When Summer Heat Starts Getting to You
When temperatures start to rise, so do tempers: many a scientific study confirms that people are more irritable, pessimistic and sleep-deprived when the weather gets hot enough to increase heart rates, and especially when the heat combines with high humidity. Sometimes, just having to get out of bed and go to work in that atmosphere makes us feel like helpless victims of circumstance: they don’t call it “oppressive” heat for nothing.
Since stress is a common relapse trigger, if this is your first sober summer you’d be wise to take special measures toward keeping cool in every sense of the word.
KEEPING COOL OUTDOORS
- Go outside as little as possible between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- When you have to go out in the heat, wear a single layer of light-colored clothing (if you need a business suit for work, put on the jacket after you get indoors) and keep to the shade as much you can.
- If you’re going to be exposed to the sun for more than a couple of minutes at a time, use sunscreen not only on all exposed skin areas, but under lighter-weight clothing. (While sunburn isn’t exclusive to hot days, it will make you feel all the warmer when that’s the last thing you need—in addition to the other health problems it causes.)
- Definitely don’t engage in vigorous outdoor sports during the hotter parts of the day.
- If you have to be outdoors and active—say you work in road construction—pace yourself carefully, drink lots of water, wear a hat, and keep a damp cloth in contact with your head and neck.
KEEPING COOL INDOORS
Even if your job (or day off) frees you to stay indoors all day, and even if you keep the air conditioner set at under 75 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s impossible to avoid feeling some effects from hot outdoor temperatures. And, as with assuming you can’t get sunburned on a cloudy day or dehydrated on a cool day, overconfidence can get you in trouble.
If you’re indoors for the day, you’ll still want to:
- Drink water regularly.
- Wear no more clothing layers than necessary (you may need your suit jacket when meeting clients, but not when working alone behind cubicle walls).
- Save your highest-energy work, physical and mental, for early-morning and late-afternoon hours.
- If at all possible, do complex decision-making on cooler days or schedule it on the fall calendar—you really do think more effectively in cold weather. If you must “use your head” more than normal, try turning the air conditioner below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
KEEPING A COOL HEAD
In addition to staying cool physically, it pays to do everything you can to avoid unnecessary emotional stress.
- Think twice about initiating highly ambitious projects during hot-weather periods. (No, “wasting time” isn’t your only alternative: you can prepare yourself for increased productivity by getting to know new social-media contacts, attending informal seminars and reading inspirational materials in your field. Even time off isn’t wasted if you use it to build yourself up through rest and meditation.)
- Don’t take on any unnecessary duties. In fact, consider delegating some of your existing duties.
- If you’re entitled to vacation time, by all means take it! If you haven’t the money to leave town, plan to spend extra time with your family and to visit local “tourist traps” you never noticed.
- If someone else in your office is on vacation, beware the “extra load falls on reduced staff” trap. If possible, make an official suggestion that the larger organization hire temporary/contract workers, or reduce the work load overall, until autumn. Otherwise, know your own limits and don’t be afraid to explain respectfully why taking on too much will hurt your effectiveness (any place worth working for will listen to that kind of reason).
- Outside of work, don’t let yourself (or your family) go into overload with summer events and activities. Just because something only comes around once a year doesn’t mean your life is over if you miss it this
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
Sometimes, summer heat causes worse problems than short tempers, sunburn or even a forbidden can of beer: getting severely overheated may lead to heatstroke, which can be as life-threatening as a drug overdose. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded or nauseated, if you develop a headache or start to perspire excessively—sit down immediately in a cool place and take a long, slow drink of water. If anyone collapses after complaining of heat symptoms, and especially if he stops sweating despite the heat, call 911 immediately and douse him with cool water—inside and out—while you wait for help to arrive.
But don’t let that or any of the above scare you out of enjoying your summer. Staying cool also means staying optimistic and getting the best from every situation!