Tag Archives: Allergies

Mindfulness and Summer Allergies

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about summer?

For me it’s seasonal allergies.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are many things I enjoy about this time of the year. Those of you who follow me on Twitter have probably noticed my tweets about enjoying the sunshine and all of the local fruits and vegetables that are ripening now. It’s definitely not all bad news.

With that being said, this is still a pretty sniffly season for me. A field of flowers might look picturesque to someone who isn’t allergic to them, but I’d sneeze my way through that sort of experience if I were to go wander around in that meadow. Breathing in that much pollen isn’t exactly my idea of a good time.

Unfortunately, this has been a particularly bad year for my seasonal allergies so far. Whether it was the unusually warm periods of this past winter we had or some other factor, the plants in Ontario have been growing wildly since spring began.   I’ve been taking medication for my allergies as often as possible for the last couple of months, and I don’t see that ending anytime soon.

The beautiful thing about mindfulness is how it changes my approach to these itchy, sneezy days.

Acknowledgement without Judgement

Right now my nose is congested, my eyes are itchy, and I have a mild headache.

It took me a long time to learn how to acknowledge the things my body was feeling without immediately putting negative labels on them and jumping to conclusions about what would happen with them next. Honestly, I didn’t see how doing such a thing could possibly make a difference when I first heard of it.

The transition was so gradual that the only thing I can say about how it happened is that it started when I began to compare my assumptions about the future with what actually occurred.

Often, I was completely wrong about how a particular situation would turn out. A mild headache would fade away instead of becoming more painful. One particular itchy day didn’t necessarily mean that the entire week would pass by under a haze of sneezing fits.

This isn’t to say that acknowledging discomfort without jumping to conclusions is easy. There are still times I struggle with noticing molehills without assuming they’re going to turn into mountains any second now, but the more I practice this the easier it does become.

No Such Thing as a Perfect Time of the Year

My seasonal allergies activate during some points of the year and (obviously) cause few if any symptoms during those times when it’s cold and snowy outside.

Strawberries, one of my favourite foods, are in season and on sale at the grocery store from May to July. Other fruits and vegetables make appearances on my dinner plate when they’re in season. I relish the chance to eat as much of them as I can before the local supplies of those crops end for the year. As grateful as I am for the opportunity to eat fresh produce year-round, there is something special about the taste of a fruit or vegetable that was grown much closer to home.

Thunderstorms, snowstorms, and other types of weather appear and disappear throughout the year. If I can stay home and watch them subtly – or not so subtly – change the landscape, I can find a lot of beauty in the ways they soften the edges of a building, illuminate the sky with a bolt of lightning,  or wash away the small bits of trash that accumulate in every city eventually.

There’s no such thing as a perfect time of the year. Every season has its benefits and drawbacks. The more you can remain in the moment, the easier it is to see this.

This, too, Shall Pass

A few months ago, I was impatiently* awaiting the true beginning of spring. Toronto continued to receive snowstorms and cold weather long after the spring equinox had technically already occurred, and I was dreadfully tired of the short days and icy sidewalks.

Now that we’ve had a few days where the temperatures soared well into the 30s Celsius (90s Fahrenheit, for my American readers), it’s getting a little more difficult to remember what those  chilly times were like back in April.

Sometimes the world seems to change both slowly and all at once.

But this, too, shall pass.

*See! I told you haven’t completely mastered acknowledging sensations without judging them.

What helps you to remember to remain mindful? If you have seasonal allergies, how they are doing this year?

5 Things That People Who Have Allergies Wish You Understood

 

1. They’re Not Voluntary

Nobody ever wakes up one morning and decides that it would be fun to become allergic to something.

Those of us who have allergies also can’t randomly decide to take a day off from them in order to make other people’s lives easier.

If you don’t have experience living with allergies, you might be chuckling and shaking your head right now. That’s okay. I’d find it a little hard to believe, too, if these things hadn’t either happened to me or to people I know who are also living with allergies so many times that we’ve lost count of them.

There are some folks in this world who genuinely seem to believe that allergies are a synonym for not liking certain foods or being picky.

I have no idea why they think that, but I’ve run into this attitude over and over again. Someday they  might actually realize the differences between these things. Until then, I’ll keep reminding them that nobody chooses this medical condition.

2. Not All Allergies Are Severe, but Even the Mild Ones Suck

There are millions of people in this world whose allergies can and will kill them if they’re inadvertently exposed to the wrong stuff.

In this sense, I’m lucky. My allergies to milk, certain plants, cats, dogs, and many other furry creatures are mild in the sense that I’ve never been in danger of dying because of them.

This doesn’t mean that being exposed to them won’t make me feel absolutely horrible, though. I still cough and wheeze uncontrollably when I do something as simple as hug someone who owns a cat or sit in the same car where cats have previously spent some time.

When I spend time with people who own cats, I have to plan ahead to reduce my chances of having a reaction when I’m around them. This means that I can’t ride in their vehicles, enter their homes, hug them, or sit too close to them. It also requires me to take allergy medicine in advance, change my clothing as soon as I get home, and maybe even hop in the shower to rinse away any dander that might have clung to my hair or skin.

On the rare occasion when I accidentally eat or drink something that has milk in it, my entire mouth will become extremely itchy and my lips will start to swell up a little. It has been so long since this happened that I don’t know if my reaction to it would be worse if it happened again. Based on how scary my last experience was, I don’t intend to find out ever again if I can help it.

3. No, Alternative Medicine Won’t Cure Them

All of the herbs, vitamin supplements, positive thinking, and homeopathy in the world isn’t going to do a thing to change how my immune system overreacts to certain things.

While I appreciate the good intentions behind these kinds of suggestions, it really isn’t helpful to tell someone who has allergies that they’ll be cured if they think happy thoughts or take the right combination of supplements.

At best, you’re going to be telling them about a treatment that will do nothing to help them. At worst, you’ll be blaming them for something they didn’t choose and have absolutely no control over.

By all means, keep using alternative medicine if you enjoy it, but please don’t try to give us medical advice or tell us that we’ll be cured once we drink a special tea or take the right supplement.

That’s not how any of this works.

4. It’s Never Okay To Joke About Exposing Someone to Their Allergens

If you joke around about purposefully exposing me to things that will make me sick, I will lose trust in you.  It’s as simple as that.

You wouldn’t tease someone about having diabetes or asthma, would you?

Now that I’ve typed that, I have the sneaking suspicion that folks who joke about feeding or exposing someone to something they’re allergic to probably do say similarly horrifying and dysfunctional things to people who have other health issues. Oh, how I hope I’m wrong about that.

The fact remains, though, that this is not an appropriate topic for a joke.

5. It’s Always Okay to Ask Questions

With that being said, it’s always okay to ask questions about what is or isn’t safe for someone to eat, touch, or be around. I’ve heard of people whose peanut allergies were so severe that they could have a reaction to smelling peanut butter.

It takes a lot more than that for me to react to my allergens, so that’s why it’s important to ask questions instead of making assumptions about how serious someone’s allergy might be.

I really appreciate it when people take the time to ask me about my allergies and listen carefully to my responses. It makes me feel like they take my safety seriously. That’s one of the biggest things someone can do to earn my trust, and it’s something I wish would happen more often.