Heat Wave Health and Happiness
Heat Wave Health and Happiness
There’s something eerie and kind of magic about a heat wave. Four days in a row of temperatures above 40 degrees is too much for most people. We get tired and irritable. It’s just too damn hot. And while everyone is complaining about how uncomfortable they are, it becomes even more uncomfortable to announce your own enjoyment of the situation because it implies that you have the money, free time and good fortune to be swimming, eating ice-cream and basking in the sunshine.
If you’re loving the heat, you’re probably not the person sweltering on public transport to and from work each day, or sweating it out in a factory. You’re probably not old, or sick, or taking care of young children or animals. You’re probably not homeless, or living in a bushfire danger zone. You’re not vulnerable.
But there is something about the extreme weather that unites us. We ask each other how we’re coping with the heat and encourage one another to stay cool. There’s a sense that we all have something in common that we have to deal with. We are sharing the experience of a unique event.
I’m lucky. I took time off work and spent the week swimming and laughing with my friends and family. But it’s not just because I’m lucky. It’s because I prioritise my health and happiness. I thought about how sometimes having less, translates to having more. I had less money this week but more free time. I watched roaring-red sunsets on the beach. I marvelled at my three-month old nephew’s ability to hold his head up out of the water and kick his legs about in delight. I discovered that it was ten degrees cooler in Lorne, than in the city. I swam in rock pools. I learnt that my sister, mother of two, can do handstands and backflips in the water. I stayed out late with friends and sat around in St Kilda drinking beer, eating ten-dollar burgers, and talking about politics (that’s right, in my book you can drink beer and eat burgers on occasion, and still be a healthy person).
I let things go. I didn’t wash my hair because the bathroom was too hot to stand in for more than ten seconds. I didn’t wash dishes, or clothes. It was too hot to cook. Everything that wasn’t absolutely essential went into the once-the-heat-wave-has-passed pile and I remembered the saying ‘beside the noble art of getting things done, is the more noble art of leaving things undone’. You can’t do it all. Often we focus on the peripheral and ignore what’s most important. If you’re up-to-date with the trivial stuff, then what haven’t you had time for? Your family? Your friends? Meditation? Contemplation? Music? Reading? Exercise? Yourself?
Sometimes the most important thing you can do is just relax. Someone asked me how I keep my exercise routine and practice up in the extreme heat? My answer was simple: I don’t. If there is ever a time to rest, a heat wave would be one of them. The routine will still be there when the heat has passed. Stop trying to do so much. Stay hydrated. Relax. Relax more.
The heat wave has reminded me to keep it simple. That life is at its happiest and healthiest when you’re at one with yourself, your environment, and your community.
Cheesy… but true.
Dana Meads is a Melbourne-based writer, with a particular interest in health, psychology, politics and culture.
Email Dana here.