When it rains here, it pours – sometimes for days. It’s one of the minor inconveniences of living in a sub-tropical climate.
Despite the temporary disruption to an otherwise sunny year, the rainy season from January to March is enough to keep me indoors indefinitely, seeking shelter from the wild weather.
This unnatural seclusion - in a place that boasts an average of seven hours of sunlight each day - leads to the relatively unknown condition known as waterlogged exacerbated temperament (WET). And it makes me SAD.
WET is a seasonal disorder that affects those living in rain-ravaged areas and is sometimes known as the tropics blues.
In the absence of sunshine, people can feel moody, irritable and less sociable. These symptoms are more apparent and can be more severe during the rainy season.
WET is sometimes confused with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression associated with the winter months where the days are much shorter, particularly in the northern hemisphere.
However, there are four distinctive symptoms associated with the persistent deluge which saturates sub-tropical climates such as Queensland’s Sunshine Coast:
27 January 2013: The relentless deluge.
4 common WET symptoms
1. Cabin fever
Boredom, restlessness or irritability that results from a lack of environmental stimulation due to a prolonged stay in a confined indoor area.
Lack of outdoor exercise, resulting in inactivity and sluggishness due to being confined indoors for prolonged periods.
3. Frizzy hair
Humidity can make fine, curly hair fall flat and make smooth, straight hair frizz out. This happens because the inside of your hair, known as the Cortex, is made of two kinds of protein (the Orthocortex and the Paracortex, which are sandwiched together inside your hair). When it's humid, these areas absorb water differently; one part may absorb a lot of moisture and swell a lot, while the other stays relatively unchanged. This uneven swelling causes the hair shaft to bend or twist resulting in frizzy hair.
It grows prolifically indoors in wet or moist areas lacking adequate ventilation - on walls, ceilings, bathroom tiles, carpets, coffee tables, curtains, clothes and shoes.
An interesting fact about humidity
Relative humidity is the ratio of water vapour in the air compared to the amount of water vapour the same air at the same temperature holds when it’s saturated. Therefore, if the amount of water vapour in the air remains constant and the temperature falls the relative humidity rises.
On most occasions high humidity is associated with a cool damp night, heavy dew, fog, condensation, or rainfall. Low humidity occurs when it’s hot, dry, clear, sunny, windy and evaporation is high.
It’s common on a cool night to have a relative humidity between 90-100% and to experience the lowest relative humidity at the same time as the maximum temperature occurs.
How are WET and SAD related?
It’s believed that sunlight affects some of the brain's chemicals and hormones, stimulating the hypothalamus which controls mood, appetite and sleep. The lack of light is thought to affect:
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland. When it’s dark, the pineal gland produces melatonin which makes you feel sleepy. During daylight, the retina at the back of your eye converts the light into an electric impulse that travels to the hypothalamus, sending a message to the pineal gland which produces less melatonin. In the darker winter months, some people produce higher levels of melatonin, resulting in SAD symptoms such as sleepiness and low energy levels.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, sending messages between nerve cells; fewer sunlight hours means that less serotonin is produced. During the winter, serotonin levels may be lower than average, resulting in the messages between nerve cells not being transmitted effectively, causing SAD symptoms such as feeling down.
3. Circadian rhythm
Our body uses light from the sun to time biological functions and processes such as mood, sleep, appetite, digestion and energy levels. Regulation of the body's functions is known as a circadian rhythm which occurs over a 24-hour period. However, a lack of sunlight can disrupt the body's internal clock, leading to the symptoms of SAD such as depression and low energy levels.
Source: Seasonal affective disorder
The only remedy for WET is sunshine, so while we've got a reprieve I'll sit out on the deck for some natural light therapy to help dissolve those tropics blues. Sadly though, the long range weather forecast is for more rain.
Do you suffer from waterlogged exacerbated temperament?
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I acknowledge the traditional Custodians of the land on which I work and live, the Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi Kabi and Joondoburri people, and recognise their continuing connection to land, the waters and sky. I pay my respect to them and their cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging.
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