UA expert weighs in on the impact record-breaking heat, COVID-19 have on Arizonans

Posted at 3:11 PM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-03 08:00:56-04

PHOENIX — A hot day can raise tempers along with the temperatures. Research has often linked someone's mood can be connected to what is happening outside.

But, it is called the "Valley of the Sun" for a reason and this season is the hottest on record in Phoenix with more dangerous heat on the way this holiday weekend.

So, what does this long-term extreme heat and a pandemic mean for your mental health? The Rebound Arizona decided to take that question to the experts at the University of Arizona.

"Now the heat makes it virtually impossible for long stretches of the day to go outside without going crazy," said Dr. Ole Thienhaus.

Dr. Thienhaus is the Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona. He has been working in the field for roughly 40 years.

"There may be a higher degree of irritability," Dr. Thienhaus explained "... the body is stressed and sends a signal, 'Be on the alert.'"

While heat likely plays a big role in emotions, Dr. Thienhaus said there are a variety of factors that we have to consider.

"What's the quality of your air conditioning? What's the size... quality of your housing? What is your relationship with other people close to you," Dr. Theinhaus asked. "They all come together... the prolonged exposure to the stress of very high temperatures definitely impacts the emotional resilience, if you will of individuals."

While the heat and the virus are hitting Arizonans at the same time right now, Dr. Thienhaus said, we can look to the calendar for hope on better weather.

"Come mid-September, come October - we'll go back to, if you will, normal," Dr. Thienhaus said. "With the pandemic, the worst part of that crisis in my book is that... the uncertainty."

Some cures, or at least ways to cope, come with common sense.

He suggests getting to bed early and truly making time for rest.

That will make his next suggestion a little easier to do.

Dr. Thienhaus advises that people beat the heat by getting up earlier in their morning routine to make time for a walk or run outside.

"That will ease your... both your sense of uncertainty and the threat of becoming irritable and difficult to live with," Dr. Thienhaus laughed.

He is hopeful with the drop in temperatures, there will be a boost in mood with more outdoor activity options and a continued slowing spread of COVID-19.