Feeling Moody? Your Allergies May Be To Blame
April showers bring May…anxiety? By now you’re probably aware of the winter blues – the temporary sadness, and sometimes depression, that many people feel during the dark, cold winter months – but the spring slump is very real too.
What is the Spring Slump?
As flowers start to bloom and grasses grow taller, pollen is released into the air. This pollen triggers allergies in many people. Seasonal allergies are common and many people are aware of the symptoms that come with them such as a runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes. But there is a less discussed symptom of springtime allergies: mood changes. We’re calling it the Spring Slump.
Many studies have found fatigue, stress, and depression are very common among those with seasonal allergies. Are the allergies themselves causing these symptoms? Or, do certain mental health issues make people more prone to serious allergies? It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation, but there are many possible reasons for these correlations.
First is the matter of medication. When your eyes are burning and your nose is running, it’s hard to just wait it out. Most allergy medications are available over the counter and are an easy way to get the relief you need, but that comes at a cost. Antihistamines, which are used to treat allergies, often can make you feel drowsy or tired. This can have a major effect on your mood, making it hard to feel motivated and accomplish even basic tasks.
Has someone ever called you out for sniffling? Or given you a dirty look for coughing in public? Seasonal allergy symptoms are not only uncomfortable, but can make us feel embarrassed. People often associate seasonal allergy symptoms with illness, which can make those of us who are afflicted with a seasonal sneeze or runny nose nervous to go out in public for fear of being judged.
Some studies suggest that both the nasal symptoms and mood problems may be directly associated with the allergies themselves. When we’re exposed to allergens, our immune cells produce cytokines, protein molecules that help our immune system do its job. When released, cytokines can cause inflammation. Cytokines cause inflammation in the nasal passages, which explains why so many of us feel congested during springtime. But, the lesser known fact is that cytokines may also cause inflammation in the frontal lobes of the brain. This could explain why negative mood changes are so common among people with allergies.
Some studies suggest mood changes may not be a symptom of allergies, but that the correlation may actually be the other way around and that those with chronic stress may become more prone to allergies. One study found that patients who reported more stress had significantly stronger postnasal discharge, thick discharge, cough, disturbed sleep, fatigue, and sadness.
So, what can we do about it?
Spring has certainly sprung, and if you’re feeling the emotional toll of seasonal allergies know you’re not alone. If you are feeling severely anxious or depressed, we recommend reaching out to a professional who will be able to help you create a treatment plan.
If your mood changes are more mild, there are many things you can do to lessen the severity of your symptoms. First is trying to rid your life of allergens.
Of course, this is not completely possible especially since you can’t just clean the great outdoors, but luckily there are ways to protect yourself a bit from pollen. When you get home from spending time outside, shower as soon as possible to get pollen off your body. Keep the windows closed when you can to keep pollen out of your home. If you can, invest in an air purifier.
In terms of boosting your mood, try to find a mindfulness practice that brings you stability and happiness every day. Maybe that’s a meditation, a few minutes of gratitude journaling, or popping a PYM Mood Chew and reading a book. We hope these tips help you make the most of your Spring Slump.