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Curing the Common Cold:
 The Art of Being Sick

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

More by this author

Curing the Common Cold:
 The Art of Being Sick Live Like You Won The Lottery: How to Start Being Happy Today Stop Being Offended Today: 3 Cures for Everything That Irritates You

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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