Beating summer & monsoon blues


Dear readers, please don’t ignore muscle stiffness or cramps in the belief that they will go away. Recently, my calves suddenly felt stiff. I was surprised. I’m fit. I drink two to three litres of water a day. So, what was the matter? The fact is: weather conditions are changing and our bodies are sensitive to the environment. So we’ve got to factor in the ever-changing conditions bringing heatwaves, heavy monsoons, lingering winters and navigate our way to health accordingly.

It sounds strange to link my calf stiffness to the weather… but as our planet emanates heatwaves, our muscles lose water and salts quicker and hence come the cramps. Research says that since 1975, the temperature has been rising by 0.15 to 0.20 degrees Celsius per decade. And according to the United Nations, ‘It is near-certain that 2023 to 2027 will be the warmest five-year period ever recorded.’

To avoid heat exhaustion, these are the symptoms we’ve got to watch out for: acute thirst, loss of appetite, headache, dizziness, blurring of vision, feverishness, nausea, cold and clammy sweat or high body temperature, loss of concentration and, hence, confusion, irrational behaviour, weakness, cramps, fainting, anxiety and depression. Remember, these are not things to be alarmed of, we just have to take a few extra precautions amidst these changing conditions until, one day, our body adapts, strengthens and stabilises itself. And those precautions for the long term are:

Avoid the midday sun. When your body is already heated, its ­temperature could continue to rise. If you must go out, wear a cap and move around in a vehicle as that would allow the breeze to cool your face.

Keep drinking cool water. Include a beverage containing electrolytes. People who sweat a lot lose potassium and sodium — this can cause weakness, spasms, cramps in muscles, or reduced brain functioning resulting in feeling disoriented, fuzzy and confused. Have a banana or two. Plan your meals around potatoes, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, peas and beans. Don’t go on a low-salt diet if you sweat profusely. The body needs sodium to maintain body-fluids balance to help muscles and nerves to function smoothly.

Apply a cool, wet cloth on your forehead. Or press an ice pack to your head, face and neck on a sweltering day. Have cool baths instead of warm ones.

Eat water-rich fruits and vegetables — water melon, musk melon, strawberries, oranges, cucumber, lettuce, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes and de-seeded capsicum. Chilled cucumber soup with mint leaves cools the stomach instantly.

Substitute dehydrating liquids — alcohol, coffee, caffeinated soft drinks — with cool hydrating skimmed milk, buttermilk or lassi. Add sabja seeds to these beverages as they are natural body coolers. They ease constipation too.

It’s the perfect time to quit smoking. Why draw more fire and smoke into your over-heated lungs? Besides, smoking constricts blood vessels that could lead to high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease.

Continue exercising. It strengthens your immune system. Don’t push ­yourself — use lighter weights, do fewer reps. Prefer cool indoors to sizzling outdoors. Walk only at dawn or dusk. Swimming is a good option. While exercising, if you feel uncomfortably hot, pause… drink an electrolyte drink, shower and relax. Your well-being is more important than those reps.

Wear loose, light clothes. When you sweat, a loose shirt or top acts like a cooling, billowing sail when the wind goes through it. Carry a spare. Prefer light colours as they reflect heat, while dark colours absorb it.

From the waves of heat, let’s move on to the gales of storms.

According to doctors in Mumbai, the early showers drenched many a commuter and cases of viral fever shot up in the city. There is no doubt that abrupt climate change impacts our health and well-being. Experts say unseasonal rainfall affects the air movement and the quality of the air that we breathe in — along with oxygen, we also inhale airborne allergens and pollutants.

How do we deal with our monsoons which have turned mercurial? Some suggestions:

Remain reverent. In India, we’ve always seen rain as a blessing. Continue to do so even when it plays hide and seek or drops in like an unexpected guest. Love the rain for it cleans the pollution from the smoggy air and the dust from our tired minds.

Increase Vitamin C intake — sprouts, green beans, oranges and lime. It shields us from fever, throat infection, cold and flu by strengthening our immune system.

Drink boiled or filtered water. Even in the wet season, the body needs hydration.

Avoid street food. The potholes around incubate germs. And the food in the vicinity left uncovered is susceptible to these germs. It’s wise to stick to well-cooked home food.

Have more probiotics — curd and buttermilk — laced with prebiotics: raisins. Together, they keep the gut healthy. Be even more careful if there’s flooding in the area. It spreads pathogens that cause gastrointestinal problems. Also, water getting into the building or flat can result in mould which releases tiny spores into the air and increases asthma, coughing and throat infections. Gargle with hot water daily. Keep cough syrups and inhalers handy. Add ginger to tea and cinnamon to coffee. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties. Cinnamon provides anti-bacterial benefits.

Observe strict hygiene. Wash hands, feet, legs after an outing.

Cover vessels. Don’t allow any water to pool anywhere — it’s a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Consider an annual maintenance contract with a reputed pest control agency.

Exercise! If the streets are flooded or there’s a heavy downpour, stay indoors and use the stationary bike, spot-march or dance. Do breathing exercises to help reduce respiratory problems. It’s safe to walk in a mild drizzle. Wear a windcheater or raincoat. Use only shoes with grooved soles — they grip the ground better and prevent you from slipping.

Where’s the sun? When the clouds hang heavy and sunlight is absent, the body continues producing the sleep hormone melatonin in our waking hours, causing sleepiness. Besides, the continuous pitter patter of rain referred to as ‘pink noise’ can lull us further. To remain alert and active, switch on the brightest lights in the room. Do 20 windmills vigorously. Eat protein-rich foods — pulses, paneer, nuts, tofu, milk, green peas. Protein stimulates the mind. Avoid noodles, burgers, fries, alcohol — they promote lethargy.

Every morning, be grateful for all that you are and all that you have. Gratitude brings about a psychological balance and provides the ballast of trust instead of fear and anxiety.

Embrace weather extremes by good practices. Be calm and stable amidst the fluctuations. It’s the kindness you give others, the gentleness you gift yourself with that foster tranquility in turbulent times and remind us that life is still beautiful.

The writers are authors of Fitness for Life and Simply Spiritual – You Are Naturally Divine and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme


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