It's flu season. So drink your orange juice and stack up on vitamin C, or the whole nine yards might get you, including fever, nausea and chills.
But one more lurking symptom can have an even more powerful effect on you: stress.
If you're like me, you have a busy life and cannot afford to get sick. If you work, study, read novels, write columns and attend class, an illness such as the flu is the last thing you want to catch.
The mental effects of stress coupled with an illness such as the flu can not only sideline you for a week, but make you disinterested and depressed.
A few days ago, I began waking up with migraines. This was weird because I had already begun recovering from my flu-like symptoms. I knew something was wrong.
Two days later, I visited my dentist due to jaw soreness, jaw clicking and migraines. It turns out I have something called temporomandibular joint disorder, caused by a clenching jaw and constantly grinding teeth during sleep.
What causes this muscle tension during slumber? Stress.
I knew my life was busy, but I had no idea that stress could have such a monumental impact on the way you live your life.
The question, then, is this: How do you defeat stress? It's all in your mentality.
I've gone to the same dentist my entire life. He's a wonderful dentist and a great man. After sharing my symptoms, he told me an unbelievable story about how —when he was my age — he was involved in a skiing accident and suffered many injuries. It took him a long time to recover.
Despite his physical injuries, he looked me straight in the eye and said that his biggest injury was not at all physical but “up here,” he said, as he pointed to his head.
It was mental.
It is generally unknown how much something like stress really contributes to actual physical illness, but it can definitely be a significant contributing factor.
Defeating stress starts with your mentality. From there, take steps to slowly remove pressure from your hectic life.
The last few weeks have been particularly tough. I have multiple papers and tests coming up and due to my flu-like symptoms, I have been sidelined for a week and a half. It's tough to sit on the sidelines, unable to attend class and learn the necessary things that could help you do well in your classes.
But tell yourself it's OK. Take deep breaths. It's not the end of the world. In fact, taking time away from class can actually help you by giving you more time to read, study and write.
I've just begun taking advantage of my “sick free-time,” and I'm actually writing this column during a time on Thursday when I would typically have class. If it wasn't for my sickness, I'd be in class right now.
It's not the end of the world when you're sick. It's the beginning of an unfortunate, but necessary love affair with free time.
I implore you to use your free time to your advantage: Relax. Read. Write.
Take the necessary steps to think positively and recover quickly.
Don't be like me and let something like the flu stress you out to the point of absurdity.
Take it easy.
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