Whether it’s an intense bout of allergies, the common cold, a 24-hour bug, or the dreaded Covid-19, getting sick is no fun. You feel bad, you may worry about spreading your symptoms to others in your household, and your life is generally disrupted. You may be wondering how you can possibly have time to practice self-care in the middle of a bout of illness. However, the good news is that you still can! As we head into the fall and winter months when sickness becomes more common, here are a few tips for taking care of yourself as you walk through your sickness and get back to normal!
Let yourself take a sick day - and actually log off from work.
You may even feel so guilty about missing work or your other responsibilities that you attempt to power through. With the advent of virtual ways to work thanks to the pandemic, it’s harder than ever to take an actual day off, particularly if you’re a high-achiever who wants to do all the things for all the people. While it may be an easy call to take a day off from in-person work due to not wanting to expose everyone to your symptoms, I would encourage you to log off from home as well. Ask yourself how much rest you are actually getting if you are still on that Zoom call or responding to endless emails. Would you recover faster if you took one solid day off to yourself rather than 3 ‘virtual’ days when you work at 25% of your normal productivity? Of course, in some cases, you do have to power through. But if at all possible, give yourself some time and separation from your responsibilities in order to give your body some authentic rest.
Treat yourself to a long, steamy shower or bath.
Congestion is a frequent symptom with a lot of illnesses and one way to relieve it is through steam from a hot shower or bath. However, a nice, long bath or shower can also help with other common symptoms such as providing fever relief and relaxing muscles. Besides, it’s just plain relaxing and an easy activity to do when you don’t feel like moving around much.
Let others help you.
As a Type A personality and classic mom friend, I completely understand not wanting to ask for help. A lot of us simply prefer to nurture others rather than be nurtured. Nevertheless, when you’re sick, swallow your pride and ask your significant other to make you some soup or get your neighbor to pick up the kids. You don’t have to do it all, all the time. Obviously, don’t take advantage of people, but there is a big difference in manipulating your illness and asking for some common sense help to allow your body the rest it needs to recover.
Do the things you never get to do (reading a book, doing a puzzle, playing cards, etc.)
While catching up on Netflix and your favorite movies may be fun for a while, if you’re on the couch long enough, it’ll get boring. This is a great opportunity to do some of the things you never make time to do in your regular life. Reading a book, doing a jigsaw puzzle, or playing some cards with your family if you’re up to it are great ideas for quiet, restful activities that save you from the boredom of staring at your living room walls.
This really goes for anytime, but especially when you’re sick. Illnesses that involve fever or vomiting can easily cause dehydration, so it is even more important to maintain hydration to help your body on the road to recovery and prevent your symptoms from worsening. Being properly hydrated can also help you avoid thick mucus in the case of a cold. And, as always, the regular benefits of hydration still apply!
Additionally, remember that broths, soups, and fruit drinks also provide hydration. Sometimes, it can be hard to drink significant amounts of water when you’re sick which makes a nice warm bowl of chicken soup or broth even more appealing. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
Take a break from screen time and turn off notifications.
Even if you have tuned out of work for a day or two, you may still be sitting on your phone seeing notifications and endlessly scrolling through Instagram or Facebook. While there’s nothing wrong with using your phone, be careful not to let the stress of random work questions or the fear of what you may be missing out on stress you. Besides, reducing your screen time in general is stress-reducing. The same thing goes for news consumption. When you’re at home, it’s easy to spend way more time than you intend to going down rabbit trails of news stories or social media threads; not only can it be time-consuming, but also draining on your mental health. Just be mindful and take a break if you can!
Get plenty of sleep.
Clearly, when you are sick, you should rest and rest includes getting plenty of sleep. Even if you think it’s just a common cold or something not very serious, getting a good amount of sleep will help your body to recover even faster! Also, for when you get back to normal, try not to drastically change your sleep schedule by becoming a night owl and going to bed at 5am. That will only make it harder to get back into the swing of things when you are well.
Get some fresh air.
Getting fresh air whether it’s sitting on a porch or balcony or merely opening a window can be a great method of self-care. Fresh air is great for your health and mood, which can suffer from a lot of time spent confined indoors. It also just gives you something to do and a change of scenery. To check out more benefits of fresh air, check out this article.
Ease back into normal.
As you get to feeling better, make sure not to zoom back to 100% prematurely. It’s easy to overload yourself on your first day back and have a relapse or just exhaust yourself. There’s no need to immediately get back to your workout routine at full speed or go to every social event you had planned just because you don’t feel miserable anymore. I like to have about 24 hours where I go about my normal day (work, school, etc.) before I add extra things just to make sure that I am actually well.
Listen to your body.
All the advice in the world won’t make up for listening to your body. You know better than anyone else what you need to do in order to take care of yourself and get well, so practice self-care while you are sick but most importantly, listen to your own body!