Oh, how that summer buzz so effortlessly conjures a playful spirit among us all in the garden: plants, people, and insects alike. The flowers are taking their turns in bloom, the bees are busy making their rounds, and the pests love to show up for their fair share of our garden’s greens. The blueberries are ripe and sweet, peppers of all sizes are dropping, and my dreams are being overtaken by visions of abundant basil harvests.
With longer days and an intense mid-day sun, we’re asked to shift our routine and diet in an effort to flow with the seasons to remain in harmony with the world around us. As we move through summer, our bodies ask that we remain in balance with the fiery force of heat through our diet and lifestyle choices.
> Tip: Consider consistent light snacks over large heavy meals, and avoid fasting to keep your energy stable and pitta pacified.
Lifestyle Choices & Summer
Summer is considered pitta season in Ayurvedic terms, which is categorized by its hot, sharp, and intense qualities. In order to balance out these pitta qualities, we require daily practices & activities that have calming, soothing, and cooling qualities. You may already be familiar with this balancing act, as evident in some American summer favorites, such as lemonade, soft ice cream, swimming, late evening walks.
The heat and humidity can trigger skin and digestive issues, meaning it’s important to be mindful of nutrition in the summer when our bodies are under the pressure of high temps. In addition to the increased risk of dehydration and heat stroke, some people may experience indigestion or a loss of appetite, as their bodies seek to regulate their temperature by slowing digestion.
While you might have more energy to burn, be mindful of when in the day you exercise: even gardening or light outdoor activity can quickly stress the body if it’s done during the heat of the day. Try to get your movement in during the morning, or wait until evening starts to cool things back off. An after-dinner stroll in the lingering summer light can promote good digestion and support stable circadian rhythms.
The warm sun has its way of awakening our productivity, but also introducing an element of play and flexibility to our lives. Break out the board games with your family, take the kids swimming on a hot afternoon, or indulge in an impromptu round of putt putt. By honoring playful flexibility, we can connect with others in a way that feeds our souls.
Mental Health & Summer Heat
It’s been proven that heat can make humans more aggressive and even violent. You may have observed that physical heat can make you feel more irritated & aggravated – or noticed this pattern in your clients. Simply being aware of this tendency can be helpful in keeping your cool, or cultivating calmer communication with others during this season.
For example, you might schedule staff meetings first thing in the morning, instead of after lunch. Or maybe you shift your client load to see the more intense patients in the morning and evening, saving calmer patients for midday sessions. Perhaps you make family dinner last longer, to give everyone a chance to slow down and chill out after a long summer day.
If you find yourself overheating mentally, accessible daily practices such as breathing exercises or meditation can help. You might even consider a cooling mental health break in the afternoon: ten minutes of meditation or alternate nostril breathing can make all the difference in keeping your energy levels stable. Try adding an eye pillow or a wet washcloth on your forehead for extra pitta soothing.
Nutrition & Summer
As we move deeper into the dog days of summer, you can harness this fiery time of productivity – while maintaining a calm baseline – with a diet that balances the pitta energy within you. Pacify pitta with sweet, bitter, and astringent foods that are either raw or lightly cooked. You’ll want to minimize spicy, salty, fermented, dense, and fried foods and incorporate juicy sweet fruits, fresh leafy greens, water-dense veggies, and cooling grains such as barley, wheat, and quinoa.
To promote healthy digestion, look to herbs such as fennel, coriander, rosemary, basil, parsley, and cilantro – and try not to aggravate your pitta with oily foods. Keep it simple and light with raw veggies, fruits, hummus, pasta salads – all of which are great cool-down snacks you can munch on throughout the day.
Here’s a list of some pitta-pacifying foods to incorporate into your diet this summer:
- Grains: rice, barley, oats
- Beans & lentils
- Fruits: grapefruit, avocado, apples, bananas, pomegranate, melons, cherries, figs, oranges, pears, plums, berries
- Vegetables: sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, fennel, asparagus, green beans, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, celery
- Leafy greens
- Healthy oils such as avocado, coconut, ghee, sunflower oil, or olive oil
> Tip: Some of my favorite go-to’s in the summer are toast topped with whipped ricotta, cucumber, olive oil, and herbs; or a simple pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, basil, olives, and balsamic vinaigrette. The goal here is to eat light & cool foods that help you regulate your internal temperature.
Cool & Calming Beverages
Don’t forget to keep your whistle wet! If you find you don’t always drink enough water, try infusing it with herbs or citrus to keep yourself hydrated and your palate satiated. You can easily add mint or cucumber to your water, make a sun tea, or keep a simple syrup on hand to add to your seltzer. Here are a few of my favorites to try:
Hibiscus Sun Tea
This is a great summer time sip – and the pitta-balancing trifecta of sweet, bitter, and astringent. Hibiscus is also a blood tonic that can help with water retention.
- In a 2 quart mason jar, add ¼ c dried hibiscus flowers, 2 cinnamon sticks and fill with water
- Let sit in the sun for 4 – 6 hours and let the sun steep the herbs.
- Add ¼ cup lime + ¼ honey
- Allow to cool in the fridge
- Strain and serve
Herby Simple Syrup
You can use any herbs you have on hand for this. Mint, sage, basil, or rosemary are all great. Add to your water, seltzer, cocktail – or give it as a gift.
- Using a 1:1 ratio, bring water and sugar to a boil.
- Add your herb of choice to the sugar water and let boil for 1 minute.
- Remove from heat and let the herbs steep for about 30 minutes and let the syrup cool.
Strain and keep refrigerated.
You already know that the mind/body connection is deeply powerful – and that keeping ourselves physically balanced promotes the best possible mental health. By consciously working to balance the intensity of summer through daily habits, you can promote a calmer nervous system for yourself & your clients… and this fosters better mental health for all.