Springtime is here!
You know what that means! Temperature above freezing! Open windows! You can actually smell outdoors again! The sun is going to be setting at seven in the evening come this Sunday!
You know what else that means?
It’s back and it’s vicious this year–I’ve already seen about four of my friends (who all live in separate areas) succumb to varying cough/cold/strep monstrosities and need to take a week to recover. Living in residence, this is one thing you need to prepare for: the fact that pretty soon, everyone around you will be sniffling drippy shihtzu dogs of disease and you’ll need to find some way to sanctify your space so that the germs don’t sneak in under the door.
There are a thousand and one recommendations for boosting your immune system–the basics are always the same. Get enough sleep (‘enough’ depends on your age but if you’re a teenager it’s around 9 hours and if you’re a twentysomething it’s closer to 7-8), eat nourishing foods, engage in regular exercise, give someone a good endorphin-boosting hug, and so on. A quick internet search will reveal all sorts of wisdom on the matter.
So what do you do if you already have an ass-kicking immune system and you still wake up one morning feeling the scratchy sore beginnings of a sniffly ENT (ear nose throat) extravaganza?
I have a possible plan of attack for you.
My own immune system is astonishing in its strength and versatility–I thank good genes, good food, and a consistent yoga practice, along with lots of snuggling friends (because it is proven that affectionate touch boosts the immune system as well as anything else). The last time I was sick was last May–nearly a year ago!–and it was for a whopping one day. I took that day off, devised a healing strategy and devoted the day to putting it into action, and woke up the next morning 100% better. No joke. My immune system is such a champion that the last time my partner got sick, I was able to spend the 3-4 days she was ill pretty much constantly at her side giving her cuddles and making her tea and even kissing that germy little mouth and I stayed healthy the whole way through. It’s wondrous. And not impossible for you to achieve.
A few days ago I finally broke my no-sick streak when I woke up and felt a bit of pain/soreness at the back of my throat; my mind wasn’t as clear as normal, and I had a lot of muscle aches and pains, and all over I felt a general sense of fatigue. So I pulled out the same strategy I did last May and employed it and I can happily say that once again, I have recovered nearly completely by this morning! Hooray!
As a general practice, when something works well, you ought to let people know so they can use it to their own advantage. And physical health is something I want everyone to enjoy with me. So I present to you my own Cold Kit, the gameplan I fall back on the moment I feel anything icky stirring in my body. You’ll notice I rely entirely on lifestyle changes (food, exercise, sleep, etc) and alternative medicine to heal myself, but if I ever got sick enough to need antibiotics, I’d have no qualms with taking them. As always with health advice, take what will work for you and leave the rest.
How to Kill a Cold in One Day
- Vitamins: Vitamin C, Omega-3, garlic pills
- Lavender essential oil
- Rosemary essential oil
- Eucalyptus essential oil
- Oil burner (get an electric one if you live in residence!)
- A lemon
- Peppermint and chamomile tea
- Yoga mat (and two 30-minute lessons of your choice, perhaps from here.)
- Optional, but tasty: candied ginger pieces
- As soon as the preliminary symptoms (scratchiness in throat, lack of mental clarity, etc) pop up, down a good 1000mg of Vitamin C. Continue taking Vitamin C supplements in 500mg doses about 4 times a day. (According to my cousin the pharmacist, the body can only really properly absorb 500mg at a time to a daily maximum of 2000mg.)
- Take 1 garlic pill and 1 Omega-3 capsule per day—continue for at least 2-3 days after symptoms have disappeared, just in case.
- When you go to sleep for the first night, let yourself sleep in without an alarm. You might need 8 hours, you might need 11. Whatever it is, let yourself have it.
- Once you’re awake, burn a 50/50 mix of lavender and rosemary oils–3 drops of each–in an oil burner in your room. Both of these are powerfully antibacterial and antiviral, and will kill any sickness floating around in the air (so good for if a housemate is sick and you don’t want to catch their cold!) Add eucalyptus in the morning, or if any congestion develops (eucalyptus is an expectorant–you’ll actually recognize the smell/taste in most cough drops).
- Drink nothing but a) warm lemon and honey water during the first half of the day and b) 50/50 chamomile peppermint tea during the second half.
- Do approximately an hour of yoga in two 30-minute sessions, one in the morning and one in the evening. Staying in bed all day is actually not as useful to the immune system as light movement is. We don’t want to tax the body, so be sure not to go as hard as you would on a regular day, but enough to get the circulation moving and to stretch out any soreness in the muscles.
- Healing the energy and the spirit is essential to healing the body, so sit down for a good, long healing meditation. When I would get sick as a small child, my father always put me to bed with the exercise/mission of imagining the white blood cells in my body going and defeating the invading illness one cell at a time. It would give me something to concentrate on until I fell asleep–but more importantly, the mind-body connection is strong enough that focusing your energy specifically on healing will speed the healing process up. Try it out!
- Nibble on a few pieces of candied ginger throughout the day as treats. This is optional if your illness is more of a cough/cold duo, but I would highly highly recommend it if you’re also feeling an upset stomach, as it works to settle the digestive system in general. (Don’t overdo it and eat a whole bag though–ginger is powerful!)
And that’s it. I don’t expect it to work for everyone 100% of the time, but I know it’s worked for me, and all we can really offer in the end is our personal experience. A great thing about this plan of attack is that it works equally well for prevention–meaning you can take any combination of these things and do them on a regular day and help to give your immune system an extra leg up.
Illness is unpleasant and costly. On average, it takes a cold anywhere between one and two weeks to clear up entirely, and I don’t know anyone who has the time or the patience to deal with that sort of timeframe every time flu season hits. If we all committed one solid, sunrise-to-sunset day to healing ourselves the moment we felt our body getting sick–if we decided that our bodies were worth enough to put our other commitments on pause (and they are)–then I think we could conquer the cough/cold wildfire spreading through residences and campuses and offices and general gathering places the world over.
And you? What are your tips for quick recovery? How do you stay on top of flu season? Let me know!