As the seasons change and the leaves start to fall, people begin to think about all things pumpkin, the upcoming holidays, and recipes involving apples. It’s also a time when people start to feel the yucky symptoms of cold and flu season; runny nose, scratchy throat, headaches, nausea, and fevers. While there are several things you can do to try to prevent getting sick (eating a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and getting good sleep), sometimes it’s just unavoidable. As a Health Coach, I’m often asked for ways to avoid getting a cold or flu this time of year, or how to fight them once they happen. So, I’ve rounded up some tips below.
1. Be aware of the first sign of illness. Most of us live very busy lives. We often find ourselves running from one activity to the next. There are always more things to check off our “to-do” lists. So when we start to feel like we’re coming down with something, there’s often a strong inclination to push through and ignore the symptoms. We have so much to do, we don’t have time to stop and take care of ourselves. But feeling under the weather is the best time to pause and focus on taking care of yourself. When you start to notice symptoms that typically lead to illness, give yourself a little extra love by increasing your amount of self-care. Prioritize rest and relaxation. Pay attention to your diet and make sure you’re including lots of nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables, and be sure you’re getting a good amount of hydration (coffee and caffeinated beverages don’t count because the caffeine actually takes water out of your cells).
2. Love yourself more! Sometimes all of the preventative steps aren’t enough. But that doesn’t mean you’re not doing a good job of taking care of yourself. Everyone gets sick (even Health Coaches!). When you’re feeling sick, it’s time to love yourself more, not less. Love yourself enough to prioritize your health. You can’t accomplish much (or do things very well) when you’re sick. So the most important goal is to get healthy. Loving yourself more includes taking care of yourself. Give yourself permission to slow down and focus on healing. So sit back, relax with a big cup of water and bowl of soup and catch up on that show you’ve been meaning to watch.
3. Eat things that feel healing to you. Everyone’s nutritional needs are different. Pay attention to what you crave when you are feeling under the weather. Fruits and vegetables are full of the nutrition your body and immune system need to function. I suggest avoiding processed foods with lots of sugar. If you are struggling with a cold, stay away from dairy because it can increase the amount of mucous in your system. When I am sick I often crave big bowls of soup and I drink lots of caffeine-free tea. Lemons have anti-viral and anti-microbial properties, so adding lemon juice to water or tea is also a great idea. If your stomach is upset, ginger is good for reducing nausea. Eastern cultures often eat congee (similar to rice pudding) for it’s healing properties. When I have flu-like symptoms I make a big container of congee and eat it throughout the day.
Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid getting sick, and that’s okay. Try not to judge yourself or beat yourself up when you’re already feeling depleted. Treat yourself to a day in bed with a good book, favorite movie, or just sleep. Let family, friends, and colleagues know you are feeling sick and ask for support, even if it’s just to give you some space to heal. If you take the time to take care of yourself when you are sick, you are more likely to heal faster than if you try to keep up your usual pace.
Hopefully you can spend most of the season enjoying falling leaves, chunky sweaters, and hot apple cider. But if you do catch some kind of bug, give yourself permission to take care of yourself! If you have any other tips for surviving cold and flu season, we’d love to hear them!