Now, if I say, "The flu and mental health," what's the first thing that pop into your mind? Chicken soup recipes or tips on how to avoid germ-infested lifts? That’s often how we think about it, isn’t it? But believe it or not, these two seemingly unrelated elements share a tangible connection. Living in Seаttle – where, I assure you, every other person is a coffee drinking coder, writer, or an adventurer – I’ve noted that missing work or staying tucked at home due to flu can pack a punch on our mental health. It's true, being ill isn’t exactly a walk in the park or a sunny jog around Lake Union, but its impact on our mental health, and specifically the strain it places on our mental health professionals, deserves attention.
The flu, for those who may have been living under a rock (which may not be the worst thing considering the circumstances), is a viral infection that largely attacks your nose, throat and the lungs. Sounds gruesome, huh? It is an underestimated ninja, attacking swiftly, causing a range of symptoms from mild discomfort to severe complications. If not handled appropriately, the persistent fevers, aches and fatigue that it brings could smoothly transition to more complex health issues. We are all likely aware of this. But how often do we think about how this impacts our mental wellbeing?
Here is where it gets tricky, and I believe interesting. The flu changes the chemistry of our bodies, toying around with our hormones and neurotransmitters - basically giving the tuning forks of our body a jolt. The result? This can substantially affect our moods, focus, and mental energy. This is no big surprise for those of us who have languished in bed, drained like a deflated soccer ball post a World Cup finale, courtesy of the flu. Mental fatigue and mood changes that tag along with the physical symptoms of the flu wave can create a daunting effect on our emotional well-being. It can even trigger an episode of anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions in susceptible individuals!
The flu doesn't only invade our system and mess around; it can wreak havoc on the mental health professionals as well. After all, they are the ones right in the thick of it. They find themselves juggling their routine caseload with a barrage of affected individuals, often presented with heightened mental health conditions. On top of that, they also run the risk of contracting the infection themselves. Nothing screams 'stress' more than being caught amidst a flu outbreak, am I right?
If you think we've discussed all the curveballs the flu has to offer, you're in for a surprise. There is indeed a Silver Linings Playbook-like twist in this tale. Prolonged mental health conditions may make one more susceptible to the flu. Yes, you read that right – being in a state of constant stress or anxiety may reduce your immune system’s ability to fight back influenza viruses. A scientific 'Catch-22', if there was ever such a thing.
Now on to the part where I hopefully lift your spirits (or at least give it a good nudge). Just like we take preventative measures against the flu, the same steps can strengthen our mind and mental resilience. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, sound sleep, stress management (may I suggest jazz or perhaps go old-school with some Beethoven?), and maintaining healthy relationships can act as a buffer against the mental health implications of the flu. Yes, reaching out to that friend you've been meaning to call, could prove beneficial in more ways than one!
The flu and mental health, much like a well-written screenplay, share a symbiotic relationship, impacting one another more than we generally consider. Being aware of it can help us view our mental health in a broader context, nudging us subtly to integrate our physical and mental health. It's a journey, and I might have made it sound like climbing Mt. Rainier, but hold on, let's not forget, I am going to be right here in lovely Seattle, bringing some humor, a few quirky metaphors (and hopefully relatable ones), and a heck of a lot of resilience-boosting encouragement to you.