When I visited a friend in India a few summers back, I wanted to cram as much tourist-y stuff into each day as possible. My friend, however, had a key piece of insight. They pointed out to me how, for most of the afternoon each day, the only people you’d see out and about were foreigners.
Anyone who grew up in a hot climate understands how crucial it is to slow down, get out of the sun, and take it as easy. It’s a matter of survival. If your instinct is to “not let the weather get you down” and instead push through the heat, here’s how and why you should cut yourself some slack to survive the heat.
Heat waves are hard on your body
First things first: This might seem like a no-brainer, but as the weather gets hotter, your body works harder to keep your core temperature down. At the moment, many parts of the country are coping with multiple days of temperatures predicted to be over 100 degrees. The Red Cross says this means it is time to “take precautions immediately to avoid heat-related illness.” While your body is already working hard to simply survive in the heat, it makes sense for you to rest and take as many breaks as you can throughout the day.
You should also know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Schedule activities when it’s coolest
We can’t put our lives completely on hold during a heat wave. What you can do is schedule outdoor work and other activities carefully.
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As far as your daily plans, get your outdoor activities in during the early morning and later evening hours. From a weekly point-of-view, check the weather forecast and plan your errands around when it’s coolest (and your rest days around when it’s hottest). You don’t want to get stuck with a much-needed groceries run in the middle of record-breaking summer day.
Take a siesta
While you schedule your activities when it’s coolest, schedule your breaks for the worst of the heat. If you can, take a nap during the hottest part of the day (late afternoon, starting around 3 p.m.).
Most Americans fail to work a true siesta into their day, but you should at the very least plan on staying indoors during the mid-to-late-afternoon. Not only should you aim to be indoors, but also, try to find a source of air conditioning. According to the Red Cross, spending a few hours each day in air conditioning can help prevent or reduce heat-related illness.
Adjust your expectations
A major hurdle for all the go-getters out there is accepting that a heat wave is going to slow you down.
For instance, let’s say you had some ambitious fitness goals this summer. Sure, it’s possible to get used to exercising in the heat, as your body learns how to cool itself more efficiently. At the same time, the fact is that exercising in high temperatures and humidity increases the risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. So in extreme heat, the Red Cross gives you the all-clear to skip your workout.
It’s hard to slow down and give yourself a break, but during times of extreme heat, doing nothing is one of your best survival tactics.
Remember these heat safety tips
When it comes to taking care of yourself and checking on others, make sure to:
Stay hydrated. Stick to water and keep sugary and alcoholic drinks to a minimum.
Get electrolytes. You lose sodium from your body when you sweat, but normal food intake is usually enough to replace it.
Check with your doctor. Ask if any of your medications can make you more susceptible to extreme heat. They should have guidance to help you properly hydrate and stay cool during these harsh summer months.