There's never an ideal time of the year to get sick — but the winter months, right before and after the holidays, are a nightmarish period in which to feel like absolute death. There's so much to do: shopping, planning parties, attending parties and — if you're a parent — you can multiply that to-do list by a thousand. No woman has time to lock herself away in her bedroom for days and recuperate from a cold, sinus infection or even (gulp) the start of the flu while the world outside continues on its merry way.
The second you feel your first cold symptom creep up on you (tickly throat, one too many sneezes, congested nose) and even before your body has a chance to catch a virus, take action and follow this simple seven-step plan to regaining your health, so that you can jump right back into the holiday spirit.
In a perfect world, we'd all be able to take off from work when we start coughing, ship the kids off to Grandma's house and sleep for 20 hours. While it may not be possible to empty out our homes because we have the sniffles, we should do whatever possible to ensure we can hit the sack early enough to get a good night's sleep. "When you first start to feel sick, make sure to get as much sleep as possible that night," says nutritionist and personal trainer Amanda Dale. "Believe it or not, a restful eight hours can actually ward off a cold. If you can't get a good night's sleep due to cold symptoms, try to sneak in a short nap (or two!) the next day."
As someone who has rushed to the doctor's office more times than I can count over a common cold, I can assure you there is no prescription medicine that will work — but time, patience and certain supplements are said to make everything a lot better. Taking zinc lozenges — 10-20 milligrams every two hours, according to Dr. Annette Rossetti-Cartaxo from the Chambers Center for Well Being in Morristown, New Jersey — can work wonders, as can garlic, echinacea and umcka. Dale advises to check with your physician before starting a supplement regiment.
When you feel like you're coming down with something, it becomes more important than ever to get your 8 ounces of water in (or more, if you can manage it). Drinking plenty of fluids will help keep you hydrated so that your upper and lower respiratory secretions thin out, which will help prevent you from feeling congested.
Stop everything you're doing, stash your sugary treats on a shelf way up high and send your spouse out of the house to buy a lot of healthy foods, which should be all you consume throughout your sickness, says registered dietician Rebecca Lewis of HelloFresh. "If you eat an adequate healthy diet full of nutrient-dense foods, stay hydrated, and exercise regularly, your ability to fight the common cold increases greatly," Dale says. "When you are feeling run down, it is always a good idea to up your intake of fruits and vegetables to replace any critical vitamins and minerals you may be missing in your diet."
Lewis suggests picking up these five flu-fighting foods:
No, it's not what you think, I'm afraid. If you're unable to take a sick day from work, Dale recommends treating your body right in the morning and swapping your daily cup of coffee for something more therapeutic: bone broth or warm water with lemon and honey, which is ideal for an irritated throat. "Coffee and tea are dehydrating and can exacerbate early cold symptoms, so stick to hydrating drinks with electrolytes," Dale says.
Ever notice how the more you dwell on your cold the more you feel it torturing you? Our mind is incredibly powerful — so much so that Dale says there's truth to the saying that you can think yourself well. "Rather than reiterating how horrible you feel to friends and colleagues, concentrate on five minutes of mindfulness meditation each day to de-stress and refocus," Dale says. "Research has found that this can reduce the duration and severity of a cold by 35-60 percent."
You do a lot for everyone else throughout the year. When you get sick, remember that you're allowed to leave the dishes in the sink, put your feet up on the couch and ask others to take care of you. If you're married, don't feel guilty about asking your spouse to cook and put the kids to bed so that you can turn in early. And, if you're single, it's never not OK to dial your mom or BFF and call in a favor or a request for killer chicken soup. The more time you dedicate to making yourself healthy, the quicker your loved ones will get you back and in tip-top, holiday-celebrating shape.
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