Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How to be sick. Nicely.

I'm not talking catastrophic illness here...just the common cold, strep, flu. Being sick when you are alone -- whether at college, while you're traveling, or living alone--is an art and requires a strategy. There are two general schools of being sick: "Stop the world I want to get off," (that's me) or "It's nothing." The latter is where you ignore it macho style until you get so sick, you are out even longer.

You get sick from germs or virus. However, if you let yourself get run down, your body succumbs more easily. If you are overworked, stressed, under emotional strain, your body's defenses give in. It is as if the soul is saying, Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman) style, "Attention must be paid."

If you don't treat yourelf nicely when you're sick, no one else will. Maybe there really is no one around and you're truly alone for the long haul. Why not make it as pleasant as you can, instead of adding to your misery. You are a captive audience of one, so do it in style. Here's your chance to become Queen and King for a day.

1. Don't think any deep thoughts or make any major decisions while you are sick. You are weak and feeling perhaps lonely and sad. Depressed even. Life seems overly serious and impossible when you are sick. If you find yourself drawn into existential conversations with your mind, put it on hold and say, Scarlett O'Hara style (Gone with the Wind) "I'll think about it tomorrow."
2. Lay in the supplies and hunker down! Listen to the runny nose, the tickle in your throat, the achiness and the sneezes and trudge post haste to the store as if you're preparing for a snowstorm. Buy the orange juice, the ginger ale, the Campbell's Chicken Noodle or Tomato, the saltines, ice cream, Jell-O, Social Tea biscuits. Get the aspirin, cough syrup, cough drops, cold meds, tissues, lots of them. Buy some magazines; get some books and tapes from the library. Set up your bed with fresh sheets, have a hot shower, get into your favorite PJ's and...be sick!
3. Really do take cold medication. "Oh, it's just a cold," you say. But if you let a seriously stuffy nose continue...you can end up with sinusitis. If you let a bad cough go unchecked...you can get bronchitis. Take the aspirin or Tylenol for fever, aches and pains.
4. Nyquil (or the night time versions of cold meds) is your best friend at night. A good night's sleep is where healing happens.
5. Really do drink lots of liquids. The doctors always say that, but it is TRUE! It flushes out your system, it seems to cool and hydrate you. You do not want to get dehydrated.
6. If your fever persists for more than 3 days, and your symptoms don't start to get better within 5 days...GO TO THE DOCTOR.
7. Call your friends and tell them you are sick. Someone needs to know you are sick so you feel less alone. You will feel better knowing there is someone worrying about you, caring about you. Don't be so stoic.
8. Declare yourself an official lump. Catch up on all your sleep. Watch all the daytime TV you want. Cruise the Internet. Listen to talk radio. Read books and magazines. Make phone calls. There are lots of bed bound activities : Pay bills, make Christmas lists, writer letters, shop from catalogs.
9. Pretend this is a spa vacation. Use your illness as a mental retreat from the world. A break in routine. View being sick as a meditative activity. Empty your mind.
10. At a certain point in your illness, it helps to take a short, hot shower. Wash your hair if you can. Dry it right away. Put on fresh PJ's. Change your sheets. Feeling grungy and sticky doesn't add to the experience.
11. Think you are recovered? Spend one more day at home. Going back to school or work too soon can give you a relapse and take more days away from your life. Of course, you won't believe this until you're headed back to school or work too soon and have landed back in bed...but you heard it here.
12. The Hot Toddy! Oh those cozy English...they really know how to feel better. A mug of boiling water, a splash of whiskey, a stir of honey, a squeeze of lemon. It's magical.
13. Vin Chaud! The French version. Heat a cup of red wine, a stir of honey, a squish of lemon, a cinnamon stick.
14. Be nice to others when they are sick. Bring your friends whatever they need and whatever they don't. Don't wait to be asked. Jump at the chance to shop for them. (They didn't have all this good advice like you do.) Phone them daily and ask their progress and...listen to it. A phone call from someone who cares is a tremendous gift.
15. Thank your body. Appreciate your body. It works 24 hours a day for your entire lifetime. Be aware of how you take your health for granted and what a precious gift your health is.
16. A side benefit of being sick? The easiest, natural cleansing diet. You're drinking lots of liquids, giving your tummy a rest. When you're well, you'll have lost a few pounds!
17. Call Mother. Mom is who you want when you're sick, even if you don't think so. She'll coo over you and tell you how to take care of yourself even though you schluff off her comments. You will feel a lot better after that phone call.

If you are the macho type who goes to work with the flu, you don't need my advice. You're macho, remember? You can tough it out on your own.

1 comment:

mayajuliana said...

This is a great post...many times I multitask being sick with work, chores, bills, strategic thinking, and it works to my DIS-advantage. Elizabeth's advice speaks great truths to not only becoming well, but continuing to be well after the sickness has passed.