How I Stay Healthy in the Summer

Love it or hate it, summer comes every year. I personally love the summer. I’ll take heat over cold any day (I grew up in Winnipeg which is hella cold). I find the heat takes a slightly less toll on my body than freezing temperatures. And though I live in Vancouver now, where winter has more rain than snow and extreme colds, the changes in the barometric pressure are never fun for my body either. All that said, I know a ton of people who prefer winter over summer, because they don’t like being hot and/or their illness symptoms worsen in the heat (which I’ll admit when it’s really hot, mine aren’t superb either). Even without illness, we need to prioritize staying healthy in the summer. And though summer is coming to an end, any time left does need us to consider a few things.

I’ll admit that I sometimes take off my hat before taking pictures (especially if I’m going to post them on Instagram).

The first thing I do is dress appropriately. I try to go for outfits that are cooling, regardless of whether I’m working or lazing about. Probably most importantly in how I dress for the summer is always having a hat on (ball cap or brimmed hat) while I’m outside and always having sunglasses. That way I can help prevent heat stroke, symptom flare ups, and my eye health. Also, it requires basically no effort to grab my hat and sunglasses when I go out. I’m always a little shocked when other people aren’t wearing them to be honest.

Second, I put on a lot of sunscreen – and reapply as needed. I typically use SPF50 on my face (it’s built into my moisturizer) and SPF30 on my body. I’d rather use “too much” (because that’s not actually a thing) than not enough. Not to mention skin cancer doesn’t sound fun, and I once read that being sun burnt even once in your life greatly increases your risk of melanoma.

Third, I stay hydrated. I always have a water bottle with me. I always make sure there is a bunch of ice in it as well (it’s also an insulated water bottle which helps). I drink a ton of water while working and even just in my apartment. Constantly drinking water because, well, we know that water has a ton of health benefits, plus dehydration is not going to help me feel physically or mentally well.

Fourth, I try to make sure my sleep is as good as possible. I don’t have A/C currently and it gets hot. So I keep windows open, fan on when necessary – even if that means I have to wear earplugs to bed. I have an east facing bedroom window, and while I do need to invest in some blackout blinds, I often wear a sleep mask to bed so that the light doesn’t wake me up. I also ditch most of the blankets and sleep under just a top sheet to try to keep my body temperature down.

Finally, I still get all my movement in. There is a tendency to want to avoid exercise due to heat (trust me, I know firsthand I’m less inspired to workout when it’s hot). I do still make it a priority. If I go for a walk, it’s earlier in the day or later in the day and I try to stick to the shade. My strength training routine is done with a fan blowing at me (though I’m tempted to invest in a gym membership again just to have a cool workout facility), and I do yoga (also with the fan blowing at me). And while I do vinyasa and yin, I find that yin can be a bit better in the heat because you hold poses longer.

So, that sums up how I stay healthy in the summer. What do you do?

Take care & keep making the most of it!

Daily Exercise: Kayaking

Okay, so kayaking may not be a daily exercise for most of us, but it is a great way to switch things up. I love kayaking because it can be as intense or relaxing a workout as you want it to be. Plus you can choose to work your arms or your core more. A podcast episode I would recommend checking out if you haven’t yet is the one about Movement with Tania Clarke from Move Deeply Wellness.

Until next week, keep making the most of it!

Adventure Therapy/Nature Therapy

So, if you’ve read by blog in the past you’re probably quite aware that I do love the outdoors, particularly in the summer. Did you know that as well as the physical benefits of being outside (Vitamin D, exercise, and so on) there are some mental health benefits as well? Also, did you know that both adventure therapy and nature therapy are real things?

IMG_4716Bestie and I having a beach day.

I’ve followed an Adventure Therapist on Instagram for awhile but I didn’t know anything about it (other than that it sounded cool). This week in my course readings (my course is on multicultural counselling) I was reading about adventure and nature therapy. Sounds kind of weird for a multicultural counselling course, right? Not really, because a lot of the course is looking at different perspectives and cultural world views. Indigenous peoples often use nature as a part of healing. As my textbook points out, the modern world and technology is actually stress-inducing, so going into nature to “escape” can have psychological benefits (as well as spiritual ones). Many cultures believe that we are to be connected with nature, and to be quite honest, I completely agree with this view. Yes, I love the modern world and using my computer to write this and living in a big city. But I’m also excited to go visit my brother who lives in a much, much smaller city in the middle of the mountains. I like hiking and being outside by myself or with just one or two other people. It is an escape and it is relaxing.

IMG_7448Kayaking in nature (without leaving the city!)

What is adventure therapy? Adventure therapy utilizes the outdoors and experiences like hiking and trekking, to help being become more cooperative, less selfish, and more in tune with themselves. Nature therapy, is essentially the same, but includes spiritual elements and things like art therapy, drama, and eco-psychology. Some cool things can come out of it (assuming you have a good nature/adventure therapist). Your values may become clearer, your personal awareness should increase, your self-esteem can improve, and you should have a lot less stress. You’re also likely to become more present (mindfulness, yay!) and have clearer goals for the future. Even without a therapist, just allowing yourself to be in nature, be mindfulness and present while there, and believe in the healing powers of the earth, you’re likely to feel more grounded when you head back into society.

IMG_7673I always seem to be able to fit a hike in!

Let me know what you think about nature, adventure, the therapies of the earth, and being open to other perspectives, in the comments!

References:

France, M.H., Rodriguez, M. del C., & Hett, G.G. (Eds.). (2013). Diversity, culture and counseling: A Canadian perspective (2nd ed.). Calgary, AB: Brush Education.

Summertime Self-Care

Every time I say the word summertime I start singing: “Summertime and the livin’ is easy.” I think it’s from playing it in high school jazz band many moons ago, and actually when I pulled my sax out in the spring it was an easy song to get back into and play. Yes, here in Canada we are already half way through summer because let’s face it, summer is June, July, August, and if we’re lucky, September. That doesn’t mean we should talk about some summer-related self-care we are all hopefully engaging in, and if not, then it’s not too late to start!

IMG_7450Hot town, summer in the city.

Obviously this year is a bit different due to the pandemic which is spiking and second waving in certain parts of the world, while other parts (ahem USA) haven’t finished their first wave yet. But there are still some activities I’ve found to do this summer that have been great for my body, mind, and spirit – three important aspects of self-care. Personally, I think spending as much time as possible outside is really important for my mental health. If you live anywhere that gets a long, cold winter (Canada, northern US, Russia, Scandinavia, etc) then you understand how much needed the summer sun is. Whether it’s sitting in your back (or front) yard, on your porch, your balcony (apartment dwellers), a bench in a park, or wherever, getting outside for at least an hour a day can make you feel a lot better. And many other favourite self-care activities can be done outside – meditation, yoga, reading, etc.

IMG_7827Backyard chillaxin’ with Spike!

If you’re looking for something a little more physical, I’ve talked about hiking and kayaking, but really any outdoor sport you’re capable of doing is great, even just going for a walk. If it’s safe to do so, having dinner or a drink with a friend on a patio (social distanced of course) can be a good way to get some social self-care in, which many of us weren’t able to do (other than Zoom) during self-isolation. So if you’re in a place that is a little more open and not currently spiking, and you’re safe to do so, getting out with a friend or two might be a good idea.

IMG_7671I always aim to get a little movement in!

Whatever you decide to do for summertime self-care, just make sure you’re staying safe, wearing a mask, and continuing to social distance until the medical professionals tell us it’s safe to do otherwise. Yes, this year is different, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still be taking care of ourselves.

Exercise Tip of the Week: Kayaking!

While on the one hand I can’t continue to emphasize enough how important exercise is for pain management, I also recognize that finding alternative, light exercises is a real need for many of us. I love kayaking because it provides this option. Also, apparently the size of your paddle changes what kind of workout you get. Shorter paddles are better for core muscles and longer are better for upper body! Regardless, I always take opportunities to just float for awhile. Gotta give the body some rest time while being outside!

I hope to get out at least 1-2 more times this summer. What’s your favourite alternative exercise option when it comes to chronic pain or illness?

Exercise for Chronic Pain: Hiking Edition

Another video post for you, here at Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto.

Hiking is an amazing way to get some exercise, even when you have chronic pain, because it can be tailored to your health and skill level. I personally can do (and love to do) moderate hikes. Easier trails may be beneficial for you though. Plus, getting out in nature is amazing for your mental health!