Ahh, summer—a time of fun, relaxation, and soaking up the sun.
But it’s also a sweltering, sticky time when it can be incredibly hard to focus because you’re too busy sweating to think, let alone get work done.
For writers who often work from home or from a shared space, summer can be tricky—you might not have air conditioning, or you might not be in control of the temperature settings where you work.
It’s really hard to think clearly, be creative, and engage fully with your work when the temperature’s too high. Studies have shown that most people work best at a temperature of around 71-72ºF (around 22ºC)—if we get much hotter or colder, our productivity takes a nosedive.
Interestingly, some research shows that we’re more creative when we’re slightly warmer, but a little more focused on repetitive tasks when we’re cooler, so you might want to look for the optimal temperature for the task at hand.
If you want to stay focused, stay comfortable!
Here are 10 easy ways to chill out, keep cool, and get more done this summer.
1. Work Early and Late
Temperatures are cooler early in the morning and late at night. Take advantage of the flexible schedule of being a writer to get your most important work done then, when you can focus more and feel better.
Get up a little early to do some writing, then spend the middle of the day, when it’s hottest, doing something that doesn’t require as much concentration, like setting up email campaigns or tinkering with your Goodreads ads.
At night, when it’s started cooling down again, you can go back to more focused work, like outlining a new chapter, writing blog posts, or digging back into that great scene you left off this morning.
2. Set Up a Fan
By circulating the air around you, fans help you feel cooler. If you don’t have an air conditioner or don’t want the high electric bills that running the A/C all summer can create, consider getting one or more energy-efficient fans.
Try installing a dual-fan window unit and setting one side to “intake” and one to “exhaust”—this sucks in cooler air and pushes out the hot stuff, making it very effective, especially at night. Some models even come with automatic temperature controls!
At your desk, set up a small, quiet USB fan to blast cooling air right at you.
3. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is incredibly important in the summer. If we’re dehydrated, our minds get fuzzy and we have trouble concentrating on even the simplest tasks.
And in the summer, it’s easy to get dehydrated. Warmer temperatures make us sweat more, and high humidity can make it hard for that sweat to evaporate, cooling us down. So our bodies are working overtime to try to keep up, and we need to drink more water to compensate.
Keep a large bottle of water with you at all times, and drink regularly all day. Aim for anywhere from 6 to 10 8-ounce glasses of water per day—around 2 liters total.
Ice water is best, because it makes you feel physically cooler and revs your metabolism while hydrating you.
Not a big fan of plain water? That’s fine! Any liquid will help keep you hydrated, although you should watch your consumption of alcohol and caffeine, which can encourage dehydration. Be careful with sugary drinks, too—hydration is less helpful when you’re packing on the pounds from too many liquid calories!
Try picking up an infuser water bottle and adding slices of cucumber, orange, lemon, lime, or strawberries for a refreshing drink that will keep you sipping all day.
4. Snack Smart
The foods we eat can help keep us cool and hydrated. Plus, snacking the right way can boost your blood sugar and give you a sustained burst of focus and energy, helping you achieve your goals for the day.
Now, I’m not just talking about any old snack—chowing down on a giant bag of chips or a gallon of ice cream won’t help you in the long run. Between the calories and the fact that salt contributes to dehydration, you’ll be feeling sluggish and even warmer.
Cool and Crunchy
Instead, reach for cool, crunchy snacks with low salt and high water content, like watermelon, cucumber, celery, strawberries, or a salad.
Consider topping cucumber slices with tuna salad or a quick yogurt-dill sauce to add protein, giving you the perfect combination of nutrients to power through your day—plus a cooling crunch to counteract the heat.
Hot and Spicy
Another great choice is spicy foods, believe it or not! Spicy foods are popular in hot climates for a reason—the tingling burn they bring on helps cool us down by promoting sweating. As the sweat evaporates, it reduces your core temperature and helps you feel more comfortable.
Toss mango slices or cucumber sticks with a little chili powder and lime juice for a spicy, refreshing snack.
Cold and Creamy
And while ice cream is definitely an awesome way to cool off, it’s high in calories and the fat content can make you feel drowsy instead of energized.
Instead, grab a single-serving container of Greek yogurt, or pop a container of yogurt in the freezer for an extra-cold snack. Homemade popsicles using berries and yogurt are another healthy, cooling option.
Freeze grapes for a great, sweet, cold snack.
Or slice up some bananas, freeze them, and then whirl them in the food processor to make a banana “soft serve” ice cream.
You’ll amp up your nutrition for the day and cool down at the same time!
5. Catch a Night Breeze
Temperatures drop at night, even during the hottest part of summer.
Take advantage of nature’s own air conditioning by opening a bunch of windows in your house each evening. If you can, open windows on opposite sides of a room or on opposite sides of the house—this will encourage a cross-breeze, where cool air gets sucked through your home, cooling everything down.
6. Keep the Curtains Closed
The view out your office window is fabulous, but the sun’s rays coming through it are scorching.
To help keep your home cool, close the curtains on every window each morning. Be sure to get a little sunlight to help you wake up and get energized for your day, but then close everything up.
You can also apply a heat-control film to your windows to block the sun and lower your cooling costs.
7. Take a Cold Shower
The fastest way to drop your body temperature is to take a cold shower.
This doesn’t have to be searingly, achingly cold, mind you—just water that’s cool to the touch instead of being steamy warm.
Don’t dry off completely—instead, leave a little moisture on your skin and then go stand by a fan for the biggest cooling benefit.
Showers help in two ways. First, they cool you off immediately, counteracting the heat of the day. Second, they keep you cool even after you’ve shut off the water by encouraging evaporation. As the water dries on your skin, it produces a cooling effect and keeps your body temperature lower for longer.
If you’re really wilting in the middle of the day, hop in a cool shower for just 10 minutes and you’ll come out revived and ready to go.
8. Pop a Mint
Although peppermint, spearmint, and other minty things don’t actually cool us down, they trick our minds into thinking we’re cooler.
That’s because of a specific protein receptor that binds to menthol, the active ingredient in mint. This receptor also gets activated by cold things, so our bodies can’t tell the difference between being cold and tasting something minty.
To trick yourself into feeling cooler, pop a stick of peppermint gum, grab a strong breath mint, or drink mint iced tea.
9. Ice It
When you’re really suffering in the summer heat, you can create your own personal air conditioning effect by applying ice to the right parts of your body.
The places where our blood flows closest to the surface of our skin are the best places for some strategic cooling.
Grab a few ice cubes and wrap them up in a bandanna or thin kitchen towel. Then put the ice on the inside of your wrists, where you’d feel for a pulse. You can also hold the towel to the pulse points at the side of your neck.
Other good cooling spots are the back of your neck and the back of your knees.
You can also put damp washcloths or towels in the freezer for DIY flexible “ice packs” to wrap around your wrists or neck during the day to help cool off.
Don’t have access to ice? Turn the sink as cold as it can go and run freezing water over the inside of your wrists. It’ll have you perked up and feeling cooler in no time.
10. Go Somewhere Else
No A/C in your home office? No problem!
As writers, we have a lot of flexibility about where and when we work. So if your house or apartment is sweltering, just leave!
Head for a coworking space or a coffee shop that has air conditioning. Grab an iced coffee or tea to help cool you down even more, then set up your laptop and get going.
You can also consider hanging out at the library, in a mall food court, in the public space of a museum, or at other community gathering places. You may get some new ideas for dialogue, scenes, or characters by observing the people around you or by surrounding yourself with art and books.
The change of pace will help you refresh your mental energy even as the nice blast of cold air (on someone else’s electric bill) helps refresh your body and spirit.
By keeping your temperature in the sweet spot of about 72F/22C, you can get more done and feel better all summer.
What’s your favorite way to beat the heat?
For more ways to stay healthy and productive as a writer, read on:
- Why Sitting Is Bad for Your Health and What To Do About It
- 6 Great Stretches for Writers
- 10,000 Steps: How Far Do You Need To Go for Your Health?