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Do storms really affect our mental health?

Woman looking at stormy weather. (Getty Images)
Can stormy weather impact your mental health? (Getty Images)

We'd barely finished picking up the garden furniture storm Isha had scattered across the garden, when storm Jocelyn started battering the UK.

Parts of the country are currently dealing with transport delays and further weather warnings are in place after the most recent storm swept across the country on Tuesday.

Jocelyn is the 10th named storm of the season, with the current storm season bringing the most named storms since 2015/16, the season the Met Office started naming storms.

It's not difficult to appreciate how extreme weather, like storms, can affect our everyday lives and travel plans, but can they also have an impact on our wellbeing?

How does stormy weather impact our mental health?

According to clinical psychologist Dr Joanne Porter, the sudden onset of the most recent stormy weather could have a more intense impact on our mental health, particularly for those already experiencing low mood this year.

"Winter blues (low mood, lack of energy and motivation), are experienced by many people and tend to last a few weeks," she tells Best Apprenticeships. "Lots of factors can underlie these feelings, including shorter periods of daylight and overcast and rainy days."

Extreme weather, including storms, can cause stress on our bodies, particularly if we're not prepared for them.

Despite our resilience, many of us can be sensitive to the change and uncertainty unexpected events can generate.

"Storms definitely impact our moods, particularly when we're not necessarily prepared and ready for them," explains Danny Zane, integrative therapist and counsellor.

"They can upend many things in our life (getting to places on time, ruining social plans, affecting work schedules, etc) and this can impact our moods in many ways.

"Storms can bring our mindsets down," he continues. "For example, 'Everything is bad, there is no end.' We can sometimes carry this feeling over to our personal lives, for example, 'My life feels stormy, it's never-ending'."

Woman in windy weather. (Getty Images)
It's not all doom and gloom, there are some mental wellbeing positives to stormy weather. (Getty Images)

Zane says suddenly having to relinquish control of our lives, even of the most simple things can also impact our wellbeing.

But the main culprit for the mood dip, Zane says, is the enforced time spent at home sheltering from the storm.

"Being stuck inside can also have an impact," he explains. "We may feel low when staying indoors during bad weather due to reduced sunlight, limited physical activity, and social isolation. We can end up with cabin fever, making us feel trapped."

Interestingly, the language used to describe storms could also have a role to play in heightening any stress surrounding the extreme weather.

"The naming of storms can contribute to anxiety due to increased awareness and media coverage that may heighten stress for some," explains Noël Wolf, culture and linguistic expert at language learning platform Babbel.

"The use of adjectives, such as ‘danger’ or ‘severe warning’ suggests that the weather event is not only significant but also poses a substantial risk."

Even the naming of storms can fuel stress, Wolf explains: "Personifying a storm by giving it a name can make it seem more personal and ‘real’, which can increase emotional responses and anxiety. Certain connotations of danger often come into play, and these connotations are shaped by the potential risks."

But it isn't all storm doom and gloom, in fact, there can be some positives of the recent extreme weather the UK has been experiencing.

"Plus points can be the excitement that some experience in a storm and the wow factor of nature playing out around us, with all the drama storms can bring," Zane explains.

"It can also make us feel closer to nature," he adds. "Finally, it gives us an opportunity to use this time to gain a period of time for reflection and thought, a break from our normal routines."

Experts advise trying to embraced the enforced home-time. (Getty Images)
Experts advise trying to embraced the enforced home-time. (Getty Images)

What to do if you're feeling storm-low

If you're more of a sunny skies kinda person and the recent bad weather is taking its toll, there are some ways you can help boost your wellbeing.

1. Recognise the impact the weather is having

"While you probably can’t ‘beat’ the winter blues, understanding that they are there and ‘normal’ can help you to work with them," Dr Porter explains.

2. Get healthy

Both nutrition and activity are known predictors of positive mental wellbeing. "Keep active [indoors] and gradually increase your intake of fruit and vegetables," Dr Porter adds.

3. Up your ZZZs

Sure it has been difficult to sleep with wind and rain battering our homes, but with better weather on the horizon now is a good time to try to increase your shuteye.

"Poor sleep also negatively affects mood," Dr Porter explains. "Good sleep positively impacts mood, so make sure you are getting enough."

Woman exercising at home. (Getty Images)
Exercising at home can help improve our mood during the stormy weather. (Getty Images)

4. Flip your mindset

Negative thinking can make people feel low, so it's worth trying to think positively. Dr Porter suggests recording three good things at the end of each day to balance out any negative thoughts you have about yourself or your situation.

5. Schedule some fair-weather fun

Dr Porter advises planning things in your diary for when the bad weather ends. “Evidence shows that having something to look forward to can also increase wellbeing, so start planning your next fun thing,” she adds.

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