I just got home from a dream vacation in Europe! Three weeks, three cities, infinite picnics and postcards, and one very handsome German. We spent the first week in France, which was pretty tough for this dairy-free girl. I am a foodie at heart, and I get so much pleasure from eating local specialties. After a few days of watching my partner swoon over croissants and fancy cheeses, I broke down. Epoisses, Beaufort, Gruyere and Elemental, I sampled them all. All the yummy pastries too, and the cream sauces. I probably had more dairy in five days than I have had in the last five years.
On the plane from Paris to Prague, I paid for it. At first, I just felt tired, like really tired, like can’t-keep-my-eyes-open-even-though-we-are-flying-over-the-beautiful-Czech-countryside tired. By the time we got out of the airport, I was nauseous and light-headed, and by the time we got to our apartment I had a raging fever and lymph nodes the size of quail eggs.
(Normally, at this point, I would be pumping myself full of immune tincture, popping turmeric like m&m’s, and slurping down apple cider vinegar, garlic and honey. But I didn’t bring any of those things to Europe. Ah!)
“Okay, Lil,” I thought, “This is a test. You’re always talking about the power of positive thoughts, but are you ready to put your theories to the test?” I decided to heal myself with the only two tools I had: my mind and body.
Usually my reaction to this would be “Oh, dang it! This stinks, I’m getting sick, I’m probably going to be out for days, I’m going to miss all of this cool stuff, and this is really just the worst!”
I tried something different this time. I said to myself, “Wow, Body, I really misused you last week and you must be so worn out. All of that cheese, and all of this traveling, I bet you just really need a rest. So, don’t worry about it, take all the time you need to recover.”
We had a really simple and nourishing dinner of meat, gravy, potatoes and sauerkraut, and I skipped anything that might make me feel worse; bread, cheese (for sure), beer and dessert. The whole time I kept reminding my body how grateful I was for all of the work it had done. I slept for 16 hours that night.
When I woke the next afternoon, my fever was gone, and I thought “Wow, Body! I guess you really needed that rest! What else do you need?” Stretching felt really good, so I lay in bed for another hour and stretched out my legs, arms and back. By about 2pm I had enough energy to get out of bed, and I went for a short walk and had a cup of tea. I sat still and meditated, imagining my white blood cells cleaning out the infection, and all of the red, swollen tissue in my throat returning to a healthy pink.
I spent the evening reading my book, and was in bed by nine. I slept for another fourteen hours, and woke up feeling…better. Just a little bit, but definitely better. I did my little routine again the next morning: stretching and breathing deeply, going for a little walk, and meditating. I told myself “Look how much better you are feeling! You are doing a great job at healing yourself, but don’t worry, you can still take as much time as you need.”
Before I even opened my eyes on Day 3, I knew two things: it was definitely still morning, and I felt better! Just to be safe, I followed the same routine, and took it pretty easy that day. I was still avoiding trigger foods like bread, dairy, sugar and alcohol.
On Day 4 I was feeling 95%, and by Day 5, I was ready sample Prague’s excellent beer selection!
This all goes to say what a huge difference positive self-talk makes, as well as visualization, and listening to your body.
So, you get that little itchy tickle in the back of your throat, or your energy goes way down, and you think “Darn, I am totally getting sick!” Stop right there! Here are some tips to keep you healthy, and get you healthy if you do get sick, because everyone does sometimes.
Think Where You Wanna Go. When you are learning how to ride a bike, people say “Look where you want to go!” If you look down at the ground, pretty soon you will end up down there. The same goes for your health. Notice when you are feeling tired, and rest. If you feel like you are getting sick, say to yourself “Wow, Body, it sounds like you need some extra care right now. What can I do for you?” Let your language define your life by using words like “health,” “rest,” “recover,” and “relax,” instead of saying you are sick. Think and talk positively about your body and your health.
Be Gentle with Yourself. If you feel tired, rest. Go to bed if you are sleepy, even if it is only 6pm. Eat if you are hungry, and eat food that is easy for you to digest, and feels nourishing. Don’t stress out about how much work you will miss, or everything you have to get done. Remind yourself that your wellbeing a priority, and you are going to do what it takes to heal.
Breathe and Meditate. Taking deep breaths through your nose is easiest while sitting still, and it reduces the physical effects of stress on your body. Try sitting comfortably and quietly and breathing naturally through your nose. As you get more comfortable, take deeper and slower breaths. Envision your immune system methodically ridding your body of pain and infection. Be peaceful and calm for ten or twenty minutes in the morning, and whenever you feel overwhelmed or exhausted.
Stretch! Our bodies are made of intertwined systems of tunnels and tubes; your circulatory system, lymph system, and nervous systems have pipes down in every part of your body, and when we are sedentary, toxins sit in the pipes instead of being flushed away from the source of the infection. Stretching is a great way to move your blood and lymph around so that it can dump toxins and bring healthy fluid back to recovering tissue. Stretch slowly, holding each pose for at least a few minutes.
What do you do when you are feeling sick? Have you tried these tips? How have they worked for you?
Lily Calfee is a Wellness Counselor in Boulder, Colorado. She teaches women how to think and eat for optimal physical and emotional healthy. Learn more at IdealNourishment.com. Read more blog posts here.