One of my favorite songs is “Summertime And The Living Is Easy,” sung by Ella Fitzgerald. It reminds me of the summers I spent on our farm in Georgia, relaxing by the river, watching the fish rise. But I couldn’t listen to it while I in Benzo Withdrawal. The summers were anything but easy, and the only thing jumping was me—out of my skin with fear and terror, shaking like a leaf in the heat of the day.
Summertime temperatures can exacerbate Benzo Withdrawal symptoms. So can the increase in activities and vacation travels. Even our resentment or grief over not being well enough to participate in summer fun can turn up the volume of our suffering.
Here are some ways in which you can summer-proof your Benzo Withdrawal symptoms:
Stay cool! Heat increases Benzo Withdrawal symptoms for most people. Avoid being outside during the peak heat hours. If you are out, wear a brimmed hat, sunglasses, and clothing that will help you to stay cool. Use a handheld fan or a mister/fan combo, like this one from Amazon. (I love it!). Use an umbrella or sit in the shade when you can. (This portable umbrella has been a lifesaver for me!) If you have access to water, whether a pool, pond, river, or ocean, wade on in! Of course, follow all safety precautions. Have someone with you, just in case you get overly fatigued or dizzy. Enjoying a cooling drink can turn down the thermostat a bit. (Here are three delicious lemonades you can try.) A cool (not cold!) shower or a soak in a tepid bath often feels good when the temperatures soar. Take advantage of air-conditioning, fans, or a breeze through an open window. Staying as cool as possible is a way to avoid an increase in Benzo Withdrawal symptoms. Ice packs can also help, especially if you have the symptom of burning skin.
Avoid the lure of too many activities. Summer has always been a time to do more. More socializing, traveling and spending time in the great outdoors. Why not? After months of being indoors for the winter, we yearn to be out and about. This year, after many long months of sheltering in place due to Covid19, the summer beckons us with the promise of happier days. However, it’s wise to pace Yourself. Even if you feel mostly healed, it’s a good idea to take small steps to return to normal activities. It’s even more prudent to pace yourself if you are still reasonably symptomatic. It’s frustrating, to be sure, that we can’t yet indulge in summer fun, but our patience will be well rewarded with fewer increases in Benzo Withdrawal symptoms. Baby steps. Pace yourself. How do you know if you are doing too much? One of the first signs may be fatigue. Some people will also notice an increase in head pressure, while others might have more burning, pain, or insomnia. Pay attention to your body. If you are tired or your symptoms increase, scale back your activities and rest.
Acceptance is key. Watching others dive into the summer, seemingly with no cares in the world, can make us feel resentful that we are stuck at home, unable to join in. We may also feel despair or loneliness, grieving what we’ve lost due to Benzo Withdrawal. These are normal thoughts and feelings and are very common. However, the best thing to do is to observe any negative thought or emotions and let them pass through you. Distraction helps, as does helping someone else, tending to a garden, or taking care of a pet. Learning something new is also an excellent way to not give in to negativity. Learning requires the brain to create new networks, which takes the focus off of the negative thoughts or feelings. Practicing acceptance doesn’t mean that you like or condone something; it simply means that you have stopped fighting it. When we practice acceptance, we encourage our nervous system to move into a more healing state—a parasympathetic ventral vagal response.
Eat more starch. We are starch-burning machines—it is what fuels our brains. Contrary to what we’ve been told, complex carbohydrates don’t make us fat. They make us healthy! We may not crave a baked potato, a bowl of beans, or a steaming bowl of brown rice during the summer months, but these foods go a long way to nurturing and healing us. Salads are lovely, but try to include some starch with them, whether it’s whole grains, legumes, winter squashes, potatoes, or corn.
Stay hydrated. Drink enough so that your urine is clear or light-colored. Avoid sugary sodas or caffeinated drinks. (Always avoid alcohol while you’re recovering from Benzo Withdrawal.)
Make this summer a time of learning how to love and nurture yourself more. Take one day at a time, and stay in the present moment, knowing that you are safe, you are healing, and that you will recover!