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11 Ways To Beat the Heat

By Yvonne Keeny
by Yvonne Keeny

With the heat index expected to be over 100°F for the next few days in most of the United States, summer is definitely here! Last week I wrote about Temperature Sensitivity and how it affects those of us with fibromyalgia. This week let's talk about some things you can do to beat the heat.

Many people with Fibromyalgia experience a temporary worsening of their symptoms when the weather is very hot or humid. These temporary changes can result from even a ¼ to ½ degree elevation in their core body temperature.

Researchers do not know what causes this symptom, but they do have some compelling research. Much of it suggests abnormalities in the autonomic nervous system, which deals with your body's ability to keep the temperature and other factors within normal ranges and our bodies' reactions to different situations, including the "fight or flight" reaction.

Strategies for Easing the Effects of Heat

1. Wear lightweight, loose clothing: I purchased a few loose-fitting dresses after my nephrectomy a couple of years ago. It was a gentle reminder that dresses and skirts are more comfortable in the summertime! They are breezier than short pants or even shorts because they allow for airflow.  Of course, lightweight clothing and light colors are also better than heavy, dark colors. Although I love jeans, I avoid them and other heavy fabric that traps heat.

2. Go Outside: Take a few minutes in the morning while it's still cool to sit in the sun. Nature is naturally therapeutic! Research shows that being outdoors releases stress, reduces anxiety and depression, while increasing our feel-good hormones, giving us ease. Also, fresh air and the sounds of nature help calm our over-reactive nervous system and set the tone for the rest of the day. The softer colors that tend to show up in the sky in the morning eases us into our days.

3. Place Your Bare Feet on the Ground: Connect with the Earth by going outside barefoot and standing on the grass, dirt, or sand. Breathe deeply and take it all in. There is so much energy there! Making physical contact with the ground connects you to abundant life found all around us while reconnecting you to nature. Placing your bare feet on the ground exposes your body to the Earth's natural energies, a practice called grounding or earthing.

4. Eat Local and Seasonal Produce: Farmer's markets are a great place to find fresh seasonal produce and vegetables. Seasonal food is tastier and more nutritious than food consumed out of season. Seasonal fruits and vegetables produced on local farms are often fresher, as they do not require long distances for transport. A recent USDA study also found that direct-to-consumer producers were less likely to apply pesticides and herbicides to control weeds and insects than conventional producers.

5. Stay Hydrated: Be sure to drink plenty of water for hydration. Don't like the taste of water? Create a tasty drink by using herbal teas as a base, or use seasonal berries, fruits, citrus, and veggies such as cucumbers. Combine it with fresh mint for added benefits. Many people with fibro tell me if they become dehydrated, their pain and fatigue increases.

Bonus Tip: I make a pitcher of water each morning to be sure I drink enough water (½ ounce per pound of body weight). Be creative with your healthy hydration drink. I add a few ice cubes to each glass when I want an icy drink. An occasional popsicle can add variety.

6. Get Up Earlier: (If you're not a morning person or work a late-night shift, it's okay to skip this one!) If you are a morning person and/or need to wake early for work, get up earlier and take in the beautiful peace that comes from the early morning light and quietness. Catching an early morning sunrise is a bonus as well!

7. Watch the Sunset: Sunlight is composed of a spectrum of colors that grade from violets and blues at one end to oranges and reds on the other. Notice the nuances and variations as the sun goes down. Observe the fantastic colors and light changes. The evening light, much like the early morning light, holds a peaceful space for greater self-awareness for the beauty of our universe.

8. Create A Special Time Just for You: Taking time for yourself is so essential for your overall wellbeing. Is there something that holds a personal interest to you or something that brings a smile when this comes to mind as something to explore and cultivate? This could be a summer food ritual, an outdoor ritual, a quiet time, a stretching routine, nights where they have music in the park or other similar things you might enjoy. Whatever it is, this is your time! Make a written or mental note of it.

9. Start A Summer Gratitude Practice: Part of self-care is to make it known to yourself what you're thankful and grateful for, and what you hold in reverence. Intentionally thinking, speaking, and writing these will become second nature to you. It gives you and others more peace and tranquility.

10. Nurture Your Skin: Going out in the sun will help give you some much-needed vitamin D, which has been shown in research studies to lessen pain. However, you need to protect your skin all summer (and throughout the year) using a chemical-free sunscreen while nourishing your skin with organic and chemical-free moisturizers. A lot of people with fibromyalgia tell me that if they get sunburned, it causes a fibro flare. That's why it's so important to protect your skin.

11. Stay in an air-conditioned environment during periods of extreme heat and humidity. If you don't have air conditioning to help minimize symptoms, the cost of this equipment may be tax deductible providing a physician writes a prescription for it. (Check with your insurance company to be sure.) If not, consider going to an air-conditioned mall or movie theater.

Bonus Tip: If you get overheated, set near an oscillating fan or air conditioner. Or get into a tub of comfortably cold water for 20 to 30 minutes. A cool bath or shower can also help reduce core body temperature following activity or exposure to a hot environment.

Until next time, stay cool!