Monday, May 30, 2011

On the outdoors

I am, and always have been, an indoor kid. There is a picture of me at just over a year old, sitting at my grandparents' dining room table, that illustrates pretty clearly my feelings on heat. It's Thanksgiving in the picture, and we had just traveled from already-freezing upstate New York to seventy-degree Virginia for the holiday. I didn't react well to the change, and in the picture everyone around me is clearly having a great time, chatting and laughing, and I'm sitting there, mouth open, looking startled, staring at my mom. Apparently that look stayed on my face most of the trip.

I don't deal well with heat. I get heat exhaustion easier than most, and one of the symptoms is that I don't actually feel all that hot, per se: I just feel really shitty. I feel grumpy, and sticky, and miserable, and my head and stomach probably aren't thrilled with me, but I don't usually feel like it's necessary to take a cold shower or swim or pack myself in ice, when really that's the thing my body needs most.

I've gotten much better about being self-aware with this in recent years. That means that on a day like today, when it was 85°, I did my best to take care of myself even while working on a big project out in the sun.

Here's some shit that helps me keep a handle on heat exhaustion and not confine myself to the indoors.
  • Take breaks when I need to. Andy doesn't seem to notice the heat at all, so this means taking more frequent breaks than he takes. I'm okay with that.
  •  Drink a lot of water. I drank a ton of water but didn't have to pee much - which means I should have been drinking even more.
  • Own the fact that I can be outdoors, and I can be helpful, but I probably can't be cheerful about it. The work needs to get done, and I'll help get it done, but I don't have any energy to spare to pretend that I don't hate every fucking second of it.
  • Keep good supplies on hand. Today, that meant yellow jacket spray. Fuck those guys. Any time one came near me, it got shot in the face with a steady stream of Raid.
  • Make sure I have proper sun protection. The garden I spent most of the day working on gets full sun, and I foolishly left my giant ridiculous sun hat at work. Andy noted that I was looking extra hot and miserable, disappeared for a minute, and came back out with a ladder, umbrella, and bungee cord, which he rigged together to provide me some shade to work in. It was so incredibly sweet of him.
  • Take a shower after sun exposure. I start out at lukewarm,  because diving right into cold is too much of a shock and makes me feel shitty. I usually end up turning the water pretty chilly by the end of it, as my body acclimates.
  • Sometimes I shower again right before bed, if there's still a lot of residual heat happening. It cools me down more and makes it possible for me to fall asleep. Bonus if there are nice clean sheets!
How do you handle the heat? Do you love autumn and winter, or are you one of those "the hotter the better!" kind of crazies? Any tips for those of us who are total heat-sissies?

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