Curing the Common Cold: The Art of Being Sick
Unless you’ve been living in a hermetically-sealed plastic bubble for the last six months, you know there is a nasty flu spreading. That sound you’re hearing? It’s our collective nose being blown, along with the raspy whine of a nation that’s been knocked to its knees, thrown in bed and forced to watch countless reruns of the Andy Griffith Show.
Even as we speak, millions of congested people are wandering pharmacies everywhere, searching for just the right combination of sniffling, coughing, and achy throat medicine. We’ll try anything, too: Echinacea, Goldenseal, humidifiers, Neti Pots, Cayenne pepper, garlic, and chicken soup. Fact is, we’d rub our chests with goose grease and kerosene if we thought it would work, which just so happens to be an old Texas cold remedy.
But, the truth is, getting well isn’t our biggest challenge. Our biggest challenge is learning how to be sick. Yes, how to be sick.
For the record, we suck at it. We can put a man on the moon and split the atom, but we don’t know how to lie on our backs and get well. Unfortunately, the longer we stay stubbornly ignorant, the longer we’ll stay in our bacteria-infested pyjamas.
Bottom line: we don’t need a trip to the pharmacy. We need an attitude adjustment, which happily does not require a trip to the doctor’s office. Here are four tips on how to cure the common cold.
Feel free to nominate me for the Nobel Prize in Medicine if you’d like.
1. Admit You’re Sick: The Power of Listening to Your Body.
I know there are a lot of people out there who refuse to admit that they’re sick. These are the grin-and-bear-it types who drag their runny noses into the office lunch room, or run marathons with sprained ankles. They see a wall and run right through it. While that’s very brave and action hero-like, it’s often foolish and inconsiderate; not just to others, but to themselves.
Admitting you’re sick is NOT a sign of weakness and defeat, any more than it’s a sign that you’re throwing up the white flag and surrendering to your illness. In fact, it’s an awakening. It’s also the ultimate act of personal responsibility: listening to your body.
Yes, being sick is inconvenient, uncomfortable and painful, but if we re-frame our perspective, it’s also a gift. It’s our body’s way of monitoring and regulating our health. It’s our body’s way of saying there is something to look at, listen to, or pay attention to. It’s our body telling us to slow down, change our habits, or live in a different way. If we listen, our sickness may very well become a pathway to even greater health.
Listening to that wisdom is not just common sense, it’s an expression of gratitude. It’s our way of saying “thank you” for the body we are fortunate enough to inhabit.
I realize it’s not always easy to do, especially when we feel like we’re one step from death, but once we do, we can stop looking at our sickness as a cruel stroke of fate. We can stop seeing ourselves as unwilling victims to the bacteria gods in the sky, and instead, we can become empowered co-creators in our own health.
That is the game-changer that will help us all to cure the common cold.
2. Nurture Yourself Part 1: It’s Okay to Whine
We can’t nurture ourselves back to health if we don’t give ourselves permission to be downright miserable, even if that means whining like a helpless baby. Of course, don’t confuse the whining guy with the sniveling dictator who demands the world to wait on him. We’re not looking for an excuse to turn our family and friends into slaves.
We’re talking about giving ourselves permission to let down our guard; to be vulnerable and needy. And contrary to what we’ve been told since childhood, that’s not always a sign of weakness. In fact, when it comes to being sick, it’s a clear sign of strength, and a positive step toward recovery.
3. Nurture Yourself Part 2: Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle
Let’s be real. When we’re miserable, we all want the fastest route to good health. Most of us would sell our children for a good night sleep, or thirty minutes without blowing our noses, which explains why the cold medicine industry is a billion-dollar-a-year business. As someone who has downed his share of purple medicine, I make no judgments on what anyone takes to get healthy. We each do what we feel is right.
However, there is a trap to the quick fix, and it has nothing to do with whether we take flu medicine or not, or even whether it works. The trap is when we put our health in someone else’s hands and think we don’t have to do anything else. We give up responsibility to the “2 tablespoons” and then think our job is over.
The reality is this: getting well begins with putting our health back in our own hands. To do this we need to embrace a healthy lifestyle, even when we’re sick, and especially when we’re sick.This healthy lifestyle begins with rest, water and good food.
I know it’s common sense, but most of us ignore it. We take our pills, throw some tissues in our sleeves, then continue to go about our lives—back to work, to do the laundry, pick up the kids, make breakfast. Our bodies ask us to slow down and rest, and this begins with sleep—the ultimate weapon in the cure for the common cold. Sleeping forces us to put all our resources in the only things that matter; repairing cells, boosting energy and building up the immune system. You can’t do this if you won’t slow down.
So the next time you get sick, do yourself a favor. Put yourself in bed and turn on the Kardashians, CSPAN, or anything else that puts you fast to sleep. Your recovery depends on it.
Right behind sleep comes that other magical elixir: water. Without hydration, your body is powerless to fight a cold. Drinking water not only cools down fevers, but gets rid of toxins and waste. It also helps to prevent your upper and lower respiratory secretions from thickening, which means you can clear them from your airways more easily. In short, it heals.
The final piece of the healthy lifestyle puzzle is to eat right. It doesn’t get simpler than this: avoid the bad foods and welcome healthy, natural, and organic foods. That means staying away from sugars, bad fats, and packaged foods. It means eating good proteins, home-made soups, and clear broths, like miso, chicken or veggie broth, as well as any food that contains Glutathione, which is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to fight infection.
When it comes to embracing a healthy lifestyle, ask yourself one question: is what I’m eating and drinking enriching my body or weakening it? Make the right choice and you will have begun to take back your own health.
4. Ask for Help
We all know that life is complicated and busy, and being sick just makes matters worse, getting in the way of our work and obligations. It makes us agitated and impatient that we don’t have the energy to do what we need to do, and what happens? We become resentful of being sick, which instinctively takes us right back to acting as if we’re not ill at all.
I realize slowing down is never easy advice to take, but we can make it easier with one simple solution. Ask for help. It’s the key to getting well.
We’re not just looking for someone to bring us soup and empty our trash can full of tissues—what we really need is someone to give us the space and time to be sick. We need someone to cover for us at work, make dinner, do the wash, pick up the kids. We need our families, friends and co-workers to pitch in. We’d do it for them, right? Well, it’s time to let them do it for us.
Having someone to help us eases our minds so that we can let go and relax. It’s easier to rest when we know that someone is taking care of all the things we think we should be doing. It allows us to put our heads back on the pillow and let nature take its course, and it allows us the gift of being patient with our illness.
All it takes is three powerful words: I need help.
There you have it: four simple steps that will cure what ails you. Of course, I’d be guilty of malpractice if I didn’t also mention the words of Ben Franklin, who gave the best piece of health advice ever given. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
So, as you make your way into the flu season, take precaution, and that doesn’t just mean washing your hands, keeping away from the snotty kids, or bathing yourself in Purell. It means eating healthy, exercising often, reducing stress, and staying positive. Most importantly, it means taking control of your own health.
Of course, should you fall ill, don’t fight it or curse your luck. Listen to your wise old body and let yourself be sick.
It’s the only way you’ll ever cure the common cold.
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