Time Out meets the experts and discovers the best ways to prepare your mind, body and spirit for Summer
It’s about the fifth week of Dubai’s 40°C season: we haven’t seen much vitamin D, the backs of our knees are sweaty and we have third-degree burns on our hands thanks to a you-could-fry-an-egg-on-it steering wheel. Our eyes are twitching with frustration, our white shirts are permanently stained with yellow patches and we’re starting to think life sucks. Summer is normally such a happy word, one associated with picnics, ice cream and barbecues, but in Dubai it means cabin fever, sweat puddles and a general sense of intense discomfort.
There’s no getting around the fact that the heat here is oppressive; with many of us coming from much cooler climates, and cultures that are built up accordingly, it can be hard to adjust. Your body will feel different in the summer and it will need different things, as will your mind. So here’s your guide to getting through the next two months free from lacerations, dehydration and panic attacks.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a mood disorder that can cause depression (usually during winter), conjures up images of pasty Scandinavians huddling around light boxes because they haven’t seen the sun in months. But is it possible to suffer from SAD during our sun-drenched summers? Eileen Mehan, a therapist specialising in NLP and hypnotherapy at Dubai’s Synergy Integrated Medical Centre, says the hot weather can cause problems for some people.
‘One theory is that rising temperatures can affect the hypothalamus in the brain (aka the hormone control centre), and this can alter our ability to cope with mental stress. American researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health believe that heat sensitivity and hormonal imbalances play a crucial role in summer SAD. Thyroid hormone production, for example, is suppressed by heat, and low levels of thyroxin can lead to a lack of energy. Also, growth hormones and prolactin are stimulated by heat, and too much of these can lead to lethargy.’
So what can we do? Here are Eileen’s tips: • Be aware of the associations you make in your mind. If you constantly think and speak negatively about the summer (or anything, for that matter), you will naturally only see and experience the negatives.
• Associate ‘getting to do all those things I normally don’t have time for’ with the summer months.
• Take cold showers.
• Consolidate chores or errands into the early morning or late evening.
• Take up an indoor hobby.
• Make your home a haven – use oil burners, incense, candles and relaxing music.
• If your family goes away for the summer and leaves you in Dubai, use the time to take action in each area of your life (career, hobbies, health, learning and growing and contributing). They’ll be amazed to find you rejuvenated, rather than ruined, when they return. (www.synergyctrdubai.com).
Too hot to handle? So just how hot will it get? We spoke to Adel Kamal at the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology to find out. • The hottest temperature ever recorded in Dubai was 47.5°C. Although many residents claim it often hits 50°C, official recordings have never got to this point in the relatively ‘cool’ emirate.
• The hottest parts of the UAE are in the east and south-west. ‘Temperatures of 50°C can occur from May to August when there are heat waves,’ explains Kamal. This is almost always in the south, near the Saudi border – places such as Mukhariz and Um Azmul. But the more familiar Fujairah did hit 50°C last May.
• The hottest time of year is, alas, right now. ‘July is the hottest month, and temperatures can exceed 50°C across the UAE.’
• This year’s forecast is looking rather sweaty. The weather is, in Adel’s words, ‘likely to be warm’. Vague, but not too promising.
During summer, our body goes through a lot of trauma: we’re constantly moving between an extreme, sticky heat and dry, artificial cold air. As a consequence, a lot of us feel sick and somewhat miserable. Here’s how to minimise the glum factor and keep your body in mint condition.
The science behind the fluster Why won’t your body cool down? Sports medicine specialist Dr Randall Phillips from Synergy Integrated Medical Centre runs us through the process ‘As the temperature and humidity both climb, the body has less ability to lose heat by radiation (the transfer of heat from a hot object to a cooler object) or by evaporation (sweating is ineffective if the environment is already full of water). If this is combined with a lack of convection (air currents), it will be very difficult for your body to lose heat.’
Bright and clear If your urine is dark or murky in colour, you have a problem. Keep your fluids up to maintain its transparency: in summer you should be drinking up to four litres of water a day. Some people say that amount can be comprised of any fluid, but water is your body’s toxin cleanser and organ aid, so consider this: would you wash your dishes in cola or coffee? Thought not. That said, if you’re out and about a lot and losing salts through sweat (who knew ears could sweat?), it’s good to refill with isotonic drinks. These contain the same salt concentration as your body. Our choice? Pocari Sweat.
Eat for the heat Ancient Chinese medicine classifies many things in the natural world into cooling (yin) and warming (yang). They organise foods by their ability to generate hot or cold sensations in the body: cooling foods are, as a rule, things that you would naturally crave in summer (do you feel like parsnip soup right now? Thought not). Dubai-based nutritionist Miranda Engstrom lists her top cooling foods.
1 Tea: red sage, lady’s mantle, nettle and rosemary. Make with boiling water, but drink when lukewarm.
2 Herbs: peppermint, lemon balm, coriander and marjoram.
3 Fruits: apples, banana, pear, cantaloupe, watermelon, tomato and all citrus fruits.
Also: Choose red fruits and vegetables for their added betacarotene, which is a natural sun protector. www.gaianutrition.com.
Look haute in the heat Yes, it is possible to stay looking sleek while dripping from every pore. Here’s our guide to keeping up appearances 1 Put your make-up in the fridge. Mascaras, foundations and nail polishes go gloopy if left out in the heat. There’s also nothing more refreshing than chilled moisturiser.
2 Next time you’re grabbing a Double Chillaxathon Frappawhappacino at Starbucks, swipe a few of the recycled napkins. They’re particularly absorbent and make wonderful blotting paper.
3 Embrace headscarves, ponytails and your hair’s natural state (if it’s curly, leave it that way – your hair is already subjected to enough heat without having to endure blow-dryers and straightening irons).
4 Avoid wearing sweat patch-prone pastel shades and stick to natural fibres: linen is a favourite, and white is your friend.
5 Kiss: keep it simple, stupid. Use a tinted moisturiser with an SPF on your face to avoid clogging your pores. We like Clinique’s Moisture Sheer Tint because a) it’s SPF 15 and b) it’s oil free. It costs Dhs140 at most beauty retailers.
6 Wear sunscreen! Yes, golden glow is good, but raisin chests are not. Sure, you’re probably not basking in the sun at lunchtime, but the summer sun is strong. We don’t care which brand you wear, just make it SPF15 and above.
7 Grow out your fringe or pin it back – the wet look is so last season.
Cut it all off! Jamie Lafferty decides to free up his neck to battle the summer heat. ‘When I first moved to Dubai, being seven hours’ flight away from my friends emboldened me to grow my hair long for the first time in my life. Unfortunately, it has the texture of a hessian sack, which resulted in a large, tangled mess that was heavy and not much use for summer. Thankfully, helpful hairdresser Chelsea at Toni & Guy sorted me out, snipping here, chopping there and thinning the unruly mop. It’s definitely lighter and cooler (in more ways than one) and when I walked outside afterwards, I felt something for the first time in months: the sun on the back of my neck.’ Toni & Guy, Grand Hyatt Dubai (04 324 4900).
Perhaps the trickiest thing to negotiate in summer is your everyday routine. Getting to work without needing to change your clothes (don’t you hate the bigwigs who have the underground parking right now?) and being able to sit in your front room without covering your couches in perspiration-proof plastic will make the season less punishing.
Air conditioning 101 Dubai’s Canadian DIY dynamo Rob Lemke on how to guard your home from the heat. • ‘There’s not that much that can go wrong with an AC system – the main thing is to regularly change the filters. When they’re clogged with dust, your unit won’t work as well.’
• ‘A lot of people go away for the summer, and it’s good to turn off all electrical appliances when doing so. But if you leave your home for a month or so in the summer heat, your tap faucets can dry out, incurring unnecessary cost. So either set up your AC on a timer, or get a friend or neighbour to come in and switch it on for an hour or so every day – you could save yourself a lot of money.’
• ‘If you’re here for the summer, AC is unavoidable, so the main thing is to make your house as airtight as possible. If the cold air is leaking out, your electricity bills will be a lot higher than they need to be. Check the seals around all doors and windows. If you have a window AC unit, check around that, and even investigate around the roof.’ Rob’s Repairing charges Dhs150 per hour. Call Rob on 050 745 9491 or see robsrepairing.blogspot.com.
Keep your car cool We’ve all judged those with window tints, but they may be on to something. The legal limit for a car window tint in the UAE is 30 per cent (a rule blatantly broken by many), and local company AGE Films can install a 30 per cent 3M Crystalline tint that will block around 67 per cent of the heat and 99.9 per cent of the sun’s UV rays (it’s equivalent to a sunscreen with an SPF of 1,500). ‘Pimping’ an average-sized sedan with this will cost Dhs2,500, which, if you’re planning to be here for a few more summers, is well worth it. Call 06 530 1718 for more.
Eye wise Did you know that designer or dark sunglasses aren’t necessarily the best for your eyes? Dr Chris Canning from Moorfields Eye Hospital, explains. ‘The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the darkness of the lens or the price tag. While both plastic and glass lenses absorb some UV light, UV absorption is improved by adding certain chemicals to the lens material during manufacturing or by applying special lens coatings. Choose sunglasses that are labelled as blocking 99 to 100 per cent of the UV rays [Karama knock-offs are lying if they say they do] and look for a quality mark like the European CE Marking.’ www.moorfields.ae.
Food safety Extreme heat can lead to microbes growing on food, which may cause food poisoning. Be wary of chicken, hamburgers, mayonnaise and raw fish, keep your nails short and make your mantra ‘if it smells a bit funny, bin it’.
Sweat management Banish wet patches, shiny foreheads and that dreaded trickle down the spine with these nifty products and tips. • We love Dolofresh: the German product is packed with menthol. Rolling it on your forehead will leave you feeling remarkably cool. Dhs20 at Super Care Pharmacy, The Dubai Mall (04 434 1687).
• Put rubbing alcohol on a face cloth and wipe it on your face (not near your eyes or mouth) and the Sahara-esque breeze will appear Arctic (this is not for those with sensitive skin).
• Dab super-cold things (a can of Coke, cold towel, ice) on your wrists and the back of your neck (where your bloodstream flows closest to the skin).
• Want to wear that lilac dress out tonight? Driclor is your only option (or Botox, but we wouldn’t go that far). Apply this harsh anti-perspirant at night and your pores will clamp shut for a couple of days. It can be itchy, but it works wonders. Dhs49 at Life Pharmacies (04 344 1122).
• Relax! Most sweat sessions are exasperated when you start worrying (kind of like blushing). Step back, take stock and relax – this will help to calm the tide.