The Heat is On!
Monday 17th July 1976
It really is hot!
This week has seen temperatures soring in the UK peaking this weekend and with predictions for more hot weather over the coming weeks.
The picture we have used for this week’s blog is from the heatwave in the summer of 1976. Isn’t it cheerful? It makes us smile. In comparison the images used recently are far more scary almost looking as if the world is on fire. This invokes fear in many of us and is another example of how the media can contribute to our collective fear. We have written about this phenomenon before
When fear is shaping our mindset we catastrophise, imagining the worst. This affects our body chemistry in a negative way and influences our behaviours. For example if we are afraid of the heat we may choose not to go out at all and miss the opportunity to connect with friends and enjoy nature. If instead we saw the heatwave as a transient opportunity to experience ‘holiday weather’ we would get out our shorts and flip-flops and be grateful that the only umbrellas were in our drink.
With this in mind we want to take this opportunity to share some information to help you stay safe and well whilst enjoying the summer sunshine
The UK is a temperate zone and heatwaves can take us unawares. We have heard people say that our infrastructure is not designed for such temperatures, there is little or no air conditioning and some building are poorly ventilated. However man has lived without AC for thousands of years and thrived.
We are a hugely resilient species. Our bodies have an internal feedback system that responds to the external environment. As the temperature rises, blood flow to the surface of the skin increases to allow heat to escape. Our brain also activates sweat glands. The sweat evaporates and this helps to keep our core temperature stable. Our respiratory system also responds and our respiratory rate increases as another way to remove heat from the body – think of panting dogs. In addition our metabolic rate slows down to reduce our own heat production.
We can help by taking off our clothes, pouring an iced cold drink (with an umbrella in it) and follow the shade round the garden.
Most of us don’t drink enough water on cool days and the more we sweat and the faster we breathe the more fluid we lose. This can very quickly become dehydration. We have written about the effects of this and the importance of staying hydrated before.
When the temperature sores, we must respond by increasing our fluid intake, particularly those who are on water tablets (medications for blood pressure and heart disease that make you pee more).
When our internal mechanisms for keeping our core temperature stable at 37oC cannot keep up with the external temperature, that core temperature starts to rise. If it gets to 39oC heat exhaustion sets in. We literally feel exhausted, the communication between our brain and our muscles slows down. Our skin is hot and flushed, we can develop headaches, loose our appetite and feel dizzy and sick.
If our core temperature gets to 40oC heatstroke is a risk.
If you suspect someone has heat exhaustion or heatstroke follow this link for validated advice
It is important to respect the heat and the effect it can have but we must not allow ourselves to be ruled by fear. Our top tips for staying safe in the hot weather whilst maintaining the wellbeing of your mind and body are as follows:
1. Hydrate well – take the opportunity to sit down and have a drink. Rest for a while or use the time to have a mindful conversation with a friend or relative
2. Enjoy the beautiful weather connecting with nature in a mindful way but make it in small doses taking time in the shade to cool down
3. Small children and the elderly are particularly at risk so please keep an eye on your loved ones. This includes pets, make they have access to plenty of fresh water
4. Don’t forget your factor 50 and a sunhat
5. If you feel hot and bothered, take a break and practice some diaphragmatic breathing to create calm
6. Ice in a bowl in front of a fan creates a lovely cool breeze
7. Access help if you need it
8. Rehydration drinks can be very expensive. Here is an NHS approved recipe for a home-made version called St Mark’s Solution:
1 litre of water
6 level 5ml spoons of sugar
1 level 5ml spoon of salt
1 heaped 2.5ml spoon of bicarbonate of soda
Mix all the ingredients together and add squash to taste. Sip this through the day to stay hydrated.
Remember, one of the lovely thing about the UK is the intensity of the seasons and the fact that change is always just over the brow of the hill. Using the Buddhist philosophy that nothing lasts forever, change your mindset, let go of fear and enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.