Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Summer that Melted My ADHD Brain (and the Eight Ways I Beat the Heat!)

Dang, it's hot!

My favorite times of the year are Spring and Fall. Then I can emerge from my protective cocoon, spread my wings, and go outside without dying. In the Winter, the cold moisture gives me bronchitis. Just ONE cold can linger for weeks, so I curtail my beloved walks and slog on a treadmill instead. But the Summer! Wow! The Summer melts my brain. At least in the Winter I can still think and function, but the heat reduces my brain to a gelatinous goo that prevents coherent thought. I used to hide inside for months, but over the years the boredom of the shut-in life drove me outside out of sheer desperation. Unfortunately, if I stay out in the heat too long, I need hours to recuperate. Who can afford 3 hours of downtime? Now I have a list of coping strategies to help me keep my ADHD mind working at top form even when my brain is at full boil inside my skull. Since I live in the desert, I have to take precautions. I've done some polling here on the site, and I've discovered that many people with ADHD have a problem with heat. In fact, I've written about this years ago. For me, the temperature that cooks my brain is anything over 85°F. This is an improvement from ten years ago when 80°F would melt my noggin like a popsicle in the sun. For others it is higher or lower. Maybe it's not an ADHD thing at all, but for your edification, here are some things I do to keep myself productive despite the heat.

  • Stay indoors when possible. That's an easy one. I try to avoid running errands during the heat of the day. It has the added benefit of not being trapped in a car in traffic during lunch hour break.
  • Use air-conditioning. This isn't as obvious a hint as you might think. I know many people who save money in the Summer by refusing to use their AC. I suggest that maybe you should considered your AC as a productivity tool. I keep my thermostat at 74°F and have a ceiling fan that I work under. My electricity bill is higher in the Summer, but I remain productive. I consider it a fair trade-off.
  • Keep hydrated. I used to guzzle Gatorade, but I've recently switched over to my own homemade version. A pinch of light salt (plain ole salt cut with potassium chloride), some brown sugar to taste, and a few drops of concentrated lime juice mixed into a cold glass of water does the trick. My daughters think it's disgusting. Good. More for me. At the very least, drink cups and cups of cool water, especially if you have to be outside commuting, traveling, or running errands. I have a Brita water bottle that I fill up all day long. I get my daily eight cups of water and more
  • Shield your car from the heat. I used to pay for covered parking so that my car was never baking in the sun, but I canceled that service because I'm trying to reduce my monthly costs. If I could afford the $20, I would happily pay it. If you don't have a garage, and you park in the sun, at least get a sun shield to try to reduce the heat. You can buy generic or fitted sunshades, or make your own. When I have to drive in a hot car, my brain isn't happy with me afterwards. Now I crank the AC in my car because it costs less to pay for the wasted gas than for the covered parking spot.
  • Think positively. Yes, this works. I start by telling myself, "I can do this." I generally function better when I think that way as opposed to, "Ohmigosh! I'm gonna die! It's too freakin' hot! ARGH!", which is more entertaining, but less motivating.
  • Keep popsicles in the freezer. These help immensely when I'm overheated. I like to buy healthy fruit juice and make my own popsicles.
  • Wet a towel with cold water, and put it around your neck. Summers in Utah are brutally hot. When I come in from outside, if I haven't prevented myself from overheating, I might shut down on the couch for hours as I cool off and come back online. The trick is to plan ahead. If the temp is in the 90s, stick a wet towel in the fridge for when you come back. And if that isn't cold enough, fill a ziplock bag with ice and water and hold it on your head. It's excruciatingly effective.
  • The Nuclear Option. When I'm in severe meltdown, an ice cold shower sometimes helps, but I usually more. I fill a bucket with cold water, toss in a ton of ice, then plunge my feet into the water. It's a tad extreme, and I can only stand it in short sessions, but it pulls my temperature down in a hurry. Lay down a towel under the bucket for your feet to rest on while you catch your breath between sessions. If I need to cool down in a hurry, I soak my feet in ice water, drape an ice cold towel around my neck, and suck on a Popsicle!

Here in Utah we're just getting started with the hot weather. I mean, it's Summer, right? It's already been 99°F this week. I don't know how you Arizonans do it. Being a sun-broiled Utahn is hard enough for me. I usually follow the typical pattern of blissfully enjoying the Spring, then spending a week or two mystified & fried before realizing I need to use my Summer coping strategies again. Somehow, they get packed away with the Summer towels and kick boards. Now I'm unpacking them and saving myself a lot of trouble going forward. Enjoy your Summer, and keep cool!

If you thought these words were heated, you'll enjoy my cool book on overcoming suicide.