Here we are peeps, it’s cold and flu season. There’s a bug going around, and despite my best efforts to avoid it (like, shrieking and running away from my sister when she had it), it knocked me out this week. Super annoying.
So as I’m stuck on my couch and wondering what to write about this week – with very little energy and a foggy brain – I realized I’ve developed quite a few cold remedies and rituals over the years.
These are the self-care tactics I’ve adopted (some obvious, some maybe not) that help me speed up my recovery, and actually enjoy my time stuck on the couch.
1. First off, let’s stop kidding ourselves and just give in. You’re not “all better,” get back on the couch.
The same thing happens every time I get sick: when I think I’m getting better I go back to my regular business, and my progress slows down, or I plateau at about 90% and get stuck with a subtle but nagging cough. WTF? I thought I had just one more day of this shit!
Seriously, we all know how long colds last (7-10 days, on average). Just give in from the get-go, allow your body to FULLY rest, and you’ll actually get better faster. By fighting it and trying to act like we’re fine, we’re slowing the progress. You’ve got to slow down to speed up. This is your body begging for a break. And in fact if you simply allow it, it will heal itself (that’s what they’re built to do). It’s like trying to run with a broken leg. Sit the fuck down and put a cast on that thing. Geez.
2. Vitamin C: I tend to enjoy those emergen-c packets that mix into water because - newsflash - drinking liquids is really good for you, too. All that mucus stuck in your head? Flush it out by drinking up. Got a headache? Probably dehydrated.
3. I also stock up on big juicy navel oranges, soup (nothing creamy; any cream or dairy products may add to mucus build up - gross.), and tea (anything hot, including a shower, will help break down mucus - less gross).
4. Adding honey to your tea isn’t just for sweetness, or for throat soothing – although it does both those things, too. Honey is full of germ-fighting properties that can actually help you get better. Local honey can also help you avoid colds and allergies, so keep it in your diet even after you get better.
5. Ginger tea is my all-the-time favorite kind of tea, and ginger’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can be especially helpful in speeding up cold recovery. You can buy ginger tea, of course (I like Yogi brand), or make your own by slicing up some ginger and dropping it into hot water (with honey!).
6. If your body is all achy, look for magnesium. This goes for body aches even when you’re not sick, too. Muscle pain or cramping can be eased by snacks like nuts, bananas, beans, leafy greens, and avocados (basically my daily menu anyway – yay!).
7. Get some fresh air! I’m always obsessed with fresh air, even if it means opening windows in the winter. But especially when I get sick I feel the need to flush my space of all the stale, germy air. Don’t give yourself a chill (obv), but cleanse the space as best you can by cracking a window.
8. Take a walk. If you’re up for it, go for a slow, gentle stroll to keep your body moving and get even more fresh air, it may help clear you out and breathe deeply again.
9. BUT! Avoid breathing in dry, cold air. Contrary to popular belief, cold air doesn’t actually make you sick. But it does constrict some germ-fighting parts of your throat, making you more vulnerable to germs. So, if you must go out in the cold, wear a scarf and do your best to keep your throat warm.
10. If I could scrub the air in my apartment, I would, but eucalyptus oil is the next best thing. It’s anti-microbial and can help clear those sinuses, so I always put a few drops in a diffuser to kill the germs dispersed from all that mouth-breathing. Ick.
11. You can also add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a bowl of hot water, drape a towel over the back of your head, and breathe in the steam for some glorious sinus relief. Ahhhhhh.
12. I grew up on vicks vaporub – my mom loves the stuff. I hated it so much when I was little, I remember hiding the jar under my bed so she couldn’t put it on me (sorry mom). But it is effective in breaking up congestion. Problem is, it’s also made with petroleum. As in, the shit we put in heavy machinery. Let’s not rub that onto our bodies, shall we? Remember, skin is our largest organ and anything we put on it soaks right into our bloodstream!! So we can make our own vaporub using - you guessed it - eucalyptus oil! Combine it with your favorite balm (I dig this one by Soapwalla), or coconut oil for a more economical option, and go to town. Bonus: you’ll be super moisturized.
13. I also use the balm (or coconut oil) to keep my poor little nose from chapping. I’ve gone through three boxes of tissues this week so far, and the skin on and around my nose is feelin it. Use a nice pure moisturizer (read: no crappy additives) to avoid stinging.
14. DO NOTHING. I know, I know, this feels impossible. When I worked a 9-5 I felt so much guilt around taking a day off, like I better be practically dying. But the truth is, your coworkers don’t want your germs either. Nobody’s impressed that you dragged your sick ass into the office, so don’t be a hero; just stay home.
When I worked an hourly gig, I stressed because I wasn’t getting paid for my sick time. But again, the faster I could recover, the faster I could return to work ($$), and avoid spreading the bug to the other two people I worked with, who might pass it right back to me. Round-robinning a cold = not great for overall company productivity.
And now that I work for myself, yikes, you bet I’ve got a to-do list twice the size of my usual one because – what the hell – I’m just sitting here all day! But the truth is, I can’t get a damn thing done, and anytime I try, I’m just slowing my progress (see #1).
15. HAVE FUN! Now is the time to watch your favorite rom-coms, binge watch some Netflix, color in that coloring book, read a super light/fun book, or just lay around and give yourself permission to be the laziest you’ve ever been. You might actually get some good thinking done – or maybe you’ll get a jump on your holiday movie marathon. Either way.
Drop the guilt around “doing nothing.” Most likely, you got sick because you’ve been trying to do too much. Know that the world will not stop if you sit out a few innings. It’s one of those strap-on-your-own-life-vest-first kind of situations; you can’t really help anyone until you’ve taken care of yourself first. So sit. back. down.
16. My final sickness ritual is my FAVE: Cleaning and disinfecting once the cold is gone. When I start to feel like a person again, I go to town wiping down all door knobs/handles, light switches, tv remotes, cell phones, computer keyboards, etc. This probably should be done regularly, but what a great time for a thorough clean. This always feels like my official “I’m better” declaration. I change the sheets, open the windows (again), get a new toothbrush, and get back on solid foods (pizzaaaaaaaaa).
Until then, I’ll be on the couch, not eating cheese.
Want to save a quicker and simpler version of this list, you know, just in case? Click here to get a boiled-down version so that next time you catch whatever's going around, you can kick it a little faster.