Rest as medication

I just had to tell someone about this: when I got sick right after New Year’s I was so proud: I made it through that head cold thing without actually taking any medications!
I followed the guidelines in Real Simple and took echinacea supplements, drank tea and extra fluids, and used Vick Vaporub and the neti pot. I also took baths with bath salts which are specifically for illness, to ease aches and pains and open up the sinuses.

I recovered in only 3 days (!) and felt very close to normal for about a week, I had even started working out again, and was planning to go to yoga on Friday morning. Then Thursday afternoon, the illness suddenly came back again, this time in my chest. Now I’ve had headaches and achiness and chest congestion and a sore throat for a few days.

I’d like to share something that I really think helped me avoid the need for medication with the first round of illness and I plan to implement this time around as well: rest.

It may seem obvious, but for most of my life I have not stopped long enough to be ill. I have continued going, going, going and doing, doing, doing until I got sicker and sicker and the illness stretched for weeks. Most of the time the colds turned into sinus infections requiring antibiotics.

In the past I’ve often had a high-stress job where there was no one to pick up the work for me, or I had volunteer or social obligations that I felt I couldn’t cancel. But now I feel like I am in a better place, mentally, with my boundaries. I have specifically chosen a job where I am not essential. My job can be done by anyone else on the team, so when I started feeling sick on Thursday, I sent an email to let them know I was taking sick hours and went to bed. We didn’t go out that night as we had planned, and Christian so sweetly went and got us some soup.

Probably one of the worst habits I had earlier in life was sticking to my volunteer or social obligations when I was sick. Last week when I woke up Sunday morning and felt ill, we were scheduled to serve in Frontlines Parking and we’d missed church the week before due to the holidays. I also had a meeting for one of the ministries I serve in at 4:30 PM that day. Previously, I would have “toughed it out” and tried to spend the 2 hours outside in the cold running and bouncing around, and I would have been roaringly ill by 1 PM, laid down for a few hours and got up again to attend the meeting, so sick and resentful that I wouldn’t even be able to contribute. Instead, I stayed home from church and let Christian go without me. I took naps. I listened to the podcast of the previous week’s sermon from my computer on the couch. I emailed the leader of the ministry and cancelled the 4:30 PM meeting.

Guess what?! In both of these situations, no one’s world ended. Everyone was fine without me. The bonus is that I also got better a lot more quickly.

I really can’t tell you how relieved this makes me feel, to find out that I’ve been putting this pressure on myself and, therefore, I am free to let it go and heal.

I do have to be honest and say, I am feeling a little stir-crazy today. We had committed to helping set up some computer stuff at the church today from 10 AM – 2 PM. I decided again to stay here and rest and see if I can beat this thing again with rest, Christian has gone on without me. But I keep thinking, I want to go up to the store and get some more Tylenol, to look for some of those bath salts … and what if I stopped by Buffalo Exchange on the way home … would that be so bad?! Would that make me sicker?