April 12, 2012

Lessons Learned from Being Sick

Two days ago I came down with a really bad cold. I'm still pretty sick today, but I'm doing better. I have a very weak immune system, so I tend to get sick both easily and often. Normally, when I'm sick I mope around and complain about how miserable I feel and how much I hate my immune system.

But this time, it's different. As I've been working on my gratitude, so that I can spend more time feeling blessed and less time miserable, I realized that gratitude applies even when I'm sick. So today I'm going to point out the highlights of being sick:

  1. You get the best sleep of your life
  2. You realize how important being healthy is
  3. You make time to feel good, relax and take care of yourself
  4. You remember the value of doing nothing. Lazing around in bed for six hours only partially concious can be quite luxurious.
  5. You eat really good food. In order to get healthy again as quickly as possible, you probably restricted your diet to healthy, nutrient-dense foods that made you feel better like broth, juice and oatmeal. You don't overeat because that will make you more sick, and you don't undereat because that will make you weaker.
  6. You have time to simply be still. This is almost like meditation, but not quite. It's a few moments to turn off your mind, ignore your body and just simply exist in the vast space of our universe. When you're sick, you probably did this a lot - too ill to even think, to awake to sleep you just sort of float in the nothingness.
  7. You realize how much people love you. When you're sick, you probably had some people wish you better, maybe someone even helped take care of you, and when you get back a few people probably told you how much they missed you. For me, that was my mom and my friends. My mom has an awesome bedside manner, and she knows exactly what foods will taste good and make me feel better. My friends are an awesome support system - they littered my inbox and facebook wall with "get better" messages. And when I got healthy and could hang out again they welcomed me back with loving arms.
  8. You have time to think about...
    1. What's really important.
    2. What's truly a good use of your time
    3. What you're really passionate about
      1. You probably laid there in bed thinking "If I felt better, I would be doing _____ right now".
  9. You're careful not to overdo it. When you're healthy you probably overexert yourself way too often. But when you're sick overexertion only makes things worse, so you're more careful not to push yourself past your limits.
  10. You're more in tune with yourself, more mindful. You notice minute changes in your body, like my lips or chapped, much more readily than you do when your body is solely a method of transportation for your head. You're also more aware of what you're doing, because it takes so much effort and you can feel your entire body working.
  11. You're very grateful for small things like fresh air, chicken broth and fluffy pillows.
Wouldn't it be great to live like this when we're healthy? We'd probably never get sick!

Here's some ideas to get this kind of self-love going when you don't have a runny nose:
  • Just like you schedule a business meeting or a doctors appointment, schedule your sleep. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time for a good, deep sleep. And like any important appointment, you'd never be late, right? You'd schedule the rest of your day around it, instead of scheduling your sleep around your day. Sleep is the most important appointment you will make every day, and unlike popular belief, you can't catch up on it or make up for lost sleep.
  • Pay attention to how food makes you feel. If it doesn't make you feel good, you shouldn't be eating it.
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Make time to relax. For me, it's Sunday. I don't do anything on Sunday's that I don't want to do, that doesn't relax me. I go to church because it is relaxing and it does make me happy. If you get stressed really easily, you might want to fit in some downtime every single day instead of doing one big day of relaxation. My mom relaxes for about an hour every night and writes. It helps her immensely.
  • Eat foods that improve your health, like:
    • Yogurt
    • Fresh fruit
    • Celery and peanut butter
    • Soup
    • Whole grains
    • Nuts
    • Smoothies
  • Remember how important it is to be healthy, and how good it feels. Make it a priority. If you're too exhausted or stressed to take those steps to get healthy, get rid of those stressers and exhausters until you can make yourself healthier.
  • Don't overdo it. Burnout is never a good thing. "Slow and steady wins the race".
  • Remember there's always something to be grateful for, to be happy about.
What lessons have you learned from being sick?

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