Lose weight, get better grades, stop procrastinating, travel more, make bank, love life. It’s 2016 and, once again, these staccato imperatives flood Facebook statuses, Twitter feeds, blog posts and diary entries as our self-conscious, Internet-addicted society prepares for its ephemeral commitment to New Year’s Resolutions.
It takes thoughtfulness, dedication and a solid plan to actually achieve the desired outcome that a resolution entails. For college students who face the endless turmoil of filled agendas and early-life crises, this isn’t always easy. How can we have time to fix ourselves when we have so many other responsibilities that seem more important? Where do we find the dedication to make ourselves the priority?
2016, for me, started off with a cough. Which led to pink eye, hearing loss and a hellish sinus infection. Trying to make a solid first impression on professors during week one has proved difficult when I can barely speak or hear them even in a quiet twelve-person workshop. Antibiotics have left my mind and body sluggish and weak. But the worst part is, this physical state has gradually become the norm for me.
You know how in school there was that kid who was always sniffling and out sick? That was me. Plagued by endless colds, my immune system just never seemed ready for the germ-filled adolescence of public school. High school came around and I decided to take action: allergy tests, blood tests, examination after examination — all coming back negative. I wasn’t allergic to anything, I was just sick a lot.
I blamed it on my environment; a father who smokes, a house full of dog fur, the polluted air of the Inland Empire. When I move out, go to Irvine where I’m free from smoke and smog, then I’ll feel better, right? Well, yes and no. Over the last three years, my body’s response to germs and immune deficiencies has altered. As opposed to being in a constant state of mildly ill, I now suffer a typhoon of maladies once or twice a year.
My latest round of suffering prompted my mom to buy me a book that held the answer to all of my problems. Dr. Susan Blum’s “The Immune System Recovery Plan” outlines a four-step plan for improving an overall weak immune system. Diet, digestion, liver health and stress levels are the main elements for eliminating autoimmune illnesses.
Stress levels. Something all college students know all too well. I, in particular, struggle with managing my stress levels. As someone who is unable to say no to people, I’ve stumbled into that odd realm of being “involved” on campus, with tons of responsibilities and a stream of people who rely on me to get things done. And it’s stressful.
Until reading Dr. Blum’s book, I had no idea how interconnected stress and physical health actually are. Stressors are real chemical agents in our brains that activate when we go in “fight or flight” mode. This then unleashes a series of hormones — specifically cortisol — which, if you remain in a state of stress, become unbalanced. Now your weakened immune system can’t fight off bacteria that constantly enter your body. Then you get sick.
Coincidentally, my semi-annual sickness always seem to fall during finals week, when my daily routine of getting up early and spending all day going, going, going gets thrown off. As a result, my body has time to process the stress, for the sickness to fully kick in. And I spend finals week in bed, suffering, and writing papers worth 40 percent of my grade. Unfortunately, this go, go, go mentally is the standard of productivity for young people.
This year, however, I’ve challenged myself to replace that “go” with a “no.” Consolidate my priorities to those that really matter and will offer immediate benefits. Start paying attention to my body and figure out what’s really going on with me. Don’t just accept the medicine. Discover why I’ve been so sick in the first place.
So, how can we prioritize ourselves over our other tasks? Resolve that the correlation between physical and mental health dictates our ability to successfully even fulfill those other responsibilities. When we don’t feel our best, we can’t work our best either. 2016 should be the year we take a collective deep breath in and refocus our attention to ourselves upon exhale.