A person gardening under a shady tree to avoid the heat

Navigating the Summer with Heat Intolerance

The arrival of summer always brings along a sense of apprehension for me. I’m a Jersey girl – born and raised. So for the past 43 years I have been spending my summers on the beach (or as we like to say “down the shore”). I also love shopping at the farmers markets on the weekends. And now that I’m a mom, I love spending time at the park with my daughter.

What do all of these have in common? They’re all outdoor activities in the heat of the summer – not exactly the ideal scenario for me living with heat intolerance thanks to my MS diagnosis in 2016.

MS can put a major kink in summer activities

So as in many similar situations, I am seeking that dance between honoring my body’s needs due to the limitations of MS, but also determined to still create meaningful experiences in my life.

It’s always a dance, isn’t it? Sometimes we need a little more rest, other days we feel good enough to rally. With MS, I’m always evaluating the circumstance of that moment. Is this a time when I’m okay to move forward, or is this a time I need to scale back?

So, how do we juggle the desires of our heart with the needs of our body? How do we enjoy the summer without pushing our limits?

How I manage the heat

Here's what I've learned from my dance with MS in the summer heat. I’m sharing it in hopes that it can help you, and I would love to know, in the comments below, what’s working for you so we can learn from you too.

Stay cool

Thank you captain obvious, right? But I do find it helpful to pause and ask myself how I can best stay cool in every new environment that I encounter. For my beach days, that means having an umbrella and taking frequent dips into the cool ocean. For my farmers market days, it may be wearing an ice vest and for the park days, it means staying in the shade and wearing a hat. It’s different for each day and each environment, so re-evaluating is always helpful.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Honestly, I always carry a water bottle with me year-round. It’s just a habit that I got into. During the summertime, I add ice and make sure that I’m sipping throughout the day – these small sips throughout the day are also a little easier on the bladder, too!

Plan ahead

If I’m planning a day out, I try to schedule activities in the morning or late afternoon when the sun isn't so intense. I also choose shaded or air-conditioned locations. And of course, planning a light, loose-fitting outfit will be helpful, too.

Listen to the body

Living with MS, it’s easy to feel like our body is working against us, but I really try to treat my body with compassion, even when I’m not happy with how it’s acting. The body is our best guide. If I start to feel overheated, I change my environment and take a break, and I don’t wrap myself in guilt because of it.

Be honest

I come from a belief that it’s always better to overcommunicate, even on the things that I may feel uncomfortable addressing like the limitations of MS. If I’m making plans with family and friends, I have to be upfront about my heat sensitivity. They're always understanding and accommodating, but I can’t assume that they know my needs unless I clearly communicate them.

A balancing act

Again, this is all a balancing act. No two experiences with MS are the same, so how can we expect to predict a perfect plan that avoids all problems? We can’t, so don’t put that pressure or expectation on yourself.

Have compassion with yourself. You’re managing MS, which is no easy feat, and you’re still trying to get the most out of life. We can care for our body and heart’s desires. We just need patience and compassion along the way.

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