So we hear a lot about how to keep the immune system healthy and which foods and vitamins to take to ward away sickness, but what isn’t getting a lot of attention is how our emotional and mental states can support healing as well. I find that a lot of people feel like once you are sick, there isn’t a whole lot you can do but wait it out. While there is some truth to this statement, supporting your entire metabolism (a fancy word for all the processes in your body) and setting up an environment of rest and repair can seriously speed up that wait time. One of the first things I try to do when I come down with a bug, is remember to be kind to my body. I get that this sounds hippie-dippie to a lot of people, but knowing what I know about how the body works scientifically, trust me when I say that hippie-dippie is the antidote. Unfortunately in our society, we’ve come to wear sickness and tiredness like a badge of honor. The sicker you are and the harder you work, the more medals you win from the imaginary school of hard knocks. In fact, I’d dare say that most of you reading this probably treat your car with more consistent care and maintenance then your body. Cool, I guess. But pause for a moment and imagine what it would feel like to treat your body like the amazing machine it is and give it all the tender loving care it desires. We know for a fact that we can’t treat our material things like shit and expect them to last very long, or work effectively, so why do we require this of ourselves? So what does this look like?
Well first off, I can’t overstate the importance of good old rest and relaxation.The two parts to your nervous system are the sympathetic, think “Fight or flight”, and the parasympathetic, think “Rest and Digest”. Repair and rejuvenation only occur when the parasympathetic system is stimulated. Meaning, that if you are running around, trying to do a million things at once, all while battling a gnarly bacteria, your body is only going to get small moments (if any) of time to fight off infection. As hard as it may be to take time out, scheduling in even 5-minute increments of rest throughout the day can do wonders. If you’re feeling extra motivated to get well, use those 5 minutes to do some meditative breathing that will down-regulate your body into a parasympathetic state. I’ve listed how to do this at the bottom of the post ☺
Secondlly, take time to do the things that will get you well. All I want when I am sick is someone to take care of me, but sadly that’s not really a reality most days. This means its up to me to get me well and, while that seems like a simple thing to say, we often put the responsibility in someone else’s hands, often a significant other or doctor, and then get angry when we don’t feel better than we think we should. Take time to get back in touch with your body. Ask yourself questions like: ”What would make me feel better in this moment? What is my body trying to tell me through this? Do I need to slow down? Am I unraveling a bit? Do Ineed to focus more on treating my body well?” We often think of sickness as inevitable, but our bodies were designed to ward of bacteria and viruses easily given the proper conditions in a healthy body. I’m not saying you should blame yourself every time you come down with the flu, but it is worth noting if there is anything you could do differently to support your body and work with it, rather than against it.
The body sees stress as an outside invader, and responds in a similar way. That means hormones like cortisol and adrenaline get stimulated and begin their catabolic effects. In other words, they begin breaking down the body to fuel it and assist with emergency energy needs instead of building it back up. This can be a good thing if we are being chased by an attacker, as it supplies us with immediate energy. However, if we live this way day in and day out and our body is constantly being broken down, there is little chance for repair, especially while we are sick and need it the most. This is why keeping our emotional and mental states in check can be imperative to a speedy recovery.
So, in summary, the next time you feel like you are coming down with something, or even you are in a full blown flu meltdown, take some time to recharge and treat your body kindly, and I promise it will thank you.
Some ideas for rest and relaxation:
1. Take a hot ginger and Epsom salt bath – both relaxing and therapeutic.
2. Make yourself warm teas such as peppermint, ginger and turmeric.
3. Ask for someone in your family to give you a foot rub or do it yourself with some yummy smelling coconut oil.
4. Diffuse some calming essential like Lavender or On Guard from the Doterra line for an extra immune boost.
5. Go to bed as early as you need (this one is HUGE!)
6. Take small rests throughout the day and practice this breathing technique for 10-15 breaths: Breath in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, breath out for a count of 4, and hold for a count of 4.
7. If you feel well enough, try some dry skin brushing before you take a steamy shower to loosen lymph and mucus.
8. Try some easy relaxation meditations – starting with your feet and moving towards the head, progressively contract and release each muscle feeling the relaxing effect spread through your whole body.
9. Drink some warming bone broth with garlic and onion and savor every bite.
10. Give yourself permission to be sick – it sounds counterintuitive, but tell your body it’s ok to feel this way, you love it and that you plan to take the absolute best care of it. You’ll be surprised what a simple mind shift can do to take the pressure off.
That’s all for now friends, stay tuned!