The symptoms are all too familiar: A lack of energy, faraway look in the eyes, long lunch hours, frequent "sick" days, a telltale sunburn. The disease? Spring fever.
Spring fever hits with no regard for age, sex, race, ethnic origin, religion or socio-economic status. From the North Shore to South Shore, from the lakefront to the West side and all points between, mighty Chicago is crippled each year by this dreaded (at least by employers) disease.
Other than calling Superman (who is rumored to be vacationing in the Bahamas anyway), what can we do to combat this menace to the public welfare?
We can enjoy it.
Let me explain: Our bodies are pretty marvelous mechanisms. They are so well-designed that, if we know how to listen, they will tell us exactly what we need to do to stay mentally and physically healthy. For example, when I eat a lot, I feel slow, dull and depressed -- a sign I've overeaten. I need to cut back for a while. When I eat at junk food restaurants three days in a row, I get real cravings for fresh vegetables. And when I start to feel anxious, I need exercise, so I go run a few miles.
Gradually, I'm learning to listen to my body. Sometimes I have to say no -- like when I have a craving for a third chocolate milkshake in one day, because I know that much sugar is not good for me. But I usually can trust what my body is telling me.
Your body sends you messages, too. Your signals won't be exactly the same as mine or have exactly the same meaning, but with practice you can learn to give yourself what you need to stay healthy.
Spring fever is just another message that our bodies send. What we are being told is that it has been a long winter full of heavy coats, bad roads, dismal skies and being cooped up inside. Now that spring is here, our bodies tell us to cut loose for awhile.
Let's slow down, breathe deeply, smell a freshly cut lawn, lie in the sun or take a drive in the country. It's time to recharge our batteries. Listen to your body, and give yourself a break.
You need to set some limits. I wouldn't stop showing up for work, but how about a week's vacation? Take some long walks after supper. Get away for a weekend. Pamper yourself for a change.
Remember when you were in school? Schools have learned to legitimize spring fever; they call it spring break. That's not such a bad idea. Take a spring break -- you've earned it.
• The Rev. Ken Potts' book "Mix, Don't Blend: A Guide to Dating, Engagement, and Remarriage with Children" is available through retailers.