Summer Hatin'.
March 30, 2011 2:52 AM   Subscribe

I hate summer. It makes me feel like crap. And it'll be here soon, aaargh. Hope me, Metafilter. Warning: this got long and complain-y.

I don't like summer. I love winter and Christmas, love how cozy it is to curl up at home with hot chocolate when it's freezing out, wrapping up in coats and colourful hats and scarves, love walking along briskly in cold weather.

But I really don't like summer. I become an unproductive, irritable and lazy shadow of myself.

My flat gets very hot and I can't sleep well at night even with a fan on beside the bed. I can't afford to install an air conditioner. I can't keep the windows open overnight because I live on the ground floor. I also wake up stupidly early, as my circadian rhythm reacts I suppose to the longer daylight hours. I spend all day tired. I also get lethargic and can't bring myself to exercise. This is a problem as I am overweight and trying to change that!

I always feel hot because I don't dress in skimpy or revealing clothes - what with being overweight and all. I get really bad allergies, which also affect my sleep, but that's usually for a couple of weeks only, at which point my anti-allergy meds kick in.

I grew up in a hot country but there the houses are built to keep out the heat and we wear long, loose clothing (that I would look odd wearing here). But now I live in the UK, where people actually like being warm.

tl;dr: I hate summer. My problems are 1) staying cool and 2) keeping my energy levels up.

Does anyone else have this problem with summer and can you help me with some coping mechanisms?
posted by Ziggy500 to Grab Bag (35 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
1) Find a way to afford to buy or rent a portable air conditioner. Its a worth while expense if you're miserable. When you're at home, wear loose/light clothing. Keep your drapes/blinds closed to keep out the sunlight and keep the temperature in your flat lower.
2) Exercise somewhere that has air conditioning. You'll want to go to get out of the heat, and the exercise will help you get your energy up.
posted by Kololo at 3:06 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if it is an option but you should move somewhere where you can open the windows. In the UK, open windows plus a fan should really be enough.

Exercising somewhere with air conditioning is a great idea, though.
posted by molecicco at 3:11 AM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: I completely empathise. I hate the heat too and it makes me feel the same way.

I dress only in natural fabrics during the summer.
In terms of energy levels, I take a power nap in the afternoon. Twenty minutes or half an hour does it; any more and I feel groggy.
Exercise also helps. Swimming is a great one and it's cooling.

I've also invested in a huge hand-held fan. Now that I have one, I wonder how I ever survived without it.
posted by mkdirusername at 3:13 AM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: Learn to prepare sorbets, granitas and icy smoothies from fresh fruit.
I practically live on them during hot summer months. They are delicious, awesome alternative to ice cream and they are healthy and good for you.
I also keep a bottle of frozen water in my fridge. In the morning I take it out to unfrost a little and put another water bottle in the freezer. That way I have super cool water all the time.
Also, spring is a great time to go on a diet. You will feel much much better in the summer if you diet a little in the spring.
posted by leigh1 at 3:34 AM on March 30, 2011 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Sleeping under a damp towel can make things bearable when it's really hot and sticky. Under a damp towel with a fan on next to you would be even better.

If you can rig something to shade your sun facing windows, that will help; aim for the midday sun to cast a shadow on the whole window. Failing that, shutting the windows and curtains on the sunny side during the day may help.

If your flat is connected to the rest of the building and there is a window open upstairs, then opening a window on the shady side and opening your door will hopefully cause a chimney effect and take a lot of the hot air upstairs.

Houses in the UK vary a great deal in how well they keep themselves cool; some are much better than others, so if you get a chance to move keep an eye out for something like a house where any big windows face north, the garden is to the north of the house, and where there is good loft insulation. Modern double glazing also helps a lot. Of course your northerly garden may then be dark and poky during the winter!
posted by emilyw at 3:38 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I keep a damp washcloth next to my bed in summer - in a bowl with some ice cubes is good for keeping it cold all night. When I wake up hot I wipe the washcloth behind the backs of my knees, over my feet, across my stomach, and over the insides of my elbows and wrists. Those points really cool you down fast!
posted by lollusc at 4:26 AM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

You need to figure out the best way to keep the air circulating in your apartment. Often a fan by the bed isn't actually the best place for it to be. Perhaps a couple of fans, one in a window blowing air outside and a few directing the hot air into said fan?

Get blackout curtains to keep things darker longer in the mornings or at night to start evening as early as you like. Curtains will also help a lot with insulation, which isn't just for keeping things warm; it also helps massively with keeping things cool. Often, curtains will cost as much as an air conditioner, but perhaps just one room (your bedroom) can be kitted out and you can try to always keep your door closed?

Also don't discount the benefits of hydration. Always have something tasty to drink handy. Maybe there's a cold beverage you'll like as much as hot chocolate?

As for clothing, unless you have a job that specifies a particular uniform, you should be able to at least incorporate the functionality of your childhood's long, loose clothing. Natural fibers, light colors, loose layers - there's nothing strange about wearing any of that in the summer. People in cold climates don't pay much attention to fashion when they're cold in the winter, they just bundle up. You should dress logically for the warmth, too.
posted by Mizu at 4:38 AM on March 30, 2011

I love summer but hate feeling immobilized by heat in un-airconditioned apartments, so I sympathize.

Soaking in cold baths, or cool if you can't stand all-the-way cold, helps a lot. Gold Bond powder is your friend, too: cooling and absorbs moisture/sweat.

If you can't find or afford a gym, exercise outside in the very early morning or late evening. If you don't want to exercise, go outside for a bit anyway. It's usually cooler outside than inside at this time.

I also may or may not have bought several packs of Otter Pops to stuff in my bra and pants. (Trim the corners just a little bit if you resort to this.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:00 AM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

When I lived in an apartment without air conditioning, I kept several trays of ice frozen and made ice water constantly. At first I didn't think drinking something cool would make much of a difference against the utterly oppressive heat, but it turns out that it makes a HUGE difference. Drinking half a liter to a liter of nearly-frozen water was so effective I'd stop sweating almost immediately. The one time my girlfriend visited that sweltering apartment she didn't think ice water would help, but it fixed her right up too.

I don't think that will 100% solve your problems, but seriously - put cold stuff in your belly. It will drop your core temperature just a little, but just enough. It was like having my own personal air conditioner, but inside me.

But I think your long-term solution is to change your living conditions. I don't know what the prices are in the UK, but here in the states you can get a window air conditioner unit for as little as $100. Maybe you can start saving now and buy a small unit that will make your life tolerable?
posted by Tehhund at 5:01 AM on March 30, 2011

If you are renting, could you ask your landlord to have bars installed over your windows, or at least over two of them, so that you can keep air moving at night? Having to keep your place completely shut up in mid-summer with no A/C seems like sort of an intolerable situation, to me.
posted by torticat at 5:07 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do your windows open from the top as well as the bottom? If they do, open them all a little at the top and put a stick between them and the sill so that they can't be opened any further by someone outside. Stale hot air is not good, you need ventilation. Waking up earlier is a good thing if you can use the early morning hours to get some exercise. I've lived (with air conditioning) in hot climates for the last few years and the time just around dawn is always cool enough for my morning walk.

Sleeveless tops or dresses make a big difference somehow.
posted by mareli at 5:16 AM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: This hits really close to home because I have season that fills me with dread as well, and the older I get, the more it gets to me. It's winter. And here's why: I live in the northeast corner of the United States, where our winters in particular are much less pleasant than the UK and we can generally count on being snowed in to the point where you're barely outside for 10 or 12 weeks because there's snow hindering or outright blocking your path, combined with truly oppressive cold. And I have fantasies about moving to Belize or even the UK. And the isolation and lack of light makes me depressed, sometimes a lot. Here's how I get through it:

I love everything else about where I live. I love the shared attitudes, I love the culture, and I love New England summers. So I've got it pretty good, right? The lush, green New England summers, with all the things that I love about them, are my reward for suffering through the horrible winters. When I'm miserable with cabin fever and an aching back from shoveling, I imagine what it will be like when the seasons start to change and getting out of bed will be a pleasure instead of a test of endurance. So you can do with summer: summer is your trade-off for the cozy UK winters that you enjoy. You probably elected to live in the UK for a reason, and for most of us no place is perfect. Summer is the fee you pay in order to have the other nine months of the year make your life the best it can be. Kind of steeped in Calvinist atonement, huh? Well, it works.

Lots of people are giving you physical advice. This is something that you can try to mentally apply along with those good suggestions-- the right attitude is very helpful, and it's a lot easier to obtain if you have a solid base for it. Hope this helps.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:39 AM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

In addition to some great ideas above, try this:

After getting up, before going to bed, and anytime you are miserably hot, take a 60-second shower. The cool clean feeling lasts a while.

Learned this living in hot & humid St. Louis. And spending part of the day at work or in public spaces that are air-conditioned helps keep it from being unrelenting.
posted by lathrop at 5:51 AM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: Have your tried a swamp cooler?

Here are some instructions to make one yourself. (scroll down a bit to skip the ads, I just grabbed the first google link to instructions.) Evaporative Coolers (their proper name) aren't pretty, but they are cheap and moderately effective.

Another tip, take that hot water bottle that is so handy in winter and put cold cold cold water in it, and pop that into your bed at night before you slide in. Same way you do when it's hot, usually where your feet go. Get that space nice and cold. You can also do this with frozen gel packs, but make sure whatever you put in your bed is wrapped in a thin layer of something that will keep your sheets from getting soaked by the condensation. You don't want to be sleeping in a puddle.
posted by bilabial at 5:54 AM on March 30, 2011

I hear you, I work in a restaurant and in summer months it can get brutal. One thing I i will do is keep a comb with me and whenever I get hot, dunk my head in ice cold water. Then I comb my hair back and fasten it so I at least look presentable.

Also ice cold showers before bed.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:03 AM on March 30, 2011

Skimpy clothing is not necessary. Lightweight, light-colored, breathable (cotton, linen, or athletic fabric), loose-fitting clothing is what you need.

Also, lemonade. Fresh-squeezed. Vodka optional.

(For reference, I, too live in hot, humid St. Louis. Also: the UK has a summer? )
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:04 AM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: I love summer. However, I dislike humidity. I live in New York, where we sometimes have very, very humid days in summer. And for a while I had no air conditioner.

A lot of what people have suggested are things I did to keep me from going mad (lots of ice water, breatheable fabrics, etc.), so the only thing I'll add is my secret weapon: Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap. The liquid soap, not the bar. Dr. Bronner's puts a lot of essential oil in all its formulas so they smell really strongly -- and that means they have a lot of peppermint oil in this. And the bonus to that much peppermint oil is that the menthol in the peppermint oil has a temporary cooling effect on your skin. So a cold shower (not freezing cold) before bed, using the Dr. Bronner's, made me comfortable enough to at least get to sleep.

Also, if it got really REALLY hot, sometimes I'd get my bedsheet wet (not dripping, but pretty damp) and sleep under it that way. That also worked really well. But that was more of a desperate measure. (I also did that on a trip to Washington DC, which is even more humid than New York -- I was wearing an outfit that was a sleeveless top and shorts, and a short-sleeved blouse worn over that as a sort of jacket; at some point I wet the blouse and put it back on. It wasn't dripping, but it was wet, and it cooled me off as it dried.)

The Dr. Bronner's is definitely something I recommend, though. Plus the labels are wacky to read.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:23 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is totally off the wall but there is a form of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that affects people in the summer, due to the increased amount of light: low mood, irritability, sleep disruption etc. You mentioned waking up early because your circadian cycle is affected. You might want to check it out. Normally it affects people in the fall and winter, due to lack of light but there are some with the reverse reaction.
posted by PickeringPete at 6:26 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I always feel hot because I don't dress in skimpy or revealing clothes - what with being overweight and all.

So what do you consider skimpy? Short sleeves? Sleeveless shirts? Knee length skirts and dresses? I ask because I think fat folks inflect a huge amount of suffering on themselves in an effort to try to be invisible or inconspicuous. Showing part of your arms or legs in summer isn't what I would consider skimpy or revealing. It's dressing appropriately for the weather. And I promise, the world won't end if you aren't covered wrists to ankles.

I speak deeply from experience. I suffered through a number of Tennessee and NYC summers as a fat girl. And until 5 years ago, I was terrified to go sleeveless. Then one days I was sitting in the park in about 88 degree weather. I had on a tank top (is that a vest in the UK?) with a long sleeve shirt over it. I was dying from heat. So finally I just took the damn shirt off and sat bare armed in the sun. You know what happened? Nothing. My boyfriend joined me, and didn't even notice that I was OMG bare armed in public. We went for a walk... no jeers or children running away in terror. I was around 275lbs at the time, and the I was not arrested for indecent exposure.

Since then, I totally dress for the weather. I live in skirts and dresses (natural fibers as people suggest above), generally knee length (if you are worried about modesty, try wearing a pair of soft, breathable cotton bike shorts underneath). I wear short sleeves, and often sleeveless tops. I carry a light weight cardigan with me for when I end up in AC (but it's also great if I have a random bout of self-consciousness).

You don't have to move into the realm of impropriety, and maybe I've read something into your comment that isn't there, but do reconsider what you feel is appropriate for you to wear in summer. It's the simplest way to cool off.
posted by kimdog at 6:44 AM on March 30, 2011 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Re: seasonal allergies, I found that a quick shower to get stuff out of my hair before going to sleep makes a great difference. And during the height of tree pollen season here, when everything gets coated with fine yellow dust and allergy meds fail, I shower & put on clean clothes as soon as I come in from outside, sometimes 2-3 times a day. It's a lot of water usage, but it helps maintain sanity during that crazy 3-4 week stretch.
posted by philokalia at 6:47 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow! I wasn't expecting such a great response!

Thanks for your help everybody!
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:55 AM on March 30, 2011

I find that I need extra potassium and magnesium in the summer. I suppose that is fairly rare, but if you are one of the people that do you'll feel like hell without it.

I'm going to be checking out bilabial's evap cooler links, but you might like to know that they don't work in places that have this "humidity" I hear tales of. Not pretty though? Oh, in the middle of summer they are beautiful gorgeous things, so so pretty that you could sit in front of it's air outlet and contemplate the beauty of it's rust and mineral deposits for hours.
posted by yohko at 7:29 AM on March 30, 2011

I find that running my head under cool/cold water keeps me cool for a while, until my hair dries. I strongly recommend it. (Or wet a baseball cap in really cold water and wear it for a while -- that's my go-to method when I'm hiking.)
posted by cider at 8:05 AM on March 30, 2011

Like Mayor Curley, I live in New England and love summer and HATE winter (and spring, which here is basically winter, part 2.) I favorited his answer and I want to add one small thing I've done since moving back here. I try to find small things to like about the seasons that are otherwise so miserable. For example, my city is one of the few I've ever seen that looks pretty in the rain. There's something poetically depressing about it. Or, beaches are really cool when covered in snow. They're free of annoying summer crowds, and you can get a good sense of how harsh nature can be, which is impressive even when it feels like your face is going to fall off. So if there's anything you like about summer - some kind of cold drink, or certain flowers in bloom? - concentrate on that.

Also, I just have to ask. You say I can't afford to install an air conditioner. I know they're less common in the UK, so maybe it's not possible, but are you sure you've checked all your options? When I lived in an AC-less apartment, I got a small window unit for less than $100; installation was free b/c I did it myself. (It weighed only ~50lbs.) I didn't really have an extra $100 lying around, but it's worth saving/budgeting for because it was truly oppressive without it. And I say this as someone who shivers and wears a coat until it gets above 75F.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:07 AM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: I sometimes use eyeshades to block out morning light so I don't wake up with the sunrise. I went through a few pairs before finding one that I didn't want to rip off in my sleep, and which didn't deform my eyeballs.

Also, I sometimes hang a black bedsheet to dim the light as well. It's not the same as proper light blocking curtains, but it does help.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:09 AM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: Have you heard of reverse seasonal affective disorder? It's for those of us that get the summer blues instead of the winter blues.

Oh, I'm right there with you! And I live in Arizona!! Tons of great advice in here. One thing that really works for me is getting black-out curtains for all of the windows in my bedroom. It helps keep the heat out, but more importantly it keeps the sun out. I can sleep in to a reasonable time (7 am!) with no problems now. Before I was fighting the sun beginning at 5 am. Also the bedroom now has that cozy feel to it during the day since not much sun is getting through. So, I can go in there at any time, turn on my side lamp, curl up in my cozy chair and read a book or watch a movie. It's *almost* like winter in the summer.

As for wearing more summer appropriate clothes . . . I feel for you. I was always really self conscious about my feet and legs (corrected bilateral club feet with some serious serious scars) so I'd always wear jeans and socks and sneakers. But I just couldn't take it anymore and soon my discomfort replaced my self-consciousness and I started wearing capris and sandals. And no one cared. No one has mentioned my mangled feet. So go be comfortable with confidence! (I know, easier said than done)

Another idea is to make a summertime tradition that will make you look forward to summer and help keep you cool. When it turns hot here I start buying gogurt (the yogurt in a tube) and stick it in the freezer. A cool treat. Also, I religiously buy Paul Newman's Virgin Lemonade. We always have it on hand . . . but only during the hot months (ok, so in Arizona that like 8 months out of the year, but it's still special!).

Maybe treat yourself to a night in an air-conditioned hotel (they usually have black-out curtains!).
posted by Sassyfras at 8:15 AM on March 30, 2011

I really sympathize. So many people complain about Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I (and probably you) have the exact opposite of that. Everything about summer revolts me on a visceral level. It's awful.

One thing that's helped me is to drink a lot of watermelon juice when it's hot out. No, I'm not kidding. For some reason it's very cooling and really helps you deal with the heat. Try it.

Otherwise, focus on the joys of autumn. Fall will be here soon. And you'll feel blissful while everyone complains about how their summer has vanished and how they can possibly cope with another winter.
posted by venividivici at 8:18 AM on March 30, 2011

Hot/cold packs, the kind with the blue gel in them - keep a bunch in a freezer and when one warms up, exchange it for another.

Also, save up for an air conditioner. If they have Craigslist or something similar in the UK, you may be able to get a used one for cheap (I bought all my A/Cs this way here in the States). It is worth it for your sanity. I despise heat as well, so I sympathize.
posted by walla at 8:27 AM on March 30, 2011

I would only add that if you can't get an air conditioner, you can leverage the times when air is cooler to cool your place. Get a couple of very powerful window fans, and in the late evening when it has cooled off, open your windows and put one fan in one window pulling air in and the other fan in an opposite window, pulling air out. Once the house has cooled down, you can shut the house back up and then don't open any windows again until the cool of the next evening (this works best if you can leave the windows open overnight and close them before the heat of the morning, but even if you can't do that, it should help. Maybe you could do a second round in the morning before it starts to warm up). Keep the windows covered in the daytime so the sun doesn't heat the place up. The dark blinds that will let you sleep will be great for this, too. We have used variations on this method to get through all but the worst heat waves.

That said, do re-consider whether an air conditioner is an option. In addition to other things, it will help with your allergies!
posted by not that girl at 10:06 AM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: I hate winter with a purple passion, but bloom in heat and humidity. Almost never ran my air-con in Bangkok, but did leave the windows open. Here are a couple of tricks from the tropics:

1. Cooling your pulse points will cool you quickly. So run an ice cube over your wrists and neck for a fast refresh.

2. What everyone else said about loose appropriate cool clothing.

3. Buy a package of cheap white terry facecloths. Dip in water that has a few drops of lemongrass oil added. Wring out, roll up, and pop in a ziplock bag. Keep these in the frig for when you come in from the heat. So refreshing (guests love them, too).

4. Cold baths always made my body heat up, but two or three quick tepid baths a day will help a lot.

Good luck to you!
posted by cyndigo at 10:40 AM on March 30, 2011

Freeze fruit! It'll cool you down and give you a pretty healthy snack. I've found bananas work really well! Grapes are pretty good too. Play around with it!
posted by astapasta24 at 10:45 AM on March 30, 2011

I agree about the frozen blue gel packs. They come in lots of sizes. When it's really hot, I put them in my pockets, lean back against a wide one in my chair, hold them on my lap, put one in my backpack against my back. I can actually feel chipper and fresh in miserable, sweltering weather that way.
posted by Ellemeno at 11:37 AM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: I feel ya'. A few things that have worked for me, in no real order:
- cool shower before bed, drip dry in bed
- lots of fresh water - try it with cucumber, lemon, mint, etc., to make it interesting
- one of these bandanas that you soak in water - it has some kind of insert that absorbs the water and keeps it damp for a long time. You tie it around the back of your neck, and through evaporation, it really really works.
- get better sun control in your house - blackout shades during the day, getting a breeze going in the right direction at night, with a tray of water and ice in front of it.
- air conditioner. Seriously. Just find one and put it in your bedroom. Knowing that you have ONE place that is cool, relaxing and homey makes all the difference between a panicy "omg hot, can't cool down, ugh I feel gross" all day, feeling hot but knowing that you can retire to a cool and calming respite.
- get your allergies under control a bit more. Use medicine as directed and don't let it get ramped up. Use a neti pot frequently - many doctors now routinely recommend them for patients with allergies and sinus issues. Use one every night to clear out the pollen from the day.
- If you wear shoes, change your socks at lunch. Better yet, change your socks AND shoes.
- invest in better clothing. Linen shirts and grey linen pants (I hate light colored linen - too see-through!) are a godsend. I hate skirts and they make me feel hotter, but some women like them.
- HAT with a brim. It really does work.
- Get some washcloths wet, and put them in baggies in the freezer. Before you go out for the day, grab one and use it to cool your neck, arms, or wipe off sweat. It'll make you feel less grimy.

But the #1 thing for me has been... acceptance. Do all of the above, or whatever works for you, but don't do it all frantically while trying to pretend you don't still get hot! Remember that it's really not that long of a season, especially in the UK. Don't start to get super anxious about it now, before it's even vaguely warm. Basically - deal with it when it's there, but also know that it'll be over at some point soon!
posted by barnone at 12:21 PM on March 30, 2011

I'm not sure what your opinion is on the matter - but smoking a little marijuana works wonders for keeping cool. I think it may affect everyone differently but, for me, as soon as I start smoking I get really cold and stay that way for hours. In fact, during the summer, I have to make sure to turn off the A/C before I start smoking otherwise I will get iced up.
IANAD - obviously, there are downsides and medical consequences to smoking weed but I think it lowers my blood pressure which is what is causing me to feel cold. For what its worth.
posted by blakslaks at 6:29 PM on March 30, 2011

Seconding recommendations for taking ice packs and wrapping them in a towel to "cuddle" when you go to bed. I call it "frozen teddy". I'll either put it against my back or behind my knees or literally hug it and it makes a world of difference on a hot muggy night.
posted by stefnet at 9:21 AM on March 31, 2011

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