How To Self-Care When Sick

Self-care is equally important when you are sick

It’s cold and flu and COVID-19 season again! Yay! Can you hear the sarcasm? There is meant to be sarcasm. Unfortunately, we can all get a little sicker in the winter months, and when we’re sick, life kind of sucks a little more. I speak from experience, seeing as I’ve had THE WORST head cold for the past week! So what is this article about? Rather than complaining about how awful it is to be sick, I want to focus on how we can make ourselves feel better through the power of – you guessed it – self-care!

Self-care is not a replacement for medical treatment. Moreover, this article isn’t intended to tell you that you shouldn’t see a doctor if you have a high fever, trouble breathing, or any other severe symptoms. However, for your average head cold, I HATE using cold medicine. I dislike the way it makes me feel, and I despise the dreams I have when I use it. Therefore, the self-care tips and tricks that I am sharing with you today are my personal replacement for cold medicine!

Full honesty? I still use ibuprofen for congestion and headaches, so even I don’t go totally drug-free when I’m sick.

The 1-5 Comprehensive List of My Self-Care Routine When Sick

Self-care when your sick usually involves giving your body what it needs: fluids, rest, nutrients.
Photo by Zohre Nemati on Unsplash

I am writing this article in list format for two reasons. The first is to make sure that I don’t forget any of the important stuff I do when I am sick (because I am sick right now, and when I’m sick, I tend to forget things). The second reason is simply that lists are fun and easy to follow. So, if you’re ALSO sick, it is a little easier to read along!

Without further ado!

1. Tea

Normally, I like tea. When I’m sick, I LOVE tea! Why? Why tea, and not coffee?

Well, you may remember your mother telling you when you’re sick that you should drink lots of fluids. She was right (as mothers usually are about these kinds of things).

Now you’re asking me, “isn’t coffee a fluid?”

Yes, but it also has mild dehydrating effects, and unless you want to counteract that coffee with a whole lot of water, I recommend sticking to tea.

There are so many different kinds of teas out there! When I am sick, I normally drink herbal teas (peppermint, licorice, chamomile, lavender) or green tea. I also usually add a little bit of honey for my throat. The warmth of the tea helps soothe my throat and relieve congestion, and it’s usually a nice change from water.

When I have a particularly sore throat though, I make my own tea!

Here is the recipe I use:

  • Spoonful of honey
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Black pepper
  • Dash of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

Add in hot water, and let sit for 15 minutes before drinking! And voila!

I love this tea because it soothes my sore throat (the cayenne), relieves congestion (all the spices), moisturizes my throat (honey), and removes mucus (lemon juice/apple cider vinegar). Moreover, turmeric and black pepper both have anti-inflammatory properties, as do ginger and cinnamon.

And, speaking 100% from personal experience, this tea (especially if you add more cayenne pepper) can relieve a sore and swollen throat for up to 30 minutes! Nearly enough time for that ibuprofen to kick in!

2. Lukewarm Showers or Baths

I get it, saying lukewarm is not nearly as enticing as saying hot. However, if you are feverish, you should be cautious about raising your body temperature too much with a hot bath or shower!

All the same, the steam of a warm shower can help relieve congestion, relax muscles, and you are clean afterward. Everyone feels a little bit better when they are clean.

I also like to use nice smelling soap and shampoo (or bubble bath), because it helps me feel more like a person and less like a zombie.

3. Nutritious Meals

Three words: protein, veggies, fluids.

We already talked about fluids. Fluids help relieve congestion and prevent dehydration. In short, they make sure that your immune system and your body are working as they should!

Likewise, protein is essential for a functioning immune system and gives your body critical energy. Veggies are also packed with carbs and vitamins, which are critical to keeping your body on track! While vitamin C is not a cure-all for an illness, it is still an important part of your immune function, so keep eating those fresh fruits and veggies.

There’s a reason chicken noodle soup (or chicken vegetable soup) is a go-to meal for the sick! It’s easy on the stomach and hits these three main points. Can’t argue with that.

4. Sleep

Our bodies need sleep. Sleep is critical to countless bodily functions, and therefore, critical to healing our body when we are sick. There is a reason we feel tired and rundown when we have a cold or flu. That reason is that our body is already working overtime trying to fight off an illness. By getting lots of rest, we are making sure our body can do what it needs to do!

Sometimes, it can be really hard to sleep while sick or congested. This is where cold medicine may come in for you! There is no shame in giving our bodies a little extra help if we need sleep. If you are looking for a non-medical way to fall asleep, try chamomile tea, lavender, meditation, and a cold compress (to relieve that pesky congestion).

5. Don’t Forget Other Self-Care

It can be hard to be positive when we are sick. As a relatively optimistic person, even I find the world a darker place when I can’t breathe through my nose and all my joints ache!

That’s why it is especially important to keep up the good self-care work outside of taking care of your sick body. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but even lighting a nice smelling candle (just don’t fall asleep while it’s lit), taking the time to moisturize your hands, or wearing your favorite fuzzy slippers might make the day a little better.

And remember. When we reduce our stress loads, our bodies can heal faster.

Keep On Keeping On

Being sick is not fun. It just isn’t (even though I have fond memories of skipping school while sick when I was younger).

We adults usually can’t just burrow beneath our covers until our colds are gone. We have other responsibilities. And while it can be difficult to stay focused or to find the energy, taking care of those responsibilities as much as you can while you are sick helps reduce the stress of getting caught up when you are healthy again.

Therefore, the unofficial #6 self-care tip when sick is to not neglect all your responsibilities. Clean a few dishes. Answer a few emails. Maybe vacuum one room in your house.

And, before we sign off for this week, I want to give a huge shout-out to all the moms out there who not only took care of us while we were sick but who had to take care of us while they were sick as well! Speaking as a childless young adult, I honestly do not know how you do it.

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