Top 10 ways to embrace, rather than fight, summertime heat

Guest post by Lauren
Don’t be afraid to get wet, and 9 other ways to embrace the heat. (Photo by Megan Finley on a day SHE was trying to beat the heat.)

I’m not one to complain about heat. I lived in Oklahoma for 12 years, where heat indices of 103 are de rigueur. It’s a real privilege to complain about a 94 degree day with a cool breeze, in my opinion. I want to talk about how we can get perspective on our solstice sweat, and how to ride the heat wave into a wonderful summer.

My friends, it gets hot in the summer. So I just don’t see a purpose in getting angry about it, or trying to avoid it. Really, the best thing to do is get into it.

As with many things — swimming in a cold lake, childbirth, writing an essay that feels like it’s going nowhere — the way out is the way through. We may grit our teeth at the prospect of four more weeks of this heat. We may despise how trapped we feel and how annoying our kids are becoming. We are angry and want to run away. But that will not change the weather. This is the absurdity of our summer condition. We must imagine ourselves happy in the heat. Here are my top 10 ways to embrace the heat:

1. Wear less clothing

“No !*&%, Sherlock!” you’re saying, but seriously, this is a common mistake. When I lived in Oklahoma, I packed away everything that went past my knee or elbows. I lived in skirts, shorts, and tank tops. Are you wearing jeans right now? Did you layer your shirts? Were you foolish enough to put on close-toed shoes? Amateurs! Change into something else and see what a difference it makes.

2. Put a fan on your porch

Moving air makes all the difference, even if you’re in direct sun. If you have a covered porch with an outlet, plug in an industrial fan and sit outside. You’ll get used to the heat. I’m outside right now, on a covered porch with ceiling fans, and it’s 90 degrees. I feel completely comfortable.

3. Get up earlier

During my last summer in Oklahoma, I got up at 6am every day and immediately went for a walk. Play or garden before breakfast instead of after breakfast. Get your outdoors fix in before Ellen (or, if you’re a NPR hipster nerd like myself, before On Point).

4. Get wet

I bought a swimsuit last week for the first time in six years, and it’s amazing how much cooler you feel when you’re actually playing in the fountain or swimming in the pool instead of sweltering alongside it. Get your suit on, set up your hose or sprinkler or mister or sink sprayer, and get wet. Suddenly 95 feels comfy.

5. Listen to music really loud

It feels more like an awesome montage in a summer camp movie if you are blasting Panama by Van Halen then if you’re listening to the news.

6. Drive with the windows open

Create a breeze. According to the Car Talk guys, the drag created by open windows is probably as energy inefficient as using your AC, anyway. Combine #5 and #6 and you’re halfway to a brilliant and beautiful summer memory.

7. Nap in the sun

Lather up with sunscreen and try do this during off-peak hours. Then you’ll see why cats like it so much, and, bonus, you’ll feel absolutely frigid when you go in the shade or AC.

8. Get yourself on a boat

How long has it been since you went on a boat ride? Did you forget that boats are awesome? I don’t care how much of a city mouse you are, flying across any lake — even a dirty, syringe-filled lake — feels incredible.

9. Two words: ICED. TEA.

It doesn’t even have to be sun tea, although that is obviously the best kind. We get cold brew bags and stuff our mason jars full of chipped ice and mint leaves or lemon wedges.

10. Fruit

It’s on sale. Buy as much of it as you can fit in your trunk and eat it all, tonight. Make your whole meal out of fruit. Bonus points for super cold and refreshing citrus fruits like grapefruit and oranges. I rarely bought fresh fruit when I was a swinging young working single non-parent, but this is the time to take a gamble on a flat of strawberries and challenge yourself to use it all up.

There you go. I bet you are feeling better already.

Comments on Top 10 ways to embrace, rather than fight, summertime heat

  1. As someone who grew up in Georgia and migrated up North, I actually feel myself MISSING the heat. 100+ was common in summer, and when you lived down there, you just didn’t even notice it anymore. Now, after 10+ years of living in the midwest, if it gets above 80 I’m like “THIS IS BULLSHIT, IT’S SO HOT” … sad. So this summer I’m trying to get out and embrace humid summers and enjoy sweating while I can, before the 7-or-so months of winter descend upon us again.

    … also, props to the author for Hunger Games love. I’m right there with you!

    • YES! I grew up in MS and Fla and could wear jeans in the summer and have a jacket/sweatshirt coat things (lost for the word atm) but now 5 years in Southern California and I’m like “f this s&^T”! I had a baby in the end of October in Fla, and now I’m a week till my due date here in SoCal and I don’t ever remember being this hot!!!
      Ice is my friend.. and frozen pineapple chunks…
      Maybe next year I’ll embrace the heat, for now I say “SCREW YOU Mr. Heat Miser!!!!”

  2. great tips! i loved a hot day when i lived in upper michigan. it was the only time i could get into the lake (superior) and have it be refreshing rather than bone-chilling. lol. i’m also chowing down on the fruit du jour like it’s going out of style. today is cherries.

    i think mythbusters did the open windows vs. AC thing and found that 40mph was the point where using your AC is more fuel efficient than keeping your windows down.

  3. In England at the moment we’re having a bizarre heatwave: after a never ending winter our sudden humid 90 degree days (I appreciate this is not that big a deal to some of you!) are just awful. In the same way we’re not set up for snow and really cold winters none of our houses and most workplaces don’t have AC or fans – we never usually need it! It’s all a bit much for my pale, gingery northern hemisphere self – I’m used to thinking 55 degrees is super hot peak of summer weather!

    A question though for you heat dwellers: how do you avoid heatstroke? I have found myself being sick and passing out just trying to walk home from the shops (I have the constitution of a particularly wobbly Victorian lady!) – even with my sunhat. I shall have to try this getting skin out (the horror!) malarkey (I usually go for a really light cover up), but I worry about burning. Any top tips?

    • Fellow pale ginger here! I’ve been working in a hotel changing kingsize beds with no AC or breeze. Lost 3.5kg recently…

      Eat well! Eat a lot. Even slight hunger can become near fainting. The same goes for drinking.

      I’d second the advice to get out early or late but not in peak hours.

      Maybe try a parasol so can be more fully covered by shade

      • I second the parasol! Shade is your friend! Big, floppy hats help as well. Also don’t forget sunscreen. I’ve noticed not burning keeps me from getting too overheated. I mean, things still get pretty hot and sweaty and ugh, but at least it helps.

    • Try not to over-exert yourself (maybe walk more slowly?) and drink lots and lots of cold water. And then drink more cold water. And yes, wear less clothes and slather yourself in sunscreen.

    • For staying cool while walking to the shops (or waiting on a crowded subway platform, or while cooking on a flat-top grill all day at an outdoor festival) I do this:
      Take a bandana or large handkerchief and lay it out flat on your kitchen counter.
      Place 3 ice cubes in the middle third of it.
      Fold in half once to make a triangle. (like this: The ice should be lined up in the top fold.
      Now roll the bandana up keeping the ice in the middle.
      Tie it around your neck with the ice at the back/nape of your neck.
      Walk to shops… or down the subway platform.

      Only putting 3 ice cubes in usually keeps me cool, without much dripping. As I wear this I think: “The ice is cooling the blood that is going to my brain. I’m chilled out now.”

      You can use a pretty scarf instead of a bandana. And you can also tie the scarf around your head (like the woman in lower in the link) with the ice at the bottom fairly discreetly, but it’s less cooling then having it on your neck skin.

    • As someone who battles heat exhaustion pretty much every time it’s above 75F, here’s what I do.

      Hat and sunglasses – yeah, it feels redundant, but I always need both. Electrolyte replacement drinks. The most famous of these is obviously Gatorade, but there are many, many others (and some that don’t have sugar). And I make sure to have something to eat too, as I’m sure we’ve all been at that point where even thinking about eating something will make you throw up but you know if you’d just eat something, you’d probably feel better. I get around that by having things like trailmix that I can munch on just a little.

      And of course, tons of water as well – but for me the electrolyte drinks are very important.

      Additionally, I’m going to disagree with one of the suggestions of less clothing. Most of my heat exhaustion comes from the sun, so it’s actually better for me if I wear a long sleeve (loose and breathable) shirt that has sun protection built in.

      • In muggy humid heat, bare skin is nice because your clothes aren’t glued to your damp body, but in dry heat absolutely 100% wear long sleeves/pants! When I was out in the Sinai desert, I lived a big t-shirt under a light buttoned shirt, hiking boots or chucks, and baggy khakis, with a shemagh on my head. We were moving heavy rocks and mixing cement, and I loathe drinking water almost as much as drinking electrolyte drinks, AND I got a bad stomach bug, but I never got heat exhaustion!

    • Along the lines of the ice in a bandanna.. freeze a small bottle of water, and use it to cool your inner wrists and arms. hold it to your neck as well. It cools the blood.

    • Tip from a pro (or australian) –

      hydrate hydrate hydrate! water, tea, juice, if you feel a lil light headed already then try one of those sports drinks with electrolytes – soft drinks, coffee or alcohol will not help. Theres a reason most of us aussies carry water bottles all the time!

      secondly, try and stay out of the heat during the hottest hours of the day.

      if youre wearing clothes to keep your skin out of the sun make sure they are very light weight, you may be over heating that way.

      apply (and reapply) sunscreen EVERYWHERE that may get sun

    • I second the ice in a bandana or scarf idea – saves me all the time. Make sure you drink LOTS of water. When we went to Zion National Park last month during a heat wave, I drank LOTS of water – my 3 liter water bladder was refilled multiple times as I was constantly drinking water. It really makes a difference.

      Also, it may seem counter intuitive, but loose, long cotton clothing is very cooling. We work renn faires and the biggest rule of costuming is to wear natural fibers. Many times Faire is HOT, add that to all the layers that are worn and you have the potential for disaster. Working a Renn Faire, you don’t really have the option of wearing less clothing, but we all seem to do really well as long as we wear natural fibers – there is a reason desert nomads wear head to toe clothing.

    • Also in the UK, also struggling becuase we are not set up for heat….

      I find that if I totally cover my self with sun-block it just blocks my pores and I overheat even more because I can’t sweat (which is essential in the heat, if you aren’t sweating something is wrong) and I get prickly heat rash. I’ve tried so many, even the light weight non-cream type and it always happens. I find the only way to cope is to limit time in direct sun and cover up but in very lightweight loose fitting single layers. A vest or fitted T-shirt and shorts with feet, limbs, shoulders, chest, neck and face etc all sunblocked is disastrous for me. Much better is cropped lightweight trousers or long shorts and lightweight flappy ¾ lenth sleeve top or tunic with only bra underneath. That way there’s lots of skin that can breathe and sweat underneath my lightweight clothes and I only need to sunblock protruding bits. Hat is essential too. Keeping ankles and wrists (hence cropped trousers and ¾ length sleeve) exposed seems as cooling to me the whole limb but the whole limb requires the evil sun block…

      Hydration is essential too, keeping bottles of water in the fridge or better yet in the freezer and always taking one out with you is great – you can drink the frozen one slowly as it melts. Rolling a chilled or frozen bottle over your wrists (or running cold water form a tap) is great for cooling down. Plus in the heat you just have to go slow, stop every so often in I the shade on your way back from the shops. I’ve lived in countries with far higher temperatures but its not as bad as high temperatures here because we aren’t prepared for it and try and carry on as normal without changing behaviour. I’d take 30C + tempreatures I’ve experienced in India or Australia over 30C in the UK anyday…

    • These are all amazingly helpful suggestions – thank you all so much! I will give them a go – particularly the electrolyte drinks things – I hadn’t twigged (duh – you can tell the heat makes my brain melty!) that some of it might have been me getting a bit POTS-y (I have some health stuff – and this is related) as well as heat exhausted – and the electrolyte stuff will help there. I shall give the ice suggestions a go too – popping some water bottles in the freezer now to carry and some small snacks in my handbag.

      Sometimes we cool me down (my autonomic system is *so* broken!) at home with wet cloths/towels so the ice in the neck thing sounds a brilliant alternative for being out and about too. Thank you all again!

      • I have pots too and summer is worst for me! I just drink loads to prevent dehydration (which is awful with EDS twitchy bladder) and stay out of the sun. the ice on the neck thing would make me ill. in fact, I tend to have at least one occasion every summer where I get too cold! usually from over the top air con or last week it was having a water fight, I ended up with blue extremities and pain for days.

        • Vicky – Ooh! I have EDS III alongside my POTS too. And Raynauds, so the blue thing happens to me as well. I had a shivering fit on the 35 degree day because we’d cooled me too far. I’m used to being cold and understand the pain related to that but the heat thing is horrible and new, so I’ve got no coping strategies. This post is proving very helpful! I figured enough fabric around the ice and it would just be cold and damp in a regulated manner without being soggy or drying out… yet to try it though. It’s nice (not quite right word?!) to find someone else with it! x

    • Sadly no tips, but just consolation. I suffer massively from heat rash/heat stroke and this summer got it particularly badly due to being pregnant in 30 (degrees celsius) heat. Sadly I’ve tried everything, swimming, shade, breeze, water ALL the time, ice just on me, and sadly nothing has really helped… I figure that maybe it could be a genetic thing – there’s a reason all the Victorian ladies stayed inside in the summer heat, and fainted otherwise… 🙁

      And I’m not pale or ginger so I can’t IMAGINE what you’re going through! Honestly considering moving back to Scotland for maybe a little northerly breeze!

        • In fairness the Highlands get insanely hot sometimes; I spent many a family holiday as a child in the Black Isle region sweating my arse off. I think people expect it to be cool because it’s in the north, but you get all kinds of weird climatic shit happening up there because of the mountains. Pack for all eventualities…

          Re. reported temperatures, Edinburgh is supposedly 21 degrees right now. I’m sitting right in the middle of it in front of a large fan; 21 degrees it most certainly is not. I only have to move to break a sweat, this is not funny any more!

  4. If I can get a bikini top that fits like a bra and then wear it instead of a bra I find it helps a lot as I can just take my top off whenever I like with the attitude of “what? I’m not down to my underwear, I’m wearing a bikini”; for some reason the swimwear top is much more socially acceptable than the item of clothing it’s exactly like.

  5. This is so timely. I live in the District of Columbia where at 90 degrees are talking about how nice it is that the heat broke (it was 110 over the weekend).

    The pieces of advice I give my relatives who visit from the north country or newly transplanted neighbors are:

    1. Slooooowwww down. It’s to hot to do all the things. Instead lets belly up to a bar and drink cold refreshing beer or hang out on my stoop and drink some tea with the neighbors (they always have sweet tea flowing).

    2. We do not cook in the summer — refer to the the above bullet point about it being to hot to do the things. Instead we make entire meals of fresh fruit, raw veggies and thick cut bread (bought from the bakery because I am not turning my oven on – even to bake bread). Last night we had honey oat bread smeared with goat cheese and topped with blueberries and honey for dinner followed by iced tea and watermelon on the stoop.

    3. Break for sprinklers or spray fountains. No one will look twice if you hop off your bike to take a quick run through sprinkler or hope in a park fountain.

    • Hey neighbor! I remember walking to work yesterday (only a mile) and my back was soaking. Yet I was SO grateful for the change of pace from last week.

      Anyway, you’re so right, #2 helps. My little family unit has taken up Japanese meals (soba noodles, onigiri, vegetarian sushi, etc.) because they’re so light on the stomach. Then the humidity isn’t making you feel sick or super sweaty. Diving face first into watermelon helps, too.

    • “We do not cook in the summer.”

      Amen to this! Unfortunately two weeks ago my stomach said, “Hmm, chicken tikka masala would be nice,” and my brain didn’t speak up to remind the stomach that this also requires standing over a stove for an hour. The food was yummy, but man was that a stupid idea… Fresh fruits and veggies are where it’s at! 🙂

  6. Wear less clothes, get wet, turn up the music… I think we’re getting at why summer lovin’ is so popular! What better excuse to turn off the A/C?

  7. Yay fruit! Or produce in general. Whenever we hit a heat wave, I try to just shrug my shoulders and go, “it’s good for my veggie patch. Bring on the tomatoes, beans and cucumbers!” Also, good swimming weather. You’re right about that too -even on the hottest days it never fails to cool me off completely to go to the beach or pool. Plus, my husband always knows to take the kids for a little while and let me get in a bunch of laps – great exercise, and super-relaxing!

    Another tip – eat lots of cold stuff or cook outside on the grill. The other week (when we were coming home late from the beach, in fact) I had a revelation as we were tired and hungry and figuring out whether to figure out something I could slap together quickly at home, or hit a fast food joint on the way: Cold deli sandwiches are a perfectly acceptable summer supper. I had tofurky slices, egg salad, and lots of cheese and fresh veggies in the fridge. Supper was on the table in 10 minutes, cheaper than fast food, and everyone went to bed fed and happy. The end.

  8. When I lived in Delhi, India, the motto was “only mad dogs, and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” Everything revolved around getting up super early, and making sure that the hours of 1-4 were set aside for napping. I didn’t have air conditioning, so we used a swamp cooler, and I also slept with wet socks and a wet sheet because it was so hot (120 degrees). We also ended up staying up late, eating dinner around 9-10 because it was so much cooler to cook.

    • Yessssss. When we moved from cool, rainy Seattle to hot, humid Jakarta, I thought I would *never* get used to the heat. Five years later and we find ourselves turning off the airconditioner because it’s ‘too cold’.

      Since we’re on the equator, sunrise is at 6:00 am every day and sunset is at 6:00 pm every day, all year ’round. Pretty much everyone wakes up before dawn and gets everything done before 11:00 am.

      From around 11:00 am – 3:00 pm, no one dares to go outside or do anything physical. That time is set aside for napping, tidying the house, reading, working on the computer, etc…

      And then, in the late afternoon and evening, everyone comes out again.

      (And, since Indonesia is Muslim country, the calls to prayer also correspond with sunrise and sunset.)

  9. Make or buy some cute summery curtains! In winter I like to let in as much light as possible, but in summer I like to block most of it out to keep my house cooler. And this way I still have something pretty to see 🙂

  10. Nature. It’s amazing how much cooler it is under a tree at the park, sitting on the grass, than under shade on concrete or even on your porch. Go to the lake instead of the pool if you can. Sit on the ground at a BBQ or concert.
    I live in Utah, and when it gets unbearably hot we drive up the mountain. Even if you don’t hike, the combination of actual dirt instead of pavement, plus the elevation change, plus plants make the temps drop. Heaven.

  11. “It doesn’t even have to be sun tea, although that is obviously the best kind. ”
    YES – love this!

    I also enjoy singing “Summer in the City” at the top of my lungs around the house, or at least the one verse of it I can remember. Then I switch to the playing loud music strategy in deference to anyone in the general vicinity.

  12. These tips are largely the reasons I love the summer (and consequently the heat) now if only someone could tell me how to be happy in the cold, I wouldn’t dread the end of my halcyon humid days with nary an itchy scarf in sight….

  13. I third the being in unprepared heat wave england! Good tips guys, thanks. Think we have had enough of heat exhaustion now, might try to make some of that tasty iced tea…

  14. I kinda disagree with point number 1, or more specifically just the bit that says don’t wear anything past knees or elbows. In our hot Australian summers, I practically live in long linen skirts and 3/4 sleeve linen shirts. A lightweight flappy skirt creates such a wonderful breeze round your legs as you walk, and I find it much more comfortable than a short skirt or shorts which allow my skin to get burnt. Same goes for the shirt, and it soaks up sweat which would otherwise be running off my arms in rivulets. But I definitely agree that jeans have no place in summer clothing, and if you wear sandals in summer, remember to sunscreen the top of your feet, otherwise you’ll end up with bizarre tan lines (Yes, it happened to me this year!)

  15. As someone who grew up in Los Angeles (the hot part of the Valley, not the cooler downtown area) I can just say, that if you don’t like heat and you’re tired of trying to embrace it rather than fight it, just do what I did- move to Alaska!! If you have hear exhaustion above 75 this is particularly the best solution for you folks! All of a sudden you will be nice and comfy and you can giggle at the folks who’ve lived here their whole lives and think its hot at 70. Meanwhile you can say “ahhh this is wonderful!”

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