Mid-Summer Chills

Illustration by Marco Mancini

The sizzling, sweltering summer has arrived. Do you find yourself freezing under the air conditioners in the office and on the trains? Are you experiencing sleeplessness due to cold feet? Direct, powerful air conditioning, an unbalanced diet, and stress leads to a lower body temperature. Maya Vardaman will show you how to protect your body from an aircon attack.

You may think blasting the aircon is proper ammunition for a battle against the heat outside, but it actually prevents smooth blood circulation, causing your body to cool from your toes. After a while, the chilly air no longer provides relief - now you' cold. Hie-sho, or sensitivity to coldness, is common - especially among women, due to hormones. Unfortunately, you're not in control of the control panels for the system at the office, so the solution may not be as simple as just turning it off. Also, people have different body temperatures and rhythms, so your co-worker may be soaking his shirt while your fingernails turn blue. What should you do?

Staying in the same position for long hours disrupts the circulation, so sit straight in a good posture at your desk, and take short breaks outside in the sun to free yourself from the cold and to get a change of pace. Also, make an effort to dash for the stairs instead of the escalators to exercise your feet and get your blood pumping. It may be unimaginable to cover up during this season, but socks, leg warmers, spats, blankets and gloves do help to guard your body from the artificial currents. (Be aware that tight ones prevent smooth circulation.) Companies have come up with neat, useful products, such as "Nylon Low-Cut Foot Cover" (Peds, JY800, available at Seibu Shibuya) and "Waist Warmer" (Akaishi, JY2000). If worse comes to worst, try the self-heating kairo, available at many convenience and drug stores.

Refrain from clicking on the air conditioner at home as well. If you have the time and materials, take a 10-20 minute foot bath to warm yourself from your toes. You'll feel warm and energized, and you can read or watch TV while smoothing your circulatory routes. Dab some of your favorite herbal oil into hot water in a bucket, or try adding sun-dried orange skin (two-three oranges' worth), dried Chinese radish leaves (a handful), juice from grated ginger, or two teaspoons of powdered karashi (mustard). Not only does this method help circulation, but relaxes your mind and eases stress that builds up (and perhaps block circulation!).

Light up some aromatic candles or incense for the soothing effect. Stress definitely leads to lowering your body temperature. For example, your blood stirs in your system when you experience stress from work or pangs of shock and sadness, disrupting the balance of circulation. It may sound irrelevant, but freeing yourself from the stress is an ultimate treatment for the chills.

Those refills of coffee may warm you up temporarily, but eventually lowers your body temperature and keeps it there. Fruits and vegetables grown above the ground, as well as artificial foods, are said to do the same. Examples are tomato, banana, soba, cucumber, butter and spinach. Instead of coffee, drink hot tea as an alternative. Foods grown underground, as well as seafood and dried fruits, raises body temperature. Examples are peaches, potato, beef, chicken, fish, garlic, hot pepper and brown sugar. If you're not sure whether a food warms or cools the body, stir-frying it with oil or drying it under the sun will do the trick. Foods such as rice, cocoa, egg, pork, carrots and apples neither raise or lower your body temperature, so eat them wisely to get a balance. Even the cooling foods have important nutritional value, so ideally you should include them in your balanced diet. Keep in mind that food is medicine--but it's also for pleasure and savoring!

If you're into neat goods that are playful as well as helpful (think "Gak," which supposedly releases stress), you're in the perfect empire; the advanced Japanese industry floods the stores' shelves with creative yet inexpensive products to save you. Simply stick on "Element Cones" (CROSS alpha, JY1000) on the back of your feet, and the 26 "elements," which are also found in hot springs, help to raise your body temperature. Tsubo-oshi Saboten (Shanty, JY500) is a cactus-shaped figure which you use to massage your body and apply pressure to the effective points that help your chill go away. Check out Tokyu Hands and Loft in Shibuya for more items that will cause a bodily warming effect, mostly available for under JY1000.

Enough sleep, comfortable position and atmosphere at work, a balanced diet, and a fair amount of exercise and relaxation are the keys to staying warm during the summer (sounds weird, but true). Your excuse may be your lack of energy or time to even try these methods, but they are important to include in your daily life - and are a source of relaxation and pleasure as well.

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