How to love nature when it makes you sneezy and snuffly

The sky is blue, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the bees are ecstatic as they buzz from flower to flower. And you are indoors. Windows closed. Scowling in between nose blows and sneezes.

Hayfever season – the time of year when even the most confirmed nature lover has trouble taking joy in a glorious summer day.

I am one of those people. Around about March time my throat starts to itch. By April occasional sneezes are erupting forcibly when I least expect them (- I am a loud sneezer! I often startle myself as well as other innocent bystanders).

By May itchy eyes join the show. And, if you meet me in June or July, I’ll invariably be complaining about lack of sleep as the combination of all of those symptoms has really taken hold.

There are various practical things I’ve learned over the years that help alleviate some of the awfulness of hayfever. But I’ve also had to devote some time to my feelings about nature getting all excited and wafting her pollen everywhere. I’m not able to stop nature, so what happens if I embrace it all instead?

Here are some practical suggestions to make hayfever easier to live with

Wash your hair and change your clothes when you come indoors / before bed. It can feel like a huge hassle if you are tired, but even just pouring a jug of water over your head to rinse away pollen can make a difference to the quality of your sleep.

Use a neti pot. (Google it if you’ve not come across the name before.) Weirdly wonderful way of rinsing out the nasal passages.

Wear sunglasses – even on a dull day. Yes, you might look a bit mysterious, but that’s okay.

If you’ve had a long day outdoors, your body may thank you for spending more of the next day indoors. This one can feel hard – especially if the weather is good. My body definitely appreciates a day off from too much pollen though. And then I can go out and about again having had that respite.

Spend time at the coast. I live in Devon, about a 20 minute drive from the sea, surrounded by fields, heath and woods. A day with the sea breeze and dunking my head in the cold, salty water can help me feel less stuffy. I might still sneeze but I feel more refreshed than if I am inland.

Get out of the city. It may sound counter-intuitive to head for the countryside but pollution levels in built up areas can actually make hayfever symptoms feel worse. You may still sneeze in the country but at least you also get all the other benefits that time in nature gives.

My #1 secret to dealing with hayfever

Once you’ve helped yourself as much as possible doing the practical things that you know make a difference for you, surrender to your hayfever.

The more upset you feel, the worse your symptoms can feel. So why not just look at that blue sky, those perky dandelions, the wafts of nettle pollen heading your way, and relax.

It’s only for a few months. There’s still plenty you can do and appreciate with nature. You just happen to have a sensitivity.

Using meditation (find some good ones here) to relax and appreciate your body, and finding ways to feel grateful for the wonders of nature can be helpful too.

You are not alone

In the time it’s taken me to write this post, I’ve sneezed 4 times and rubbed my eyes twice. My window is open and I can hear a blackbird singing cheerfully and the distant hum of a lawnmower. It’s only May. I will come back and read my own good advice again in June and July! Along with the mind and body approach, I’m taking anti-histamines. I want  to enjoy as much of the summer as I can. And I’m using this daily affirmation: relax, surrender, this too shall pass.

photo credit: Lyz Scarr-Quin

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