Summer is a treasured time of year for most Manitobans. The summer season in this province is oh-so-short, and after a long winter and often drawn-out spring, summer is most certainly necessary for our mental and physical well-being! So how can we stay healthy and reap all the benefits that summer offers? How do we healthfully navigate through all the barbecues, the social gatherings, the play-dates, camping and road trips? Let these Top 10 be your guide, to help you come out of summer feeling energized, re-charged and ready to take on another fall/winter season!
Here are my Top 10 Healthy Summer Essentials to get you started on your health goals:
1. Get outside as much as you can Let's face it, many of us like to hunker down indoors when the weather gets colder. Manitoba winters can be brutal—the icy winds, the treacherous roads and walkways, the snow..ugh! For those that embrace winter, I salute you! Keep up the good work! For the rest of us, let's reflect on how we can embrace the outdoors to the max during the warmest season. Take your bike to work, eat your lunch outside, talk a walk over your lunch break, have a picnic, barbecue your supper and eat on the patio, garden or work on the yard, wash the car, have a lemonade stand with the kids, or enjoy some 'R&R' in the hammock...get creative and maximize your time outside...it'll do you good!
2. Be 'sun-smart' If you long for golden skin as summer descends, please consider a few things first. The sun's rays can be very powerful and potentially damaging, more-so for children, those with fair-skin and those on certain medications (including some antibiotics, Benadryl, ibuprofen, and others—please ask your pharmacist or medical doctor for more information). Small amounts of direct sunlight are beneficial, as this can trigger the production of vitamin D in our bodies, improves sleep quality, improves mood, can improve some skin disorders and strengthens our immune system. 'Small amounts' means around 15-20 minutes of direct sunlight per day, so if you are planning to be outside longer be sure to protect your skin! Best thing to do is to stay in the shade, wear clothing that covers your skin, and wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes and face. Secondly, consider using a sunscreen on exposed skin, and re-apply every 2-hours. For a list of 'clean' sunscreens (i.e. free of harmful chemicals) click here to see the website. In addition to protecting yourself from the sun, you should also protect yourself and the vulnerable from the heat and humidity. Be aware that signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, fatigue, rapid pulse, muscle cramps, headache, vomiting, diarrhea. Heat stroke can include similar symptoms, but also with a lack of sweating and raised body temperature. These are very serious medical conditions and may require medical intervention immediately.
3. Stay hydrated I've said it before and I'll say it again...drink your water! Based on your body weight in pounds, you need to drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces daily...as a baseline (NOT taking into account becoming overheated). Add on an additional 1 cup for every 30 minutes of exercise or profuse sweating/time in the sun. Furthermore, if you choose to indulge in alcohol, try drinking extra water before you drink, or alternate your alcoholic bevvies with an equal amount of water. Infusing water with lemon can improve the hydration factor. Here's another hot tip: try chilling your favourite herbal tea (my personal favourite is blueberry tea!), along with some lemon, fresh mint leaves and maybe a touch of honey or Stevia for a little sweetness...and voila! Healthy herbal iced tea! Other beverages like soda pop, coffee, black tea and energy drinks can dehydrate you, so rather focus on consuming water or herbal iced tea when you are enjoying the outdoors and sunshine. For a healthy electrolyte-replenishing try coconut water, or make your own by adding a few additional ingredients to 1L of homemade herbal iced tea: 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp calcium magnesium powder or liquid, and 1 tbsp of honey.
4. Eat fresh, eat local One of the best things about this province is the diversity in our local fare! If you are lucky enough to have a garden of your own—please enjoy!! Otherwise, keep your eyes open at your community's supermarkets for locally sourced food. Visit your local farmer's markets or make friends with those in the community that grow their own produce. Aim to eat more fresh, raw, organic produce while those items are in season...2-3 servings of fruits and 4+ cups of vegetables every day is an excellent goal. Try making smoothies, salads, soups, and preserve fresh produce whenever you can. A great investment is a deep-freezer—with this appliance you can prepare your family for the long winter ahead by freezing your fresh, delicious produce for year-long consumption.
5. Be active outdoors Rethink how you get about town and how you exercise in the summertime! Walk, jog, ride your bike, skateboard...the point is if your finding creative ways to get from point A to B, AND you're not at the mercy of those horrid gas prices! Go outside with the kids and throw a Frisbee or ball, play a game of lawn bowling at a park, head to the local outdoor public pool or splash pad, or visit the local city attractions such as The Forks. Plan a day at the beach, mini-golf, a camping trip, or plan a hike (my personal favourite: Pembina Valley Provincial Park). Protect yourself from insects and ticks, by wearing light-coloured clothing, tucking your pants into your socks and using the appropriate insect repellent. Attend your favourite street party or outdoor festival, and dance the night away under the stars!
6. Screen-free challenge Part of the beauty of summer is how the sunshine and the outdoors beckon us to come enjoy...so don't resist! Give in to the temptation! Why not unplug, detach from social media, and take a break from all electronic platforms? Checking Facebook and Instagram can be a great way to stay in touch, but it can also be the ultimate time-waster. Challenge yourself to a 2-week (or more!) social media hiatus! It will reaffirm your connection to nature, to the moment and to those around you. Do it!
7. Take a break As our Manitoba summers are so short, if you are able to take some time away from work, be sure to do so! And even if a 2+ week vacation is not possible, consider leaving work a little early here and there on a Friday or weekday, to maximize your time with family, friends or simply enjoy the outdoors solo. Take a nap in a park, in a hammock, or on a beach...the point is: slow down! Watch the sun set, read a book or do a puzzle in the park, have a fire in the backyard...the possibilities are endless!
8. Set boundaries Let's face it...summer is often a time we let it all hang out! Diet restrictions, exercise regimes and bedtimes become more lax. Alcohol consumption can also increase. By mid-summer you may start to notice changes in how you feel—sluggishness, heaviness, aches and pains. Health goals...out the window! Instead, why not practice moderation? For example, plan to eat healthy when you can (at least during the work week). Plan your meals and prepare lunches and suppers, Monday to Friday. Abstain from alcohol during the weekdays and save indulgences for special occasions or weekends (and stay extra-hydrated on those days). Stick to a reasonable bedtime during the week (if your bedroom is too bright, invest in black-out blinds or a face mask) and allow yourself a short nap on weekends if your nights get too late. You may even like to consider setting in place a personal health goal or challenge—for example, a physical activity goal, completing a 3-week cleanse (i.e. a clean diet and supplement regime, under the guidance of a naturopathic doctor), or alcohol abstinence. Ending summer on a fit and healthy note will give you a jump-start for autumn.
9. Take care of your skin I already mentioned protecting your skin from the sun. However, after-care for sunbathed skin includes moisturizing and occasional exfoliation. Use unscented, gentle soaps, a natural bristled body brush, and consider a coconut oil sugar scrub to finish in the shower (see my recipe section for a simple, homemade body scrub) Coconut oil can be an excellent moisturizer and is great for removing make-up too. I also love the feeling of cocoa butter-based moisturizers, as they leave you smelling like the beach! If your skin is sunburned or itchy, consider a calendula-based salve or cream.
10. Declutter your life You've heard of spring-cleaning...but why not a summer-declutter? Spring and summer are great times to go clean out your fridge, freezer, closet, shed and storage areas. Toss expired or stale foods; freezer-burnt foods; or items you no longer wish to eat (if any of these items are not expired consider donating to your local food bank). For clothing or household items, organize a yard/ garage sale, advertise online or donate. With less clutter in your rooms, closets and cupboards, think about rearranging your rooms to create a cleaner, calmer and more 'zen' environment. If possible, create a space for meditation, creating art or music, or for just relaxing. Put on a fresh coat of paint, buy a few plants and embrace your new space. Whether you are in need of a health coach or want to try a few things before connecting with a naturopathic doctor, consider putting this Top 10 list into action and see if you can feel the difference. I'm willing to bet that within a couple of weeks of following these guidelines you will almost undoubtedly notice a difference!