After what may have felt like the longest winter ever, spring has finally arrived!*Knock on wood! Houstonians have been awaiting spring weather for months now. With the changing of the seasons comes rising temps and blooming flowers. With the sun shining high in the sky, it’s the perfect time of year to resume outdoor activities. Not only is it a great way to have fun, spending time outdoors yields a bounty of health benefits, both mental and physical. Getting active in the open air has been linked to positive benefits including stress and anxiety relief, endorphin release which can boost happiness, and deeper and more restful sleep. While springtime in Houston is known for lovely weather, the season does bring with it a few challenges that we must face in order to stay healthy and stress-free.
ACHOO! IT’S ALLERGY SEASON
Springtime in Texas means pollen will be in the air. Grass pollen counts are at a high right now, and tree and ragweed pollen counts are expected to rise in the upcoming months. Those who tend to suffer during allergy season may consider discussing a treatment plan with their doctor – the earlier the better. Many will find a daily antihistamine to be effective, but every case is unique so it’s best to discuss with a doctor before starting any medicine.
There are some steps you can take to minimize allergy symptoms aside from medicine. Minimizing your exposure to your allergens will make a big difference in your symptoms. You can check the pollen index on the Weather Channel’s Allergy Tracker to see if pollen is high. It can even forecast future days, which will be helpful for your scheduled outdoor activities. It’s important to keep pollen and other allergens outside where they belong. Make sure you don’t bring any outside allergens home with you by changing your clothes before getting into your bed, cleaning your home frequently, and choosing air conditioning over fresh air during the daytime, when it is practical.
Sunny spring days in Texas mean warmer temps and more enjoyable conditions for outdoor activity. It’s a great time to get outside and explore. Whether it’s a hike near Lake Houston or a day of play with your kids at the local park, it’s important to enjoy the sunshine. Our bodies produce Vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, and we also see a boost in mood and happiness when we connect with nature and our neighbors and friends.
Don’t forget that while the weather is mild, the sun is still out! Sunscreen is essential and should be applied at least 30 minutes before stepping outdoors and reapplied every 2 hours while you’re out. While outdoor activity is good for you, it’s important to listen to your body and not overdo it. Drink plenty of water and if you feel too hot, take a break and cool down. Watch out for signs of heat exhaustion and worse, heat stroke. As the humidity rises from spring into summer, your body will have a harder time cooling down so it’s important to take breaks during an active day in the heat.
Houstonians are very familiar with how cold most indoor places are kept when temperatures outside start to rise. Moving from a cool and dry place to a hot and humid environment outdoors may result in an unpleasant headache. Mild headaches will likely pass as your body adjusts to the change in humidly and temperature. However, it is important to stay hydrated and keep medications on hand in case a more severe headache strikes.
LONGER DAYLIGHT AND SPRING SLEEP
Longer daylight hours mean that your internal clock is shifting, impacting your sleep schedule. Those who find it harder to get to sleep during the seasonal shift may benefit from darkening their sleep environment. Ensure that all lights, including those from electronic devices, are turned off at night. This will signal to your body that it is time to wind down.
The heat may also impact your sleep routine and can keep you up at night. If you have air conditioning, try to keep your bedroom between 67 and 72 degrees for optimal sleep. This will also help fight humidity, which can leave you feeling like you’re swimming in your sheets. If you don’t have air conditioning, keep windows closed on hot days and open them at night when the air is cooler and less humid. It is also important to make sure your sleep surface is cool and comfortable. Smooth sheets and a pillow that stays cool and breathable (like the ones made by Casper) can make a significant impact on your comfort throughout the night.
Winter may be stressful because of the holidays, but spring has its moments. April 15th was the last day to get your taxes in on time. If you jumped through all the hoops on time, that’s great! If you missed the deadline, stress isn’t the answer. You can usually ask for an extension and get them filed before it’s too late. Whether or not you were punctual this year, tax season brings out the panic of finding one receipt that can make or break your return. It’s a good time to get organized. Create a system that is effective that you’ll actually use. For example, if you know you aren’t going to file every receipt by category in a binder, at least keep them sorted chronologically in a safe place. This will save you stress for next year (and for non-tax reasons, like trying to prove that you own something for warranty reasons). Remember to take a deep breath and prioritize self-care, as increased stress can result in decreased mental and physical health. For more ideas on self-care, check out our DIY Spa Day blog here.
Nicer weather usually brings out the urge to travel. While travel is great for your mood and your health, it can be easy to get stressed about the details. From delayed flights to spring traffic, there are plenty of ways that your travel plans can get off the rails. It’s important to have a well-planned trip so you don’t overlook any details, but you should leave plenty of travel time and account for delays in your trip. It’s a good idea to leave open time on your itinerary for both delays and to avoid feeling rushed. Most importantly, don’t rush to get there. Your destination will still be there, no matter how late you are. Driving in a hurry can lead to stress, fatigue, and a higher risk of an accident.
Taking steps to have a stress-free and healthy spring can make your entire season more enjoyable. And if you get bumped or bruised along the way, Next Level Urgent Care will be there to get you back outside!