Don’t Fight the Indian Summer Afternoon. Learn How to Work Around It.

Summer is here! While it is the quintessential Indian season to enjoy mangoes, outings and homemade fruity drinks, do you feel exhausted during hot summer afternoons? You are not alone. Every day, once lockdown-induced household chores finally get over and one begins to get some momentum on work, it inevitably happens. Your body feels exhausted, your mouth dry, and you can feel your brain going dull. Whether you like it or not your body wants to shut down. This is symptomatic of how our bodies feel during the hot months. Welcome to the great Indian Summer.

I've tried for weeks to battle this, with little success. Even if you stay up, your productivity trickles down to near zero. What does Ayurveda, which originated on the Indian soil have to say about scorching summer afternoons? Quite a lot in fact. Indian summers, or grishma ritu is characteristic of increased pitta dosha in the body, which leads to increased sweating, redness of the skin, heartburn and increased irritability. Typically in the afternoon, when the sun is at its peak, pitta in the body is also highest. This makes it hard to function owing to exhaustion and loss of water. Summer afternoons need pitta to be pacified. Here are some pro tips on how to manage summer afternoons:

Know your prana

As the pitta dosha in the body increases, there is a draining of prana or energy from the body and causes dehydration as well as exhaustion. It is suggested that one must stay indoors during scorching summers and avoid the loo (the Northern hot winds) that may cause sickness. A simple way to replenish your prana is to do 10 rounds of anulom-vilom, a pranayama technique (a practice that regulates prana) to achieve a balanced state. Practice it on an empty stomach, or after two hours of a meal. One has to embrace the circadian rhythm of the body and allow for the body to rest and recharge in the afternoon. That is only possible if we re-plan our working hours.Air conditioners help, but might not be the best idea as they increase vaata and cause dryness, and aggravate pitta further, given unnatural cooling which confuses the body.

Learn from the Indian afternoon siesta

Certain practices to counter the heat are evident in most parts of India even today. You must have noticed how neighbourhood kirana stores shut in the afternoons, and shopkeepers have a summer siesta. In many parts of India, summer afternoons are shut down times to recharge and replenish the body, and work hours are synced around it. This is also a common practice among farmers in the country for the same reason. These practices are a result of the common Indian wisdom, woven into daily life across the land. In fact our modern work schedules are imported from the British Isles (and imposed during colonialism) where the climate is quite different! In fact there, the best thing that could happen is a dash of sun for a few months in a year!

Go for foods that cool your body

Summer is the best time to enjoy food, but afternoons need slight regulation to keep balance. Pitta is also responsible for release of digestive juices, and therefore needs cooling. Consume fruits and veggies which have high water and roughage content. Go for seasonal fruits like watermelon, cucumber, coconut, and add leafy greens. Herbs like mint and coriander add great summer flavor with a cooling effect. Avoid foods that are fried, too spicy or contain vinegar. Go for tastes that are sweet, astringent and bitter. Befriend amla juice in the mornings to keep light and fresh. Add a dash of cinnamon to your chai to cut the heat, and when you feel fancy, try some kesar (saffron).

Use work-from-home(WFH) to hack productivity

Now that WFH is the norm and many of us are reworking our professional and personal life, this is a great time to tailor our schedules to what works best for our bodies. We can use the flexibility to shuffle hours in a way that makes sense for our climate, and circadian rhythm.

Rework your schedule in a manner that you break during peak afternoon hours, between 12pm-3pm. Remember, productivity is not about how much time you pour in, but about how you maximise outputs in the hours you work for. Afternoon breaks will increase your focus and energy levels for the rest of the day. Lesser, more focusses hours will help you work better while not burning out. Add a healthy exercise routine to your early morning, or during dusk, when the day is naturally cooler. Follow a plan which aligns with the seasonal patterns using ancient wisdom.

Here is a work plan!

To illustrate, here is a tentative work plan I drew up which you can use! Split your working hours into two 4-hour shifts spread across the day. The morning hours can be between 8am-12pm, followed by a siesta break and an evening stretched out from 3:30pm-7:30pm if you need a full workday. If making an early morning is tough, make simple changes to wake up effortlessly. Consume less for dinner, keep it the lightest meal of the day. Get an early night, preferably with no phones in the bedroom policy (at least 40 minutes before sleep) and run through your day effortlessly! Incorporate a 15 minute dhyaana (meditation) session and keep it light. Powered with the right food and schedule, this will give your day a boost! That way you get the maximum out of a day and you don't put yourself through the struggle of being productive on an Indian Summer afternoon. The whole idea is to not fight our bodies, but to listen and follow their innate intelligence.

Work less hours, get more out of the day and have a fun summer! What more could one ask for on a Midsummer Night's Afternoon?

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