Ah, those “dog days of summer” are almost upon us already! 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. What a great mini-vacation, especially if you can’t get away this summer!
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 together watch for these bursts of streaking light flash across the sky, while flat on your 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 summer’s 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? Or a garden swing!
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 for a fun or funky item for work or home. Something for your yard or balcony perhaps? Or a great deal on a summer outfit? There’s still plenty of time to get your money’s worth!
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, e.g., from a professional development day or conference.
14. Review The New York Times Best Seller Book List; then go ahead and splurge on the classic tradition of buying and actually holding the hard cover edition of the volume that most intrigues you (then read it while swinging on your new hammock or swing one lazy Sunday afternoon).
15. Go “antiquing” to a quaint town within a 90 minute drive of 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. Leave the crowd–on a Monday, when it’s hard dragging yourself out of bed for yet another week of covering for those colleagues who are still on vacation, treat yourself to a car service to and from work, rather than taking the subway or bus.
17. Surprise your taste buds. Visit a gourmet shop and buy three 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!)
18. At our house we play cards all the time–four seasons–but at many homes, cards are just a cottage/vacation activity. If you can’t get to cottage life, bring it home to you! Crack open a deck in your regular environment. Play with family or friends on your front porch, back patio, balcony or even on a picnic table in your local park one warm summer’s eve. Who needs a lake for inspiration to play?
19. Alternatively, break out the Scrabble game after dark and play outside, by tea candlelight–remember munchies!
20. Have a two-scoop ice cream lunch; take a sauntering walk while you lick–guaranteed to bolster your afternoon workplace disposition!
21. Crop a flower for your workplace outfit–whether man or woman.
22. See a “silly” movie, purely for maximum snorts; this summer’s offering is the remake of “Ghostbusters.”
23. 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!
24. Make your afternoon coffee buzz a frothy, iced one.
25. 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.
26. Buy flowers for your office/desk/workstation–or buy them for someone else’s.
27. 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, e.g., expressive eyes, nice smile, etc.). As humorist, Loretta LaRoche, suggests, look in the mirror and say, “Look at this, I’m together, and parts of me are excellent!”
28. Take a public speaking course.
29. Request your favourite summertime song on a local radio station; old fashioned as I’m fast becoming, four of my favourite “feel good summer songs” include Cliff Richard’s, “Summer Holiday,” Nat King Cole’s, “Lazy, Hazy Crazy Days of Summer, The Kinks’ “Sunny Afternoon,” and, of course, Canada’s own Lighthouse’s “Sunny Days.” Oh, and of course, Mungo Jerry’s classic “In the Summertime.”
30. 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 watery tour! Isn’t it interesting that we often only explore our own “backyard” when hosting out-of-town guests? Why wait for them? Go now–you be the visitor!
31. Take an assertive and/or an interpersonal communications workshop (or bring one in-house). Learn how to speak up for yourself more effectively, professionally and personally, too.
32. 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!
33. Take yoga classes, if for no other reason than to learn how to breath” right,” to reduce daily workplace stress, conflict and tension.
34. Take some outdoor, evening private swimming lessons from your local parks and recreation department.
35. Sit in the bleachers of your local sporting park on a summer’s eve and “root, root, root for the home team,” or merely for the team with the jerseys you like best. ;)
36. 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/Ferdinand”! Ahhh, memories of my old high school Chemistry teacher, Mr. Cameron, best known for this saying. Sometimes I think kids would chew gum in his class just to get caught and hear him say those anticipated lines!
37. 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, e.g., 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 and a Baltimore Oriole (not the baseball variety). ;)
38. 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.
39. 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).
40. Buy a gross of tea candles, while you’re at it, just for the elegance and ambiance of ’em.
41. 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.
42. Rekindle an old friendship (from work or otherwise) that you’ve let slip.
43. Make a list of the ten best things you love about summer–whether you’re working or not!
44. Take your dog for a swim!
45. Make ice cubes of your favourite drinks, and crunch away. Remember dogs love ice cubes too (mine thinks they’re special cookies, ha ha ha, sucker!). ;)
Ever noticed that when you blow in a dog’s face they get annoyed, but when on a car ride they want to stick their heads out the window to catch the stiff breeze? I guess that they too just want to be maximally cool during their dog days of summer! You be cool, (light, happy and ready) too, even if you don’t stick your head out the literal window of a moving vehicle. 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. I will appear, for a 27 minute interview, on TVO’s The Agenda in the Summertime, on August 16, 2016 at 8pm and repeating at 11pm (talking about my second book and corresponding keynote presentation, A Time to Creep, A Time to Soar: Lessons learned for work and life from climbing Kilimanjaro). Hope you get to watch!