Illness and Newton’s laws of motion

Today it’s February 25, 2018. After weeks of clear winter sunshine a Siberian cold comes our way. With temperatures that fall well below the zero point and because of the east wind even feel much lower, I have to pay more attention to my health. The fact that I am not the only one who went down a couple of times this winter is hardly a comfort. In addition to the ongoing influenza epidemic, there are also many people who suffer from burnouts and stress during the winter. When you are sick, you have no energy left to face challenges and solve problems. Then it is good to take a distant view on “disease”. Try not to get entangled in medical details, conflicting treatment methods or a forest of (homeopathic) medicines, but check what disease actually is, what can thus make us sick and what “feeling better” means.

The first thing you need to understand is that evolution leads to order in chaos. It once started out as a “big bang”, from which a gaseous knit formed planets and stars and finally gave rise to increasingly complex forms starting with chains of amino acids in the earthly “primordial soup”. The original chaos is, as it were, converted into forms and organisms through an energy-rich effort. Without that energy everything sooner or later always decays to chaos. We leave the philosophy alone, and we look at the order that has arisen. In fact, that is no more than a balance among a lot of forces and energies. In large and small, the world actually is a very complex composition of all kinds of equilibrium situations. Every time something like this shifts, something happens. A volcano erupts, a prey is killed, a love blossoms. In this way any human being is also a balance of inner and outer factors. That is why every person (just like any other part of the creation) is unique. Even though from a distance we look alike (that is what all human-oriented sciences study), the balance is different for every individual.

At this point I make a dodge to Newton, not to do physics, but to make the concept of “balance” more manageable. His laws of motion say something about that. For an explanation of the physics, I refer to Wikipedia for convenience. The first law says that a balance does not tend to change if there is no net force on it (slowness). The second (acceleration) law says that if a force remains, the change in the balance will go faster and faster. The third law says that in the case of balance, all working forces compensate each other (the action = -reaction law). Our body is a very complex balance of cells, bacteria and all kinds of chemical substances, which ultimately leads to organs, hormones, blood, nerve conduction and so on. A healthy person then simply shows a certain balance that is effective in life. Mechanisms have been built into our body to ensure that we stay healthy, meaning that the balance is maintained within certain margins. If that does not work (or not immediately), then we become ill. Through drugs and therapies we try to help the body to restore balance. Those margins, which I just mentioned, determine whether a person is sick quickly and often or not.

In order to know what makes us ill, we must therefore look at possible disruptions to our health balance. Unfortunately, this is different for everyone. Moreover, we are not all equally sensitive to internal or external influences. Some people never get a cold, and others at every turn. In some people, the liver gives up quickly after regular alcohol consumption, while others can be an alcoholic for decades.
It is generally accepted that body and mind help each other to stay healthy. A healthy lifestyle with exercise, natural food, rest and regular mental satisfaction is the best defense against all kinds of diseases. Even if your genetic code strengthens certain sensitivities, you can live an acceptable life by determining the optimal balance for you. It is often a question of listening carefully to your body, and daring to be honest with your own thoughts, fears and worries. Because body and mind can help each other, but it can also turn in a different direction. Long-term illness can lead to depression. Mental pressure at work or in the relationship can lead to physical complaints. It happens all too often that the body calls you a halt through an accident or illness, to force you to make time for a thorough re-reflection. Calling in specialized help (physician or therapist) also prevents problems getting too big. That is always the case, though, not only with respect to your health…

Everyone has to find their own and personal balance when it comes to health. In the course of time, that balance can also change, for example if your hormonal system adjusts itself differently. Some events also have a lasting impact, for example a heavy delivery or an accident. Lifestyle and diet can slowly shift the balance. In general, a stable situation can be called “healthy”. That does not mean the same for everyone. The one is in super condition and runs a marathon every month, while the other is doing well, but isn’t fit for top sport. That situation is in accordance with the 1st Law: your health remains in order within certain margins in the absence of internal or external influences (stress, bacteria, trauma, etc.). However, once the margins are exceeded by such influences, the 2nd Law comes into effect, and we become ill. Without attempts to compensate (according to the 3rd Law), we become increasingly ill. Compensation can be applying medication or therapy. In light cases, it is sufficient to take a rest instead of staying active. This gives your body the opportunity to enlarge the internal margins so that our defense mechanism can continue to do its work. Fortunately, in most cases we return to the original stable state.
But sometimes that does not work.
Then the medication, for example, counterproducts by evoking an allergic reaction. Or surgery must be performed to remove an inflamed organ. A new kind of balance always arises, even if in the end nothing can helps.

Here are a few preventions that you can take into account:

  • Good and consistent hygiene, especially if there is an epidemic, is extremely important. Most contamination occurs through hands, touching in general, and emissions of germs (sneezing from the nose, coughing from the throat, talking with saliva). Moist surface areas form an excellent breeding bed for fungi and bacteria. Regularly cleaning with soap, rinsing well (for example toilet and bathroom / shower, but certainly also the sink in the kitchen) are good preventive measures. Here too, exaggeration is not good: you should build up some resistance against infections. The world is simply not sterile, but you do not have to help the development of potential pathogens by not cleaning. In some cultures, as prevention physical contact is avoided , or there are strict rules on what you can do with which hand. Using cutlery, good table manners and keeping fresh food cool are also good measures.
  • In your lifestyle, too much or too little of what is generally accepted usually isn’t really good. We sometimes tend to extreme exaggeration of certain beliefs.
    Remember that there are indeed statistical averages that also form a guideline for your health. But again, it’s no more than that: everyone deviates from that average in their own way.
  • Watch out for (unconscious) addiction. This is often a signal for a threatening imbalance. That can be both physical and mental.
    Be aware that advertising and sales abuse your weaknesses in this area!
  • Moderate yourself. In our western wealth society, always too much of too many things is offered. Avoid too strong emotional outbursts.
  • Take care of variety now and then. Repeated life patterns with unilateral behaviors cause chronic problems (think of RSI as an example).
  • Challenges and risks go hand in hand. But it should be acceptable risks, on which you are well prepared. If taking extreme risks might get you down sooner or later, then it is better to think in advance why you actually do that.
  • Provide mental resilience through good conversations with others. Learn from each other, form your opinion, and behave accordingly. Ignore more often the consumption media that’s only searching for increased viewing and sales figures.
  • Being honest and open to others prevents ever-increasing stress. That does not mean that you have to throw your entire life on the street! At times, however, you should not manipulate, lie, hide anything. Not even for the sweet peace. The sooner you are open and honest to another, the smaller the risk of escalation and the greater the chance of an improved relationship with that person. That’s valid everywhere, such as at work, in the family and in your relationship.

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