How to Deal with Europe's Heat Waves

Europe’s Heat Waves: Battling 49ºC Like An Expert

Coping with extreme weather isn’t rocket science. Although humanity’s dependence on modern-day comforts has rendered our species more or less incompetent in dealing with nature and its periodic rage, for instance those sweltering heat waves.

If you landed here expecting a list of exciting tips & tricks, then you’re in for a bit of a bummer I suppose. I don’t have a list for you. What I do have is over thirty years of life experience in coping with extreme temperatures, mostly heat. Although I should put a disclaimer out right away that I haven’t experienced the coldest and the hottest places on earth yet. My personal experience ranges from 49ºC to -19ºC. If we incorporate ‘apparent temperature’, then let’s say about 52ºC on a 38ºC day. All the same, if it kills, then the weather is deemed extreme. Let’s go by that straightforward definition.

So Europe is currently being hit by its second heat wave of the summer. Records have been broken. People are trembling. And I have three recommendations for you to better deal with this heat wave, so to say.

The first one – you won’t like it:

Control Your Mind

First things first – don’t fret. Much like many things life, mind is your best tool to counter the effects of a heat wave. You see, we humans go by perceptions a lot. So the fact that we are bombarded by news headlines highlighting startling figures or our colleagues and friends passionately talking with a sense of national urgency about the weather forecast for the following Thursday already begins to wreck your game of coping. Now you’re already struggling in your mind. Last time you experienced something near to what’s coming, it wasn’t pleasant. Nightmarish, even.

“39.8ºC? Oh my goodness!”

So what can you do now? Not much more than to control your mind, I say. Kill the perceptions. See, I’ve walked out into the sun in 47ºC+. Many times. It was fine. It was hot, but fine. I’ve let that humongous figure overwhelm my nerves in the past. Hundreds of thousands of people die across India every year during the summers. It can be scary. But over time I taught myself to cope…mentally.

Where I come from the nighttime temperature on the worst nights can be 35ºC even indoors. Once I mastered my mind to cope, I could manage to fall asleep without air-con, with just the ceiling fan.

The funniest part is when the power goes out. Power outage? Sleep? What’s that!?

It’s 2019 so most people don’t bother doing so, but in my childhood the city would do marathon power cuts, and at bed time everybody would line up in the garden or the rooftop over a Charpai or merely a bed sheet on the floor, entertain each other, and fall asleep. Sleeping outdoors under the open sky was relieving in that heat.

So before your mind controls you, you control your mind. That’s the trick. Reassure yourself – ‘It is very hot indeed, but it’s fine. I can cope with this’. The idea is to not let your mind panic. Once you panic, that’s when things start going down the hill very-very rapidly. If you can avoid panicking, you’ll realize that you’d be much more functional. Not least uncomfortable, but at least functional. On the plus side you’d avoid being obnoxious to your loving fellow humans who are probably not feeling much better than what you are. Don’t perceive the heat more than it is necessary.

Weather forecast for the German city of Wiesbaden – Europe's Heatwaves

Talking of influencing perceptions – look at how this weather forecast highlights Hot in red. That immediately sets off alarm bells in your head more than it should.

Your mind can be your best friend; but it can also be your worst enemy. So use it wisely. Once you are able to control your mind, half of the battle is won already. The other half is physical coping.

Drink Plenty of Water

Our bodies are machines, much like the engines of our cars. Cars need coolants to keep it cool. So do our bodies. And water is the choice of coolant for the human body.

Drinking a minimum of 2 litres of pure water is recommended on a regular day. That’s what the body absolutely needs. On a hot summer day though, make it 3 minimum. You see, our bodies perspire in small quantities all through the day and night. And when it’s ridiculously hot, we perspire to the degree of what’s generally referred to as grossly sweating. Naturally, more water the body loses, the more it needs to replenish. So don’t be shy. Give your body what it needs.

By the way, water means water. It doesn’t mean soda, juice or even sparkling water. Relish in them every now and then, but do not try to replace water. Drink water.

Take Frequent Showers

Calling it a day and going to the swimming pool to spend a whole day there isn’t always an ideal solution, not for everyone anyway.

I once lived in a shoddy Delhi neighbourhood, albeit luxuriously within the context. Those were college days. One day the power was out the whole day. The outage ran into the night. And then into the early hours of the next day.

I remember counting: I showered 11 times that day! It was hot, it was unbearable and it was loooong. The ordeal seemed to never end. Through the day was fine. But it really began taking its toll when by nighttime an exhausted me kept turning sides on the bed desperately trying to catch some sleep. We’re talking a power cut over 16 hours long. Out of my best memory, it started before midday and the power finally came back on around 3 in the morning the following day.

3-4 showers a day for me was a natural way of keeping myself cool during the summers. But on this extraordinary day and under those extraordinary circumstances, there was nothing else I could do. I had to spend a big chunk of my evening at a shopping mall to get by. After a few hours when I returned home, nothing had improved. Laying in bed trying to fall asleep meant soaking the bed wet with sweat and changing sides in desperate hope to feel better. Nothing gets better.

So I showered 11 times that day. 4 or 5 of those showers came around and after midnight. Not full-fledged intensive showers. Just a couple of minutes under cold water to cool the system down. Do it. Not 11 showers. But consider taking 2-4 showers a day.

Those are my un-rocket-sciency recommendations to keep cool when the mercury hits 35ºC or more. An important tip—almost to the point of being a medical advice—is to never step out into direct sunlight with an empty stomach. Eat a small bite and drink plenty of fluids (preferably water) before stepping into the sun. Most people who die or end up with a heatstroke, they most certainly are careless about their stomach situation. Never underestimate it.

Finally, a word of caution: None of the above is a medical advice. Neither am I a medical practitioner. You can’t sue me if you followed my advice and yet ended up sick or dead.

Have a happy summer! 🙂

💼 Mindfulpreneur ✈️ Traveller 🏨 Helping other travellers travel @ithstays
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