Ah, the “dog days of summer”! Where does that expression come from, anyway??? Turns out it’s from antiquity. The Great Dog constellation of Sirius occurs in the summer sky. “Sirius” comes from the Greek word seirios meaning “scorcher”. According to the National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky, as this dog constellation is visible only in the daytime (and faint at night), the ancients thought that the heat of Sirius, “the scorcher”, was added to that of the sun, making for the hottest days of summer. Hence, the term, “dog days”.
Nowadays we think of this collection of days and nights as those hot, humid and sultry ones of the northern hemisphere, when everyone’s “draggin’ it” (whether or not there’s work to be done). The “dog days” can definitely be a time of stagnation, inactivity and, dare I say it, low productivity.
Why let the “dog” take a bite out of your enthusiasm and energy? “Siriusly” consider these 45 ways to rise above the “dog day doldrums”, whether at work or in private life, and stay cool, light, happy and ready:
1. Recapture a pleasure from childhood summers; stash a box of popsicles in your staff refrigerator; stick a note outside of the freezer, reading, “In case of heat emergency, open door”; inside, pasted to the box, another reading, “Compliments of Sirius, The Dog of Summer!”
2. List ten things you love about your job; for some this will be easy, for others, tough. Regardless, you can do it!
3. If your life allows, don’t go home one hot, sweltering night. Instead take a twelve-hour vacation. Check-in to a quality hotel near your workplace and luxuriate in the benefits of the facility. Wake-up in time to indulge in a poolside breakfast, or order room service before heading out.
4. Sit outside after dark during the first two weeks of August; “ooh” and “ahhh” at the spectacular yearly meteor shower overhead–visible even in most urban centres! Lie down on a blanket with a loved one and/or your kids and watch for these bursts of streaking light flash across the sky, while flat on our back! Remember to make lots of wishes.
5. Ride your bike to work.
6. Buy a spray bottle; fill it with water and spritz your face from time-to -time all the long, hot day.
7. Buy fine quality sunglasses; look “cool” and “siriusly” protect your eyeballs!
8. Start a silly, fun and/or memorable summertime workplace tradition.
9. Buy a hammock–haven’t you always wanted one?
10. Attend a mid-summer’s evening play or concert in your community’s local grand park.
11. Sleuth out mid-summer 50% off sales on an item for work or home.
12. Scan local university or community colleges’ continuing studies catalogues; register for an intriguing autumn course related to either your career or topic of personal interest.
13. Frame your funniest/most spontaneous photo from a memorable staff event, eg. from a professional development day or conference.
14. Review The New York Times Best Seller Book List; then go ahead and splurge on the hard cover edition of the one that most intrigues you (then read it while swinging on your hammock one lazy Sunday afternoon).
15. Go “antiquing” to a quaint town within a 90 minute drive of your home; buy a small treasure; include an afternoon “cream tea” (scones with preserves and clotted cream and, of course, plenty of tea–perhaps even of the iced variety!).
16. Join the crowd–regardless of age, read the latest Harry Potter book. If you don’t know what everyone’s talking about, pick up the first in the series, “Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone”, and see for yourself.
17. Leave the crowd–on an August Monday, when it’s hard dragging yourself out of bed for yet another week of covering for those still on vacation, treat yourself to a car service to and from work, rather than taking the subway or bus.
18. Surprise your taste buds. Visit a gourmet shop and buy 3 items that are totally foreign to your palate. Take them home–or showcase them at work! Give ’em the ‘ole taste test–see what you think. I like pushing Marmite spread on my friends and family but most just think I’m nuts (if I could garner just one recruit, I think I’d be happy)!
19. We play cards all the time–four season–but at many homes, cards are just a cottage/vacation activity. Crack open a deck in your regular environment. Play with family or friends on your front porch or back patio on a warm summer’s evening. Who needs a lake for inspiration to play?
20. Alternatively, break out the Scrabble Game after dark and play outside, by tea candlelight–remember munchies!
21. Have a two-scoop ice cream lunch; take a sauntering walk while you lick–guaranteed to bolster your afternoon workplace disposition!
22. Crop a flower for your workplace outfit.
23. See a silly movie, purely for maximum snorts; this summer’s offering is, “The Wedding Crashers”.
24. Life is short, and summer evenings are already shortening. If you attend what turns out to be a “stinker” of a movie, walk out before its end. Watch the sunset, instead!
25. Make your afternoon coffee buzz a frothy, iced one.
26. Pick a book that interests both you and your partner or a friend; take turns reading chapters aloud. Why is it that once a person turns a certain (childhood) age, we no longer read to one another? Reading doesn’t have to be a solitary experience.
27. Buy flowers for your office/desk/workstation–or buy them for someone else’s.
28. Make a secret list of ten things you like about yourself–make sure to include one of a physical nature from the neck down (too many of us–men and women, alike–are critical of our physical selves and, if forced to acknowledge something positive on the physical front, will only refer to a feature from the neck up, eg. expressive eyes, nice smile, etc. As humourist, Loratta LaRoche, suggests, look in the mirror and say, “Look at this, I’m together, and parts of me are excellent!”
29. Take a public speaking course.
30. Request your favourite summertime song on a local radio station; old fashioned as I’m fast becoming, two of my favourite “feel good summer songs” include Cliff Richard’s, “Summer Holiday” and Nat King Cole’s, “Lazy, hazy crazy days of summer”.
31. If you work near an historical site or a waterway, or if your town or city runs hourly excursions…brown-bag it and go for a lunch hour tour! Isn’t it interesting that we often only explore our own “backyard” with out-of-town guests? Why wait for them? Go now–you be the visitor!
32. Take an assertive and/or an interpersonal communications workshop (or bring one in-house).
33. Buy water colours, art paper and an easel; drive to a lovely spot in the country (or an interesting urban setting) and try your hand at painting; your results may not be “Monet-ish” but you just might surprise yourself! This is something both you and another could do together. Who knows, it may lead to a new, lifelong hobby–it worked for Winston Churchill and many others whose “main claim to fame” was far from painting…and it gets you outside for the day, too!
34. Take yoga classes, if for no other reason than to learn how to breath” right”, to reduce daily workplace stress, conflict and tension
35. Take some outdoor, evening private swimming lessons from your local parks and recreation department.
36. Sit in the bleachers of your local sporting park on a summer’s eve and “route, route, route for the home team”.
37. Buy a pack of your favourite childhood gum and smack away (no teacher is now going to tell you to, “Deposit it in the ‘circular file’…Elsie…or Ferdinand”! Ahhh, memories of my old high school Chemistry teacher, Mr. Cameron…best known for that saying; sometimes I think kids would chew gum in his class just to get caught and hear him say those anticipated lines!
38. Take pictures of your family, friends or colleagues, just because; why wait for a special event?
39. Buy a Birder’s Journal and binoculars; start a lifelong log of birds you spot. Start your entries with the typical birds of your area, eg. sparrows, robins, etc. Then be amazed at the “exotic” ones that come your way (and always have, now that you’re looking)! Our most “exotic” sightings this year, in our own backyard, include a Peregrine Falcon and Mockingbird. In Toronto’s grand High Park, we’ve also spotted a beautiful Great Blue Heron!
40. Eat more salads and locally harvested fresh fruit–good for your health, way more delicious than winter produce from afar and most helpful for the old waistline and “ticker”, too.
41. Buy quality flashlights–one for every floor of your home or every family member; stock up on batteries of all sizes, too, just in case the high demand of summer energy causes power failures (like the big blackout in Eastern North America back in August, 2003).
42. Buy a gross of tea candles, while you’re at it!
43. Get up early to water your garden…at sunrise–not because your municipality suggests this, to conserve water–but because it’s a serene start before a hectic, pressure-filled day. It’s almost spiritual…at that quiet part of the morning…with the sun and the water making all the lush garden glisten with shimmering, vibrant colour.
44. Rekindle an old friendship (from work or otherwise) that you’ve let slip.
45. Make a list of the ten best things you love about summer–whether you’re working or not!
Ever noticed that when you blow in a dog’s face he gets annoyed, but when on a car ride he wants to stick his head out the window to catch the stiff breeze??? Guess he just wants to be maximally cool during his dog days of summer! You be cool, (light, happy and ready) too! Beat the “dog day doldrums”, at work or elsewhere, by sticking your own head out the metaphoric window and siriusly enjoying the terrific breezes of the rest of your summer.
P.S. Next month it’s back to a normal kind of serious “Working Wisdom”.