The Summer Time Flu: Why Change Always Gets the Better of Us

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Memorial Day Weekend is a stones throw away and the 7 day forecast is finally starting to warrant the publics ephemeral serendipity.  Shortened Fridays, college commencements, and the re-opening of Ralphs Italian Ice’s provides ample evidence to derive the fact that summer is finally upon us.  As the daylight lingers and Thursdays are dubbed “a thing” again, the exuberance that comes at the end of May is as refreshing as it is necessary…welcome back to the good life.

As Summer plans are slated and bathing suit diets become religion, many summer-eagers are met with a frustrating and unexpected trip to the doctors office, where a Z-pack and bed rest are prescribed to the unlucky ones who come down with an oxymoronic summer cold.  Just as winter loosens the noose, it seems that the flu-bug musters up the last of its endemic energy to prolong the depression as if the groundhog saw its shadow…6 more weeks it is!

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Cough-induced insomnia and technicolor dry heaves forced my hand into calling my general practitioner.  The doctor supplied me with a round of antibiotics and an explanation as to why the masses fall ill when spring collides with the dog days of August, albeit we are only in May.  The body is constantly working to maintain it’s systems under a condition known as homeostasis.  First scribed by renowned biologist Claude Bernard, homeostasis describes the set of internal circumstances that must be met and maintained in order for people to best function.  This checklist of Goldilocks-esque metrics includes temperatures, sodium & nitrogen levels, PH, and a plethora of other anatomical ingredients that the human body demands in order to remain healthy.  As the body works feverishly to maintain milieu intérieur, or internal balance, the forces of nature i.e. seasonal change derails the hypothalamuses efforts leading to the eventual common cold…class dismissed.

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Homeostasis is the bodies barometer that uncovers a more universal truth about mankind and the human predicament on a more grandiose scale.  You see, the caloric requirements to maintain anatomical equilibrium is daunting.  When you delve even deeper into the subject and dissect just how particular we as people are in order to not only survive, but more importantly thrive, its a miracle that we are even able to shlep ourselves to the office day in and day out.  It all goes to show just how adverse we as a species are to change, when even a mere 10 degree climate bump can result in complete immune system derailment.  As creatures of habit, we balk at the first sign of change and begin to overcompensate, just as the hypothalamus does when winter ceases to the summer.  Change, even when positive, is a tough battle ground to conquer, one our minds and bodies are simply not adept at managing…henceforth, we fall ill.  So, if a minuscule variations in our homeostatic requirements can cause such great hardships, are we, for lack of a better word, fucked?  In a world where change is in fact constant, how are people expected to remain ahead of the curve?

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Libraries-worth of research has been compiled over the decades, uncovering the truth behind mankind’s inability to deal with change.  In fact, there is a whole subset of psychology dedicated to the trauma associated with change, a field of work plainly named transitional psychology.  A widely used framework for demystifying the stress of transitions is Kate Berardo’s 5Rs of Culture Change. According to the 5R model, the main areas that are affected when we move across cultures (or seasons) are Routines, Reactions, Roles, Relationships, and Reflections about ourselves.  In compilation, the model goes on to explain that the increased cortisol levels, the bodies stress-related hormone, WILL sky rocket from even the most subliminal of aberrations.  What is a day walker to do if even something as subtle as a gust of wind can throw our systems askance?  Simply put, we adapt…both internally and externally.

Outside In:

Change can be tackled by mitigating the fluctuations that nature throws our way, an art form that 21st century inhabitants have come to master.  Cybernetics is likely a word you’ve never heard before, yet we all benefit from studies within the field on a daily basis.

noun


  1. (functioning as sing) the branch of science concerned with control systems in electronic and mechanical devices and the extent to which useful comparisons can be made between man-made and biological systems
Simply put, cybernetics is climate control.  Air conditioning and radiators.  Fitbits and Applewatches.  Technology poised to replace the signals the body fires off to alert the brain that its homeostasis is being compromised.  As technology advances, so to do our means for passively moderating our systems.  While I can’t speak enough on the novelty and utility of cybernetics in day-to-day life, the true student-of-the-game will push their personal envelopes even further than the White Coats do in their laboratories.  In short, environmental coddling can only go so far.

 

Inside Out:

While external adjustments are well and good, it’d be a far fetch’d pipe dream to foolishly believe that your technological ends will always be available to remedy the environmental means.  Barring all dooms day scenarios and zombie apocalypses, maybe cybernetics and external regulatory systems will in fact always be reachable.  The boy scout within me beckons a little more introversion.  It informs me to find the moral fiber to weather the storm that is change using nothing but our own god-given tools.  While homeostasis, on a biological level, may never be appeased via yoga and other frivolous Tony Robbins positivity speeches, there is always more that we can do on our personal end.  Homeostasis represents the Goldilocks conditions we humans need in order to thrive, the aforementioned grocery list required to bake the cake that is a worthwhile life.  While people always find ways to supplement their personal arsenal through the advent of technology and science, our own personal barracks should still suffice.

Exploration: Expanding ones Goldilocks conditions, where everything feels just right, can be done by broadening the horizons.  Change can be either expected or sudden.  Regardless, a person who has experienced a change will likely not be so surprised next time a similar condition surfaces.

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Final Thoughts:

Preparation:  Change related stress can be subdued through preparation.  The saying goes that luck favors the prepared…perhaps a slight tweak can be allowed under my poetic license.  I would go on to say that “not giving a fuck” about change favors those that are prepared for it.

Acceptance: My summer time cold enlightened me to what is likely the bottom line here.  Change, expected or not, is an unavoidable truth.  Change is a constant, ironically; it is likely to surface dozens of times a day.  If the seasonal change, a phenomenon as expected as it is guaranteed, can still raze our immune systems, then no amount of exploration nor preparation will allow us to save face.  Instead, just accept it.  Accept the fact that change is natural and that we are naturally not good at dealing with it.  Sometimes a simple “fuck it” will suffice and accepting thing out of our control is the only way to shelter our fragile little selfs.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

 

 

 

 

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