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5 Lessons I learned about staying healthy while I was sick

Katie Vernoy

For the last several weeks, like most people I know, I’ve been exhausted, sniffling, coughing and looking less than my best. This time, I decided to learn from my case of the sniffles — or as my mom likes to call it, “The Creeping Crud” — to take better care of myself all of the time. Here’s what I learned.

1. Schedule based on energy, not time

When we’re sick, there’s no excess energy — or even enough energy — to do everything. Each task is assessed for the amount of energy required, as in how far away is the remote? We decide to do something only if we think we have physical, mental and emotional capacity to do it — with time to recover after. This doesn’t usually happen when we’re healthy. Instead, when there’s a minute free, a task gets thrown into it. It’s not realistic and leads to burn out or self-flagellation.

2. Only do what’s most important

When we’re sick, only the most important things stay on the calendar. Anything that can be put off or wasn’t important to start out with, gets canceled. We just cannot do it! Why do we schedule these things when we’re healthy? It’s hard to say no. Whether it is people pleasing or lack of prioritization, we put stuff on our to-do lists that have absolutely no business being there.

3. Take breaks

When you’re sick, you do something and then sit for a while recovering. When we’re healthy, we keep pushing through until we’re exhausted. The need for breaks is the same, but just more evident, when our body is not running at 100 percent. When we avoid breaks, we push our bodies past their optimal functioning point and make ourselves sick, thus forcing us take breaks. Let’s listen to our bodies before they scream at us and shut down.

4. Self-care is a necessity, not a luxury

Sleeping, eating nourishing foods, being kind to ourselves — this all seems more realistic to do when we’re sick. I have to be well by Monday, so I’ll do all this good stuff to heal this weekend. That’s great, but all of this great stuff belongs in every day, not just those days when we can’t breathe and are coughing like hyenas. Self-care is required to stay healthy and to perform at our best — it’s not a luxury.

5. It’s OK to be human

Being sick gives us permission to move more slowly, say no and make mistakes. “So sorry I didn’t get back to you right away, I was sick!” We don’t need this permission. We can be a human being every single day. We just judge ourselves too harshly when we are running at full capacity. We need to give ourselves a break in every day life.

How do you treat yourself when you’re sick? Can you take some of this TLC into everyday life?

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