The incredible deluge of media and public health attention given to Swine Flu this year has begun to feel very familiar. As more and more Americans fall ill with the flu, I am beginning to wonder: are our immune systems crashing alongside our economy? If so, why now? If we are one of the most resourceful and educated countries in the world, why does the advent of a new flu strain create such a challenge for us?
We are all now familiar with the events that we believe lead up to the crash of our economy, and of course it seems obvious to us now that living and borrowing beyond our means put us in the dire financial position in which we now find ourselves. My feeling is that we have done the same with our health as a nation, and that if we don’t stop the landslide of needing to be the BUSIEST and the RICHEST and the THINNEST and the FASTEST, that perhaps our nation’s immune system may very well end up reflecting our finances.
I believe that moderation is the path that leads us to the greatest state of health. Moderation means that indulgence is fine every now and then, but that pushing ourselves to our limits without time for recovery will inevitably lead to burnout. We cannot avoid stress in our lives and in fact stress can be a very healthy motivator that drives us towards our goals. The key is to listen to your body: if you are feeling run down, your stress hormones are trying to tell you that they can’t do the work for you anymore and that you need to take some time out to recover from all the hard work you have been doing.
For example, research shows us that vigorous exercise on a regular basis is very stimulating to the immune system. However it is also becoming clear that vigorous exercise for extended periods of time without allowing for recovery time can be very suppressive for the immune system, leaving the body more susceptible to viruses, bacteria and the breakdown of healthy tissues. Any distance runner or elite athlete will tell you that recovery time is as important as training. The same principle should be applied to our daily lives.
We are all extremely busy people, usually managing multiple projects and tasks at one time. When we fall ill and refuse to take time for recovery, we put those around us at risk by exposing them to the viral and bacterial particles that we carry. Perhaps we can all agree to treat ourselves a little better, to support our immune systems a little bit more, so that our health as a nation can become stronger and more resilient. This begins by giving ourselves permission to take time out from our busy schedules to rest, relax and regenerate in preparation for the activities that lie ahead.