Update: I’ve been thinking about this post again this year after Melbourne dialled up the heat for the past couple of days, particularly about setting yourself up for a good nights sleep! I’ve added one more tip about keeping active during the warmer months, especially with the inevitable festive season indulging.
How to keep vital and healthy over summer is a common discussion in my practise as the weather warms up. Use these tips for summer wellbeing so you stay healthy and can make the most of the coming months!
1. Stay hydrated
As Australians our hydration habits tend to mimic our weather; drought and flood! While this might even out over a week, actually you are putting your body through mini bouts of dehydration all the time. A dehydrated person may experience a difficulty to concentrate, feel fatigued, be less coordinated, feel hungry and tend to eat more than they need, and experience headaches and dizziness. In the summer months, some Australians will be in a state of dehydration every day. Always take your own water bottle with you; you are more likely to drink it and not buying water will reduce your plastic waste. Sip regularly through the day rather than taking big gulps at either end. To make your water more interesting drink sparkling water, and add a slice of lemon, cucumber, or mint. A cool or iced herbal tea can be a great afternoon habit. If drinking alcohol over the festive season a great tip is to go 1:1 with a glass of alcohol and a glass of water. Your body will thank you!
2. Cover up in the Sun
I’m sure at some stage we have all been caught out by the harshness of the Australian sun but there are very simple ways to make sure you and your family don’t get burnt. I prefer to cover up than use sunscreen whenever possible, but certainly use a high SPF on any exposed areas when you are outside. Children are particularly venerable to the long term effects of sun exposure and they also have a more acute reaction to the sun, ie. they get burnt faster, and deeper in the skin. Hats, umbrellas, light shawls, shirts with collars and long sleeves are my staples. It is also important to keep in mind places like ears, tops of your feet, and the backs of your hands which are often exposed for long periods of time. If you do get an unexpected sunburn, get some aloe vera gel and apply twice per day until the redness has gone, and sip plenty of water throughout the day. Children may need to see a doctor if burnt.
3. Keep diligent about gut health
Melbourne gastro season is November through March as organisms grow faster in the warmer months, and we tend to be more careless with our food safety. We spend more time socialising and sharing our food and personal space with our friends and family. Neighbourhood BBQ’s, public swimming pools, and social events are common places to pick up a gastro infection. I avoid all dips at parties at all costs, unless I get in first and can make myself a small plate before anyone has double dipped, or any children’s fingers have been at it. Public pools and other populated still-water swimming spots are safest when they are quietest during the week. Swimming in the ocean its the best option wherever possible. Eat prepared food such as smoothies, salads, and dinner leftovers within 24 hours, and make sure it is covered and refrigerated in that time.
4. Look after your feet
Most of us swap out our winter footwear for thongs, jandles or flip-flops once the warmer months come around. No comment on the fashion sense of this (!) but it is good to keep in mind that this footwear offers our feet no support. Don’t wear them as your everyday footwear and avoid for extensive walking, and on hard surfaces. Please don’t let any foot pain linger as this often leads to plantar fasciitis which is extremely painful and can take weeks or months to resolve. If you are experiencing foot worries, you could come and see one of my colleges at Northcote Osteopathic Clinic. One place you definitely should wear thongs is in any communal showers and bathrooms. Tinea/athletes foot, or verruca/plantar warts are extremely easy to catch in these environments, and thrive in the warmth.
5. Set yourself up to sleep well
In general, we don’t sleep as well in summer. We are more restless and tend to stay up later. There are several things we can do to make our nights more restful. Use bamboo or cotton sheets and bedding including mattress underlay as they are natural fibres and won’t hold heat. Take a cool shower or bath before bed and just lightly dry yourself. Our skin is great at regulating temperature and cooling from the outside will make you more comfortable for longer on hot nights. Keep a spray bottle by your bed and spray yourself and your sheets lightly every time you wake or turn over. Keep a window open and use a desk or ceiling fan to gently move the air, but don’t direct this across your face as it will dry you out.
6. Keep active
Summer seems to be the season that we let our activity levels drop. This can be from focusing on finishing a big year at work, celebrating a little too much over Christmas, or letting your routine get out of sync by school holidays or other summer changes. As above, we also tend to sleep worse during hot weather and not keep our hydration levels making us feel a bit lethargic! Despite how we feel, our body still needs to keep moving over this period to maintain muscle mass, and most people find that exercising regularly supports emotional and psychological wellbeing. If you are doing high intensity cardio outdoors like running or cycling, the cooler early mornings are your best bet! I find that making a commitment to someone else to meet them helps give me that little extra push to get out of bed. Signing up to a new class or exercise style can also be a fun way to spend the summer, and you never know, you might find a new favourite exercise!
There are easy things you can do to make sure your summer is enjoyable and not plagued by sunburn, sleepless nights, and the other worries above. If you are specifically affected by summer problems, please come and see me for some personal solutions.
A big thanks to @moorhousecreative for the photography!