Friday, December 21, 2012

Last Lap

Solstice is here at last, a sure sign that the lengthy, stressful, wonderful holiday season is coming to a close. From Solstice to New Year's Day we are in the chute, as it were. The energy rises fast now in preparation for the grand finale, like on the Fourth of July at the conclusion of the show, when they bring out all the biggest, brightest, most colorful and loudest fireworks, then set them off all at the same time.

Even people who love the holidays become exhausted and frazzled by the end of the festival of abundance that began at Thanksgiving. It's so over the top (as it should be, in my opinion). There are those of us, the introverts mostly, who struggle with the inevitable sensory overload that is the result of too many parties, a whole lot of feasting, shopping in clogged shopping centers, brightly lit landscapes, lurid sweaters and so on.

Every year extraverts and introverts, lovers of the season as well as grinches, work hard to make the holiday successful - whatever that means (people have very different interpretations, of course). Our efforts are appropriate and can be very enjoyable, but all the extra activity and expense takes its toll, spiritually, mentally and physically.

Whether you love them or hate them, or something in between, my suggestion for getting through the final days of the festival is to let go of what hasn't yet been done so as to relax and enjoy the holiday itself. In any event, it will all be over soon. January will arrive, dreary perhaps but for almost every one of us, a relief.

Let there be light. Happy Solstice. Shalom.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Get hot, y'all

I have never had a flu shot. Even a few years ago when swine flu was being touted as horribly dangerous, I thought about it for five minutes, then decided not to.

Contemporary western medicine is designed to keep people going 24/7. It is meant to keep us upright, working and living our lives without interruption. There is a perhaps unspoken assumption that good health means you should never have to call in sick so as to spend a day in bed. You should never have to cancel your tennis date or avoid going to the gym - never, not EVER.

It's a bizarre and distinctly mechanical way to think about health. Should you, a typical human being, develop a symptom, there's a pill to counteract it, or to help you ignore the messages your body is sending you. I think this is crazy, blowing off your health so you won't miss that important meeting at work? What is that all about?

Sometimes, in the drug store, I stop and stare at the painkiller aisle. From floor to ceiling the shelves are packed with every kind of pain killer that can be sold without prescription. In my society, you really are not supposed to have any kind of physical sensation. It's alarming.

Most over the counter pain killers are also anti-inflammatory, which means they will reduce a fever. That, until very recently, was seen as a good thing. A fever is uncomfortable and unnerving. But recently, it has been revealed in the world of what I call "Well - DUH" medical research, that developing a fever in response to infection by bacteria and viruses is Very Therapeutic. Well - duh!

Fevers clear all kinds of crap out of the body including serious diseases. Hyperthermia is the new big thing in cancer treatment. There is plenty of evidence that a high fever can shrivel tumors. Here's a link to a story about someone whose leukemia was cured completely by way of a high fever.

If a fever can kick cancer, it can surely help us in many other ways, right? If you google "fever therapy" you'll find tons of serious - also tons of silly - websites about the miraculous impact a fever can have on a variety of ailments.

Catching a cold or what we call "the flu," once or twice a year, and therefore developing a fever as a result, is a sign of a vigorous immune system. It's a natural, healthy process. When this happens, the smartest, most beneficial thing you can do for yourself is to call in sick, get in bed, eat chicken soup, drink tea, watch stupid movies or read magazines and sleep. Monitor your fever of course. For adults, it shouldn't go above 101 F. Wrap yourself up, let the fever do its job. If it climbs too high, take one aspirin to bring it down to 101 or below. If the fever lasts for more than 24 hours, call your doctor. After a few hours, the fever will "break" with a big sweat and a feeling of relief.

At that point, take a nice warm shower and sleep as long as you can. When you wake up, take it easy for a day or two. In this way, you will return to your regularly scheduled life renewed, cleansed and usually feeling far better than you did before you got sick.

Every time you kick a cold or "the flu" without medical intervention, you strengthen your immune system. A hearty immune system is the backbone of good health. That we continually attack our own immune systems not only with pain killers but also with antibiotics, in order to make sure we never stop working, never stop going going going full blast, is very unfortunate.

People who say they never get a cold? They creep me out. I wonder what is festering inside them that could be dispensed by a fever, some congestion and nose blowing, and a couple of days of rest. Yikes.

This advice is for healthy people. People whose immune systems are compromised have to be much more careful. However, even those with weakened immune systems can slowly rebuild the body's natural response to unwanted bacteria and viruses, but please do so in conjunction with close monitoring by your doctor. And if your doctor thinks it's stupid of you to want a hearty immune system, switch doctors ASAP, please.

May you be well. When you come down with a cold, may you respect that moment, may you respect the messages your body sends to you. May you dare to break your routine for a few days and in so doing become stronger and more resilient. May it be so!

Shalom and Gesundheit. To your health!