Listening to Life: Find ways to beat the heat during our sultry summer months

Feel the heat? A little quick tempered? If so, you’re not alone.

The time of year has come again when the Southwest Florida sultry summer seems to drag on, and on, and on. Often, the sizzling heat’s not the only thing that flares. As the mercury climbs and humid daytime temperatures reach into the upper 80’s and 90’s in Collier County, days on end, tempers tend to flare, too.

Besides being a health risk, like causing heat stroke or other serious conditions, including death, becoming overly heated can cause tiredness, confusion, irritability and aggression, and what may otherwise be “no big deal” can quickly escalate to the point of emotional explosion. Like standing in line at Publix and finding yourself the target of another person’s cross words. Or, forbid, you being the culprit and letting out a few choice words to the slow driver in front of you.

Humid, hot air is actually more taxing to breathe, and so requires more work, and this puts extra stress on the body, including aggravating nasal passages, causing headaches and an increase in allergies and asthma. Sweating causes our bodies to lose important electrolytes which help the muscles function properly. Also, heat causes expansion and swelling in our bodies, leading to even more stress. All of this helps to fuel the short fuse of emotions.

Allowing our emotions to become hostage to the weather is a common oversight many of us practice. This undesirable mood changer can be insidious, and can quickly escalate to the point that it ruins our day, creating problems at work and at home. Small children are vulnerable to tantrums when they have had too much sun and heat.

Even if you are not the one suffering from the ill effects of overheating, you will likely cross paths with someone who is in a heightened state of agitation as a result of being too hot for too long. Preparing to beat the heat is the key to surviving the next couple of months in paradise, as well as in many other parts of our country, which are currently under heat advisories. Following the steps below will help cool this situation.

• Plan in advance if you need to be outdoors for any length of time.

• Do not stay outdoors for too long. If you must, use the shade as available, and immediately seek shelter indoors if you begin to feel ill or dizzy/lightheaded.

• Turn up your thermostat. Keeping your home too cool actually puts you at a disadvantage to acclimate to the outdoor heat, causing you to feel the heat more intensely. Keep your thermostat at 75 degrees or higher.

• Stay hydrated, drinking plenty of water and drinks that replenish electrolytes, especially potassium, sodium and chloride. Such drinks include Cytomax, Gatorade, Accelerade and GU20.

• Wear sunscreen and protective clothing, including a ventilated hat.

• Do gardening and lawn work in morning or evening, if possible.

• Shower more frequently to cool your body. A lukewarm shower at night can help you fall asleep in hot, humid weather.

• Wear cotton, silk or rayon clothing, all of which is breathable. Avoid polyester; it’s like being wrapped in saran wrap.

• Wear a cool damp cloth around your neck, even putting ice cubes in it. Some sports stores sell a special bandana that retains water and coolness. They work great.

• Be studied about the effects of any medicine you take, and the potential for increased vulnerability to heat and sun.

• Be kind and patient with small children, and never subject them to overheating. Children can die when left in a hot car.

• Be extra courteous and patient to others who have to work outdoors for a living.

• Get plenty of rest and proper nutrition.

• Use daily relaxation techniques, such as meditation, to help significantly reduce stress.

• Check in with your attitude, and give yourself a break. We don’t get the day back, so make it a great one.

Please be sure to practice the applicable steps above with your pets as well. We can enjoy life so much better when we utilize our minds and bodies in ways that reduce stress during these hot summer days. To not be prepared is a choice to certainly be uncomfortable, at the very least, and thus probably cause a lot of discomfort to others.

The bottom line is, don’t worry-be happy, and most of all, be cool.

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Nori St. Paul is a writer specializing in psychosocial dynamics, spirituality, stress management and mind-body science.

© 2011 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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