For the roughly 25 million Americans who suffer from urinary incontinence, the onset of summer brings a uniquely troubling basket of anxiety. Will that long car ride to the beach be comfortable or excruciating? Will an accident in the car mar the appearance of cheerful summer clothes? Will well-intentioned attempts to remain hydrated result in an increased need to urinate at the worst possible time?
Here are some steps you can take to help reduce stress. They apply particularly to those suffering from stress incontinence, but everyone suffering from summer anxiety may benefit from heeding them.
Relax and slow down
Yes, summer – especially in families where the kids are at large during the summer – comes with an increased workload. Social gatherings, ball games, road trips, concerts and other outdoor events all beckon. Just because everything in our activity-oriented culture urges us to “get out there and do it” doesn’t mean that you need to follow this urge. In many parts of the U.S., summer extends beyond September, so you have plenty of time to enjoy what summer has to offer. Relax, ease off the schedule, and remember – summer is for OFF time, not a command for you to be ON time – even for a fun event.
Get enough sleep
Americans are among the most sleep-deprived people on Earth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 33 percent of Americans don’t get enough sleep, and that’s a recipe for increased stress. Sleep issues can grow acute in summer as sunlight reaches into the evening hours. Poor sleep patterns can cause havoc with your body’s cortisol levels, and that’s a bad thing, because cortisol is a hormone affecting multiple body functions, including one’s ability to handle stress. Fortunately, this is behavior that you can do something about. According to the CDC, “Lifestyle changes such as going to bed at the same time each night; rising at the same time each morning; and turning off or removing televisions, computers, mobile devices from the bedroom, can help people get the healthy sleep they need.”
Adjust summer expectations
That idyllic, picture-perfect “summer in your head” will probably never be matched by any real-life summer you’re ever going to experience in your actual lifetime, but don’t let this realization stress you out. Rather than be disappointed by an event that doesn’t meet your expectations, adjust your expectations downward, which will increase the chance that you’ll be pleasantly surprised, all the while reducing “expectation stress.”
Prepare for the road
You’re probably going to be taking at least one bona fide “road trip” this summer, so make sure you’re ready for the challenges of the open road. Take steps to map out your rest stops in advance, plan your packing so that any incontinence supplies, including undergarments and clothing changes, are readily available, and watch your intake of fluids and solids. Stay away from eating anything likely to exacerbate incontinence issues, including spicy foods, foods with a lot of citrus, and chocolate, and avoid drinking beverages containing alcohol or caffeine, which increase your output of urine. Make sure that you’ve got enough supplies – including reusable undergarments, deodorants, protective pads and clothing changes – to handle the trip, because finding these items along the way may be difficult if not impossible.
Some people revel in the sauna-like heat that summer often provides. Others, however, find this kind of heat to be itchy, scratchy, sweaty and just short of intolerable. Because elevated temperature levels and high humidity can cause some routine discomforts associated with incontinence to become appreciably more annoying, do your best to stay cool. Staying properly hydrated – along with avoiding overexposure to sun, heat and humidity – are all big parts of staying cool, and there are many additional tips for “chilling” that don’t involve clamping yourself to the nearest air conditioning unit; MedicineNet offers some good suggestions.