional and seek medical advice.
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