How to keep your cool
Bright sunny days, cool swims, warm evening strolls, festive Main streets, and children sleeping late and rolling freely through the days: Summer is a wonderful time. But it can also be challenging as Islanders and tourists become impatient in crowds and traffic jams, and humid heavy air makes activity uncomfortable.
It is worth remembering that there are ways to keep cool other than going to the beach. The wisdom of Oriental Medicine (OM) offers simple remedies that can be easily applied to a variety of overheated situations.
Hellie Neuman, an acupuncturist at Vineyard Complementary Medicine in West Tisbury, recommends eating watermelon to stay cool.
According to Oriental Medicine watermelon is a "cool" food, as are most foods with a high water content like cucumbers, lettuce, mung bean sprouts, and lemons. The temperature of a food, grouped hot, warm, neutral, or cold, isn't how it feels to the touch, but rather the effect it has on the body when it is eaten.
Along with eating watermelon and salads, lemonade and iced peppermint tea can also ease some of the heat. Sugar and artificial sweeteners can create a feeling of sluggishness and a rise and fall of energy and emotions.
Stevia, also known as sweet leaf, is a good alternative for sweetening the lemonade or the tea. It is a South American herb with zero calories and zero carbohydrates, available in powdered or liquid form. It is sweeter than sugar and has a different taste, so it is good to add only a few drops at a time.
Green tea is another friend to the hot and bothered. Not only are its lower caffeine levels gentler on jangled nerves, but for Cathleen Vincent, an acupuncturist with Integrated Health Care in Vineyard Haven it has another use. Explaining its soothing properties, she laughs and says, "You can make a little bucket of green iced tea and stick your feet in it."
Qi, pronounced chee, is a type of all-encompassing energy or life force that forms, moves, and permeates everything, and which is the focus of acupuncture treatment. When Qi is smooth it flows easily, resulting in a sense of balance in body, mind, and spirit.
Marcie Mueller, a 2007 graduate of the Seattle Institute of Oriental Medicine, suggests taking "leisurely walks after a big meal to aid in digestion and help smooth the QI, thus avoiding QI stagnation which can lead to irritability and hot-headedness." Regular exercise helps to lighten this up. Even taking a 20-minute walk on a daily basis benefits the smooth flow of QI, which can be experienced as improved metabolism, toned yet relaxed muscles, and calmer emotions.
For those times when the hustle and bustle become too much, there a head-to-toe simple way to cool down. At the top of the head is a point called "Bai Hui" - the chimney of the body. When things feel like they are literally "coming to a head," steam can be blown off by rubbing the highest part of the cranium in small circles, going both clockwise and counter clockwise. It is a confirming sign when the point is tender to the touch.
In the center of the bottom of both feet is "Yong Quan," "Bubbling Spring," the most grounding point in the body. This is like the root or the foundation of the body. Rubbing this point in the morning or just before bed relaxes and harmonizes not only the feet but the whole body. In times of stress, pressing the feet lightly into the earth with an awareness of this point can settle the mind. Pausing to breathe deeply with an emphasis on the exhale, which is the releasing part of the breath, puts the icing on the cake.
Fae Kontje-Gibbs is an artist, teacher, and regular contributor to The Times.