Early on in our relationship, I told my now-husband that when it gets hot outside, I become unbearable.
It’s true. As the temperature soars in the summer with its attendant humidity, I feel my emotional competency melt off me like sweat. I no longer think before I act. I am constantly annoyed and irritable. But what happens when you couple this tendency toward high-temperature tantrums with a desire to reduce environmental damage and a mindset of frugality?
In our house, we strive to keep the thermostat at a conservative setting. This helps us save money, sure, but I also like that it lessens the burden we put on the Earth’s resources. Though we live in the temperature-vacillating Midwest, we don’t turn on the heat or air until things outside have gotten unbearable—and even then, we keep the setting low. In the summer our AC is usually on 79-80, and in winter the heat is on at 64.
Unfortunately, 79-80 is not a range that makes it easy for me to be at my best. And when we turn on the stove for evening meal prep? You’d better believe that as the indoor temp rises, my appetite and emotional control become nonexistent. Just two nights ago, our usually-fun cooking time was overshadowed by my rotten mood and constant thermostat-checking. When we finished, the house read 83 (our AC isn’t on for the season yet) and I had no desire to eat the yummy food we’d made together. Nope, it seemed the only thing that made me feel better was ranting to my husband.
It doesn’t help that my husband appears not to feel the heat at all. He is more sensitive to cold than I am, but even then it doesn’t affect his mood as negatively as heat affects mine. These factors together create a harmful and consuming internal dialogue. On the physical level, I’m hot and uncomfortable. Added to that, I feel guilty that I can’t control my reactions more carefully, and exasperated that my husband doesn’t sympathize since he experiences the temperature differently than I do.
Environmental factors affect a lot of us in this way. Your trigger might be excessive heat, as mine is. You may be the opposite, becoming less emotionally capable as the weather turns colder. Many people (my loved ones included), cite “hangriness” as a recurring incident (for those not familiar, this is when you are so hungry that it manifests in your mood as anger). And still others lose emotional stability and ambition when it is gloomy or rainy outdoors.
Here are a few methods I put down on paper for myself after my outburst I described happening a few nights ago. I hope they come in handy for you and for me, too!
1. Acknowledge your feelings and let them go
Environmental factors are more likely to affect those of us who like to be in control—because the environment is the definition of the uncontrollable. There’s not much I can do to make summer heat go away (if I’ve chosen at the same time to run my AC less) and that’s where so much of the frustration comes from. In the future, I can breathe deeply, take a moment to acknowledge how I’m feeling, and then release those feelings as I exhale. It’s unhelpful (and potentially harmful!) to try to push down or ignore your feelings—especially the negative ones. But by acknowledging them from a neutral standpoint, simply seeing what they are and noting that they are there, and then releasing them, we can give ourselves the tool of patience.
2. Mitigate the Symptoms
Hanging in my bathroom right now is a key part of my summer arsenal that I completely forgot to employ the other night: I have a cooling neck wrap I should have put to good use! I could have soaked my wrap in ice water and worn it during meal prep and dinner itself. Sure, it isn’t sexy, but neither was my horrible mood—and I already know that the sexiest thing I can do in the eyes of my partner is be happy, confident, and loving towards myself and him. When you are having mood swings caused by weather, practice patience with yourself, and then mitigate the symptoms as much as you can. A neck wrap or wet bandana can help you cool off. An extra sweater or some hot tea will help you warm up. These simple things can do a lot to help you tame your mood.
3. Acknowledge Your Feelings Without Making Excuses
Acknowledge how you’re feeling out loud to those sharing the moment with you—but not for the purpose of excusing explosive or negative behavior.
Don’t allow an acknowledgement like “I’m sorry, I just get angry when I’m hungry.” This sentence may be true, but it’s incomplete. Leaving it like this implies the second half of the sentence “and this is just a reality you’ll have to live with, because I’m unwilling or incapable of changing.” The phrasing below is more complete, and shows your respect of those around you as well as your confidence in yourself to change and grow:
“I’m sorry. I get angry when I’m hungry, but it’s something I’m working on and something I want to improve. I’m trying to be patient with myself, so please be patient with me, too—but don’t allow me to treat you poorly. If you feel I’m acting out because I’m hungry, please address it with me calmly and give us both a chance to talk it out.”
Do you ever feel out of control of your emotions due to the weather, or some other environmental factor?
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Photo: Hallyn via Flickr