As climate change progresses steadily, the prevalence of extreme temperatures and turbulent weather conditions is on the rise. These changes not only disrupt our daily activities and cause physical discomfort but also have internal effects that we should be mindful of.
Physiological stress due to pressure and temperature regulation, along with sleep deprivation during these times, can lead to changes in our behavior and mental well-being. In fact, studies have shown an increase in anxiety and depression during times of extreme weather. It's crucial to consider the impact of these factors on our overall health and be proactive in finding ways to cope with them. Furthermore, it's important to recognize that our dogs are equally sensitive to these environmental changes (if not more so than we are), and can be affected in similar ways.
Understanding the Effects on Emotional Health & Wellbeing
Emotional mood swings, irritability, intolerance, impatience, and other behavioral changes can manifest during these times. Moreover, the various external factors that come into play—such as the pressure of ever-increasing heating and cooling costs, limitations on performing certain tasks (affecting our work or business activities), and potential food and water shortages—add to the burden we bear. It's important to acknowledge the interconnectedness of these factors and their influence on our ability to cope with extreme temperatures and changing climates.
Caring for Ourselves and Our Dogs
When faced with the obvious and not-so obvious challenges associated with a heat-wave or any other extreme weather pattern, it becomes vital to prioritize self-care and a healthy mindset and extend that care to our canine companions.
Here are some of my top tips to help you through the next heat-wave:
1. Emotional Awareness: Being mindful of our emotional mood state, thoughts, and behaviors can help us identify signs of stress and have patience and understanding for ourselves and our dogs. Similarly your dog may be feeling ‘off’ and behaviour and social interactions could be affected. Choose walks carefully, keeping them short and avoid ‘trigger stacking’. Choose activities that are easy, fun and bring joy and calmness.
2. Holistic Toolkit: Embracing holistic approaches can support balance for both our bodies and minds. This may include practices such as meditation, yoga, aromatherapy or botanical self-selection for our dogs. Quiet time and simply hanging out together can get levels of serotonin and oxytocin flowing, reducing stress and allowing for more settled sleep and rest.
3. Rest and Hydration: Getting an adequate amount of rest and staying properly hydrated are crucial for maintaining optimal health during hot weather. These practices aid in regulating body temperature and promoting overall well-being for both humans and dogs. Make sure your dog has an option of where they can sleep - they may prefer a cool floor instead of their bed, and will likely need more space to really spread out whilst they sleep (many crates are not suitable for this).
4. Cooling Foods: Opting for "cooling foods" that are easy to digest can help alleviate added stress on our bodies during hot weather. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and lighter meals can provide essential nutrients without burdening the digestive system. It is advisable to avoid foods that contribute to heat, such as highly processed foods, dishes cooked at high heat, and energetically hot foods. These include dry kibble, starchy vegetables, grains, chicken, corn-fed beef, lamb, and goat.
Instead, incorporating cooling foods into our diet can help regulate body temperature and provide relief. Watermelon, celery, and cucumber are excellent examples of cooling foods that can be included in our dog’s meals. When selecting protein sources, opting for rabbit, duck and cod can be beneficial. These protein sources not only provide essential nutrients but also act as Yin tonics, offering cooling properties to counteract the heat.
5. Flexibility and Resilience: Cultivating an attitude of adaptability and resilience is key to thriving in the face of changing circumstances. Being open to adjustments, exploring alternative options, and seeking support from friends, family, and communities can contribute to a more positive mindset during challenging times.
As climate change continues to exert its influence, extreme weather conditions are becoming increasingly common. Acknowledging the effects of these conditions on our physical and mental well-being, as well as our dog’s, is essential. By prioritizing self-care, emotional awareness, and holistic approaches, we can navigate extreme weather and change with greater ease and develop our ability to thrive in an ever-changing world.