In case you’ve been living in an air conditioned cave all summer, things are getting a bit hot all across the world. Britain smashed a record for the highest ever recorded temperature in the U.K., clocking in 104.5 degrees Fahrenheit despite predictions the country wouldn’t see these number until 2050. Things are getting so hot that the country’s steel railroads and streets are literally melting. Meanwhile, wildfires are quickly spreading all across France, Greece, Spain, and Italy. The heat has even killed more than 2,000 people across Spain and Portugal.
As if that wasn’t enough, climate scientists are quick to point out that this is going to be pretty much the norm from now on. There’s a fairly grim joke often repeated in the scientific community about these rising temperatures: This is the coldest summer of the rest of your life. It’s dark, but it’s reality. This is the inevitable consequence of anthropogenic climate change. And unfortunately, despite our best efforts, it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better.
So, with all that cheerfulness in mind, it’s important to note that while there’s not much you can do to change the disastrous course we’re on, you can do something about it for yourself. After all, all the heat can take a toll on you not only physically but mentally as well. Studies have shown that high temperatures have been linked to an increase in violent crime. One paper even suggests that the heat might have a direct impact in causing “destructive behavior.”
That’s not even getting into the upswell of doomerism and climate anxiety that has spiked in recent years. To that end, there are four things you should keep in mind in order to best cope with a heat wave. After all, the world might be melting but your brain doesn’t have to.
Remember: It’s Not Just You
In the face of heat waves, it’s helpful to keep in mind that it’s not just you. Everyone is being impacted by the warming climate to varying degrees—with some faring much worse than others.
As the bard wrote, though, “We’re all in this together.” That’s why it’s so important to talk to others about what you’re feeling and going through. It doesn’t have to be a therapist—though there are plenty out there who focus on climate anxiety specifically—but rather family or friends. A lot of people are likely feeling exactly like you, frustrated and powerless at the rising temperatures, who you can commemorate with.
If you can’t think of anyone, there’s plenty of communities you can reach out to like Climate Cafes, an organization dedicated to gathering people together to discuss “how climate and ecological breakdown makes you feel,” according to their website. You’ll meet at a bar or a coffee shop with like-minded folks who you can feel open in expressing your feelings about the weather to.
Focus on What You Can Control
During any moments of incredible stress, it’s easy to let intrusive thoughts cycle and carry you away. There’s a lot to think about, after all, between heat waves, droughts, wildfires, buckling infrastructure, and the deaths brought on by climate change.
That’s why it’s key to narrow our focus day to day and consider only the things we can’t control—while forgetting all the rest. You, by yourself, can’t do much to prevent the heat wave. And there’s also likely nothing you can do to stop a wildfire from raging out of control. However, there are things that you can do to change your situation—even if it’s small.
Things like making sure you’re drinking enough water, getting enough electrolytes, wearing sunscreen, not spending too long outside, and finally installing that air conditioner unit sitting in your basement can give you a sense of agency and control back when things are feeling chaotic. Take a small step today to get started.
Take a Breath
Heat can greatly impact your breathing. Hot weather not only can cause shortness of breath, but it can also cause air pollutants, pollen, and ozone to rise and spread. This can be a nightmare for anyone who suffers from allergies or asthma.
That’s why it’s crucial to find a nice, cool place indoors and focus on your breathing. Taking deep breaths can help regulate your body temperature while also calming you down—which is perfect for anyone suffering from a particularly bad bout of climate anxiety.
Consider dipping your toes in meditation if you haven’t already. Not only can it help physically cool you down, but practicing mindfulness can pay dividends for your mental and emotional wellbeing too.
Prepare for the Apocalypse
If all else fails, put on your favorite leather pants and jacket and head out into the world in a muscle car à la Mad Max. After all, if you can’t beat the heat, you might as well bring the heat out in the wasteland.
In all seriousness, though, it’s valid to consider where you live in response to heat waves and climate disasters. This could mean heat-proofing your house or apartment by doing things like getting central air or an air conditioner, shading your windows with tint or drapes, re-insulating your house so it keeps cool air in and hot air out better, or even installing a new cool roof that reflects more sunlight and keeps your house cooler.
Alternatively, you might even want to consider moving to a cooler climate. Of course, this is a much more drastic option and entirely depends on your family, work, income, and more—but it is an option. And if it means better mental and emotional health for you, it might be entirely worth it.
If nothing else, it’s important to make peace with the fact that climate change is reality. You can always take small steps to make things better for yourself. That way, you can lower your anxiety a little—even if the mercury is still rising.