sickness is more than skin deep
Illustration by Abby Yang, Minneapolis College of Art and Design
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sickness is more than skin deep
Illustration by Abby Yang, Minneapolis College of Art and Design

In a weird way, being sick allows you to reflect on your mental state, which can help you bounce back faster from an ailment.

Being sick in the modern-day can feel like so much of a burden. Now you must postpone all of your everyday obligations and simply wait it out. You’re basically reduced to infant status and must rely on those around you to keep things going. But instead of lamenting the pain that comes with sickness, dig a bit deeper to examine your life at present. Illness may put us out of commission for a spell, but it is a perfect opportunity to sit still and develop new strategies for going through life.

Despite living in an age where everyone is constantly overthinking and overdoing, we rarely take holistic assessments of our life. Because we’re all so concerned about what will happen in the future, we miss out on the present moment and take the past for granted. When sickness strikes, we usually begin to worry about how life will go if condemned to bed rest. “Will my paycheck be enough?” or “How am I going to eat?” are common thoughts when daily life is put on pause. This cyclical pattern of worrying won’t do you any good now that your body is in a weakened state.

Negative thoughts will exhaust you even more. Our fight or flight impulse gets priority over our immune system. Since we have a limited amount of energy, our body tries to use it in the most efficient way. This pairs with the logic present in ancient civilizations where if you don’t escape the tragedy, there’s no point in minimizing the risk of potential infection. Today, this process is apparent when our daily stress triggers our fight or flight responses. Our blood pressure and heart rate increase while pain is subdued. Typically, our fight or flight response is necessary to either defend or escape a threat to our survival. But what good is increased alertness going to do if there isn’t any external danger present? Additionally, pain during sickness may be uncomfortable but is very necessary to allow your body to communicate what’s wrong. The issue is that our fight or flight response can also be triggered and lead to panic. So when you scour WebMD to see whether this cold is fatal or not, you may be adding fuel to the flames.

Since our immune system serves as our defense against internal invasions like viruses, having your metabolic energy wasted on agility can be detrimental while sick. The immune system acts to eliminate foreign invaders. It does this by raising our temperature to kill off the virus and inducing sleepiness to allocate maximum energy to defend our body. But it often doesn’t perform as it should because of the massive preference to problem-solve instead of allowing your body to heal. And many times, we see that individuals suffering from mental or physical illness tend to be comorbid with an ailment and anxiety.

Diseases are influenced by anxiety itself. Hair falling out, random colds and unexplained rashes all share common themes. You can’t deal with an emotional issue, so your body lashes out as a physical manifestation of what you are refusing to heal. The reasons why sicknesses occur will vary between people. The impact the sickness has on a person will also vary, depending upon how they conceptualize their ailments. It could be something as simple as increased anxiety negatively influencing acne. Good Rx explains how anxiety contributes to higher oil production and thus can worsen acne. But it can also be as extreme as depression. When we neglect our mental health, there’s no telling how it could impact our lives, even more so than it already does.

Digging Deeper Into The Connection Between Your Mind and Body

A decline in your physical health is an opportunity to take a personal pause and recognize what changes need to be made. This could be eating healthier or reducing stress in your everyday routines. However, most individuals would rather deal with the pain of the sickness instead of going to therapy. In a world where we prioritize logic and shun emotions, we think we’re okay but are too afraid to acknowledge our feelings. This is understandable because society treats emotional people as weak and intellectual individuals as essential or extraordinary.

Keeping your emotions inside is a quick fix but will eventually cause unexplainable outbursts. It’s the same as putting a band-aid on an infected wound. You constrict your emotions to protect yourself without remembering that negligence is the main issue. Emotions aren’t supposed to be permanent but rather a wave that flows through each of us. The best way to allow that wave to flow is to accept the emotion, recognize it, and respond however you want. However, some people prefer to either abandon the feeling completely or cling to it because they cannot make logical sense of it, both of which will interrupt the steady flow of emotion.

How to Deal With Sickness?

Our emotions and our intellect are integral to our survival. In the past, logic may have taken precedence over emotions because of the need to merely survive. But in today’s modern society, where emotional issues are more deadly than our environment, we need to also recognize the importance of emotional intelligence. The influence of mental health and physical health on each other shows that taking care of both is necessary for our overall health. The amount of progress to be gained from being sick starts from within. It really is a question of your outlook on life in general. Do you see the glass as half empty or half full? And thus, when you have an invitation to solve underlying emotional issues through the vehicle of a common cold, will you take it?

Writer Profile

Michael Slade

University of Texas at San Antonio
Philosophy & Psychology

Hi everyone! My interests include spirituality, occultism, real estate and writing! My mission is to disseminate knowledge of self-love, mindfulness and optimism.

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