Word on the street is it’s that time of year again. The inevitable cold and flu season where the warming sounds of sleigh bells and merry carol singers are drowned out by hacking coughs, sniffly noses and advertising slogans promising to help us push through pain, get back on with our hectic schedule and just keep going, despite aches and exhaustion.
With our current lifestyles honouring ‘busy’ as an endorsement of status its little wonder the over-the-counter cold and flu remedy industry has been growing significantly year on year. We’re promised that these pills, powders, liquids and sprays will allow us to get on with our meeting, make it through another 10 hour day and ensure we don’t surrender to that head splitting cry to pull up the duvet and stay in bed.
Yet isn’t there something just a little conceited about the belief that ”I’m too busy to get sick”? Would the world really stop turning if you stayed in bed for one day? If you chose rest and recovery over ‘powering through’? What is really at stake here? The longer we try to override the body’s balancing system, perfected over millennia, the longer it can take to recover and, let’s face it, when deep in the throes of flu, we are not valuable contributors in our jobs or particularly inspiring to be around.
The human body is an engineering triumph. Consistently working to bring balance. Mediating pleasure and pain, heat and cold, fast and slow with remarkable precision, in every single moment. And it’s been doing this successfully for millions of years! When it’s time to slow down, it will let us know and no one is exempt from this call, regardless of the title on our business card.
Despite figures that the average adult suffers 2 to 4 colds per year, many of us suffer none, gliding through the season with a festive smile while surrounded by the perennial victims. Rather than stockpiling home remedies and vowing to keep on going, why not work on prevention rather than cure? Reducing stress, sleeping well and eating sufficient nutrients while avoiding sugar and inflammatory food, like wheat, could challenge the perception that colds and flu are an inevitable part of the festive season.
And what if the belief in this inevitability actually contributed to the chance of getting sick? Increased stress and irritation from sitting next to an infected co-worker might actually be the cause of our winter downfall. In a bold experiment by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, it was found that those with a positive emotional style, let’s call them optimists, were less likely to contract a cold when exposed to the virus and, if they did, reported markedly less symptoms than those with a more negative emotional style.
So before you head to the pharmacy, consider injecting some positivity into your day instead, allowing you to enjoy this magical season. If the virus does strike, do everyone a favour and get some rest, plenty of fluids and admit that even you are dispensable for a couple of days! The body always knows best.
You can read the full Emotional Style & Common Cold study here – http://www.cbdr.cmu.edu/seminar/Cohen.pdf