Summer is officially upon us. The temperature has risen. The sun is out. Everyone seems more vibrant, and they’re all anxious to go out and bask in the sun’s glory. This is the time of year that most of us look forward to all year long. Some people are already preparing for their summer vacations while others are eager to enjoy taking in the sun’s rays whether it be on the beach, by the swimming pool, tooling around in the garden or driving down the highway with the top down.
Summertime in Traditional Chinese Medicine is a time of year when every living thing is full of abundant energy. In TCM, it is known as Yang energy. It is when we experience an extra burst of energy and manifests as a desire to be active and in constant motion. It is the energy that is stored and bundled up inside during the winter months. It starts to wake up and rear its head during the Spring and is bursting at the seams to come out and express itself once Summer arrives. You may already be noticing the changes in yourself: a more upbeat mood, more energy and stamina to be active, a desire to be more social and outgoing. These are all signs of that extra Yang energy.
There are 5 elements in TCM that correspond with each of the 4 seasons, with the fifth element corresponding to a change that occurs between Summer and Fall. Summertime corresponds to the element of Fire, and since this element has to do with heat, there are some precautionary measures to take during this season in order to not overfuel the Fire element; in other words, finding ways to not overheat. Some of the symptoms of heat exhaustion are: profuse sweating, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, muscle cramps and heat rash. Left untreated, it can lead to heat stroke which manifests with much more severe symptoms like loss of consciousness or even seizures. Heat exhaustion is not that uncommon, especially here in California where many people are actively out in the sun, but it is definitely preventable.
Here are some summer tips that you will want to remember before you head out of the house to enjoy that extra Yang energy you want to expend:
- Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water, and be sure that every family member has at least one decent-sized water bottle available to them. You might want to consider bringing a second one to keep as a stand-by. If you are participating in activities that induce a lot of sweating, you might want to add some type of electrolyte drink to your regimen.
- Stay cool – Try not to stay directly under the sun for long periods of time. Find shade or frequently go indoors to break up intense heat exposure.
- Cool down – If you feel like you are heating up and need something to cool you down, you can try a cool cloth wrapped around your neck. You can also try eating some cool foods like watermelon or cucumber. Cool summer salads and cooler drinks are also refreshing ways to help you cool down from the inside out. Be careful, however, too much of these foods, especially frozen or iced foods and drinks can also be too harsh on your digestive system and cause stomach cramping and diarrhea.
- Be careful of extremes – Although it is nice to come in from the heat into a cold air-conditioned place, be careful of the extremes in temperature. This can be a trigger for that dreaded summer cold. Extremes can also be felt once the sun goes down, and the temperature drops a few degrees. Be sure to bring something to cover up, even if it’s scorching outside. If you happen to be out the whole day, you don’t want to catch yourself unprepared once the temperature cools down.
Remember, everything in moderation, and with that said, stay healthy, and enjoy your summer!