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5 things to do (now, before fall comes!) this summer

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Even if you live south of Dallas or only work night shifts, you’ve probably noticed that summer is beginning to wane.

You may, like me, have at least another 10 weeks of suffocatingly hot weather to endure, but the days are ever-so-slightly shorter, and the sky has changed color just a little.

So get off your duff and get your last bit of summer on. Since you’ve likely been trapped inside an air conditioned building with sick people for the last two months (“perks” of the job), here are some ideas to help you relieve stress and have fun:

1. Get some sun. As a nurse, you know that sun is good for you in limited amounts. Not only is it necessary for the manufacture of vitamin D, high levels of which will make your primary care provider smile, but it makes you feel good–something you need when you’re caring for patients day in and day out. Invest in some high-test sunscreen and spend 10 minutes out in the hospital parking lot, if that’s all you can manage.

2. Get some water. Hie thee hence to the nearest swimming pool. If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with free-flowing water that isn’t lethal, or lakes that aren’t infested with toothy carnivores, go there. There’s nothing like a cannonball into the deep end, or a picnic between dog paddling over rocks, to soothe your soul (and sore back!) and help release some of the stress that’s brought on by cranky patients and even crankier doctors.

3. Get some ice. Depending on your shift schedule and your inclinations, summer is the perfect time for icy drinks or icy desserts consumed al fresco. (The one exception to this is if you live in Montreal, in which case ice-cold rosé wine is acceptable. Have some for me.) Restaurants with patios usually offer at least one frozen drink, alcoholic or not, and ice cream in the park is as traditional as a Norman Rockwell print. Leave the hospital, your catty coworker’s barbs and the new resident’s arrogance behind and chomp on some ice (sorry in advance to your dentist). You’ll feel a little less stressed, I promise

4. Get a critter. No summer is complete without at least one chigger or mosquito bite, even if you’re stuck in your unit all day, every day. Try not to get bitten by a venomous spider or an assassin bug; what you want is a minor amount of irritation, preferably acquired in the pursuit of fun (and outside of that aforementioned air conditioned hospital) to remind you of that fun. Note: this suggestion is invalid and without warranty in Louisiana, Florida, Minnesota and Alaska.

5. Get some food. If you’re in the south or midwest, right now is the perfect time for tomatoes and late peaches. Blackberries should be coming in in the northwest, and the northern and eastern reaches of the country are in the middle of raspberry season. Enjoy the fleeting taste of a fragile, won’t-travel-well local vegetable or fruit that hasn’t been turned into mush by your hospital cafeteria. Live a little. Hit up your local farmer’s market before a shift and eat everything on the way to your workplace. Bonus: You won’t feel the urge to hit the vending machines and munch Doritos at 3 a.m.

Nurses need relaxation and stress-relief, and isn’t that what summer’s all about? Have fun out there, and don’t forget the sunscreen!

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Agatha Lellis

Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at askauntieaggie@gmail.com.
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