Once we pass a certain age (usually in the single digits), we start to understand one of the tragic facts of life: death is inevitable, and then we’re plagued by illness on the journey there. We tell our children that becoming unwell is part of growing up, and that we become stronger (some say taller) with every sickness we get. I know of a few kids who love being sick just so that they can avoid school. Obviously these people haven’t been ill very often, or been plagued by very big major bouts of discomfort.
We sometimes hear stories of people being so busy with work, or so lovelorn, that their bodies can’t take the strain and they become unwell. I didn’t use to understand very well how the two were related. If you’re emotionally distressed, why would that make viruses attack you more? I surmised towards the end that it had something to do with our immune system becoming weaker when we’re stressed. That’s not entirely wrong, but there is an even closer link between our physical and psychological well-being!
For starters, do you know that as much as 50% of clinic visits are really due to psychological rather than physical issues?
And also, up to 50% of all the pain we feel is purely psychological? When we keep thinking about our pain, we actually magnify it in our minds.
Researchers have said that the symptoms of stress are always the same — high temperatures, lethargy, nausea, loss of appetite, dizziness. All these are symptoms of fever, and stress can trigger such feelings. We can even say that stress causes fever, or a number of coping reactions that we term as fever. Luckily for me, I don’t have a fever, but likely a common cold.
“Speaking of which,” you may say, “does this mean that all our fevers and illnesses are psychological? Why do we still eat medicine then? Why do scientists still study bacteria and viruses?”
Well, we do know that the influenza virus is indeed a virus, and is contagious, unlike stress (though I suppose it can be stressful facing a stressed person all day). I would agree with popular belief that the symptoms of fever caused by the invasion of the influenza virus stem from our immune system attacking the virus, and the “stress” experienced by our bodies in combating the disease. So whether we’re fighting overwork, examinations, the feelings of missing our love, or the invasion of foreign harmful substances, our bodies regard them as the same experience! So not only do you have to eat your fruits and take care of your bodies, remember to keep your mood pleasant and relaxed too!
Interestingly, many of the activities we take that are beneficial to our bodies, such as eating fruits and exercising, also exercise great benefit on our minds. Fruits have glucose which give us a sweet happy feeling, and exercise releases endorphins that reduce mental stress. Thank goodness nature makes it so easy for us to take care of ourselves!