The pool, vacation, outdoor concerts...there is so much to enjoy in summer! Maybe it's ingrained from childhood as we remember carefree days of no responsibility and lots of popsicles and ice cream. Whatever it is, summer days call us to get outside and live! Read on for my take on how to create your most soul-satisfying grown-up summer experience.
Mind the outside temps and your inner thermostat
Yes, we're going to start with safety. When our boys head to scout camp, they have a 3-level heat alert system that limits the amount of activity they're allowed to do and recommends increasing water intake, based on the temperature & heat index. You might not have a plan as detailed as that, but you should be aware of how you're feeling while working or playing in the summer heat. It's easiest to prevent heat illness, and it's not terribly hard to reverse symptoms if you intervene early, but advanced heat illness is a true emergency and not something you can deal with on your own.
Here in the Midwest, we deal with a lot of humidity, and it plays a huge role in how hot you feel and how high your body temperature climbs. As sweat evaporates, it takes heat with it, helping you stay cool. When there is a lot of moisture in the air, sweat doesn't evaporate as readily, so body heat can't dissipate as easily. On humid days, look for extra ways to stay cool such as:
Shade (Taking extra steps to find shade is worth it.)
Cool water on your skin. (Carrying a bandana is really useful. Wet it and lay it over your chest or your back & shoulders, or ring it out over your head.)
Cold drinks in your water bottle (Not just alcohol and caffeine; they make you pee more, which dehydrates you.)
Go outside early in the day or late, when the sun is lower and the temps a little cooler.
Did you know that, as you spend more time in the heat, your body acclimates? Over time, you will begin to feel more comfortable and be able to tolerate higher temperatures. So my first tip for summertime wellness is...be outside in the heat! Support your body as you become used to the temps; more on how to do that next.
Have you ever gotten sweat in your eyes? It stings, right? How about in your mouth? Doesn't it taste neutral and refreshing? haha. No! When you sweat, you don't just lose water; you also lose electrolytes: minerals that are used by your body for chemical reactions, fluid balance inside & outside cells, muscle contraction & relaxation, and more. During the heat of summer, drinking extra water is important, but you can still experience heat illness if you fail to replenish your electrolytes.
Store-bought sports drinks certainly contain electrolytes, but they also have large amounts of sugar. I personally would rather drink to hydrate and eat to get energy. Here are some numbers from 3 of the most popular packaged electrolyte drinks (per 2-cup serving or 1 bottle):
Sodium Potassium Sugars
Gatorade® 270 mg 75 mg 34 g
Powerade® 250-300 mg 60 mg 21-35 g
Body Armor® 70 mg 700 mg 28 g
Here's a recipe to make your own.
2 cups coconut water
2 tablespoons raw honey
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 scoop magnesium diglycinate or bisglycinate powder (I like Thorne brand) or carry
some pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, or almonds to munch instead
Choose your favorite flavor combo:
1/2 cup orange juice & 1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup lemon juice & 2 tablespoons lime juice
2 cups watermelon cubes & 1 tablespoon lemon juice
This comes out to about
425 mg sodium
800 mg potassium
32 g sugars (plus the benefit of synergistic nutrients, if you use freshly squeezed juice!)
0 dyes, preservatives, and fake flavoring
Skin health, now and forever
All that hydration is important for your skin, too. Of course, healthy, well-hydrated skin develops fewer lines and wrinkles, but your skin is actually the largest organ in your body, and it has several important jobs. In addition to helping regulate your body temp, it offers protection, allows various substances to pass in & out of your body, and allows you to sense the world around you. Hydrated skin is less prone to sun damage, which means it can perform these important tasks better for longer.
Sunscreen is also important for protecting your skin, and its use has benefits far down the road. Skin damage due to the sun's ultraviolet rays accumulates over time and is the main contributing factor in most skin cancers.
Sunscreens are either mineral-based or chemical-based. Mineral-based sunscreens are generally considered safer, but they're messy and, let's be honest, look hilarious. Most sunscreens sold are chemical-based. Some ingredients that have been recognized as hazardous are no longer used, but others that are closely related and may behave similarly in the body are still allowed. For a deep dive into sunscreen safety and regulation, check out this website. For best protection, choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA & UVB waves, and make sure it doesn't contain avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, or ecamsule.
Now that we've covered some safety issues, let's talk about ways to create your soul-satisfying summer.
Supercharge your nutrition with fresh produce
Whether you love getting your hands in the dirt or not, you can get your hands on delicious, nutritious, farm-fresh fruits & veggies during the spring, summer, and fall growing seasons. Farmer's markets and roadside stands are all over the metro and well worth the stop. Why?
Small farms are more likely to rotate crops. This practice leads to higher nutritional value, more natural pest and disease resistance, and better flavor.
Modern (especially large-scale) farming methods have reduced the nutritional quality of our soil over time. Small, family farms that don't use chemical fertilizers and disruptive harvesting methods produce healthier crops.
Locally grown produce gets to your table faster. This means better nutrition, because produce stops increasing in nutritional value as soon as it is removed from its source plant, and its existing nutrients degrade quickly.
Lastly, purchasing from a local farmer supports a family in your community. Definitely a win-win.
Of course, you could try growing your favorite vegetables yourself! Find a sunny spot, purchase a few starter plants and follow the directions on the label, or do some research online. You could start at the University of Missouri Extension.
Love your shape
It's summer; it's hot; and you're wearing less clothing than ever. Why waste a third of this year criticizing your body? Your value is not defined by the numbers on a scale or your measurements or your swimsuit size.
I talk to my patients a lot about posture. Most people think in terms of "good" and "bad," but I want them to reframe that mindset. We want to create a strong and healthy posture. Can you do the same when you think about your body? Is it healthy? Is it strong? Does it get you where you need to go? Do you feel good in it? If not, you have the power to make some changes! But do it to feel great, not as a punishment for how you look. You're amazing.
Try new exercises & activities
Just for fun or to get more exercise or to make new friends...try something new!
Painting class Camping Pottery class
Tai chi Bowling Dancing
Hiking Kayaking Visit an obscure museum
Writing Make candles Take a day trip
Origami Swimming Martial arts
Book study Disc golf Scooter/skateboarding
Learn a language Genealogy Volunteer
Manage your busy-ness
We just talked about adding activities to your summer of fun, but it's so, so important to keep your commitments from overwhelming you. If you manage a family and a job, and you're trying to stay active and have friends and all the things, at some point you will definitely have too much on your calendar. Saying "yes" to the most important things often means saying a difficult "no." It's okay for your kids to be bored sometimes (actually, it's good for them); it's okay to let someone else manage the office party; and it might be really good for you to decline the invitation to the lake this weekend. We all need empty space on our calendars and margins in our daily life. Figure out what level of busyness fills your cup of joy without stretching you too thin.
Build your community
My last summer wellness tip has been woven into every other section: connect with your people. Introverts and extroverts, we all need people; we all need relationship. Social media keeps growing and expanding because people are looking for ways to connect. But does it leave you feeling seen and understood or less connected than before? Sometimes I realize that I missed a great opportunity to connect with my kids, because we all lost track of time while they were on YouTube or video games while I scrolled through Instagram reels.
I love that adults are growing bolder about reaching out for friendship. Facebook groups, Meetup, apps...people are looking for someone to connect with. As kids, it came naturally to make a friend at the playground, but as adults we feel pressure to have it all together, as if we're not lacking anything. That's malarkey, hogwash, and BS. If you feel alone, be brave! New hobbies are a great way to find a kindred spirit. Be available; feel awkward; look at the world around you instead of staying engrossed in your phone or book (raising my own hand). Smile at a stranger. Wave to everyone who drives down your street. Text a friend you haven't talked to in a year and say "Hey, I was thinking about you. Want to get coffee?"
I'm not sure this post turned out the way I thought it would, but I hope you found some good ideas and inspiration to take care of yourself this summer. I would love to help you feel great and live your most vibrant life. Get started with chiropractic care by calling my office at 816-416-9920.
Dr. Amy Crowe serves patients inside Simple Empathy in downtown Kansas City, MO.