So…you notice a runny nose and a tickle in your throat. Before you know it, you are in the trenches of a full-blown illness. Whether it be a common cold, the flu, COVID-19, or any other illness, being sick takes a toll physically and mentally. You are in full-blown survival mode trying to feel well and this often means you are stuck at home, isolated, and may find yourself going stir-crazy if you are a person who typically likes to be on the go. As I sit here recovering from the flu myself, I felt that talking about maintaining your mental health while sick is an important discussion. Here are some tips for tending to your mental health while you are recovering from an illness.
Physical signs of illness serve as a big blinking red stop light. Physical symptoms of illness like fatigue, brain fog, and body aches are your body’s way of saying “Hey, maybe you should slow down and take it easy”. So listen to those warning signs and give yourself permission to rest. Overdoing it and ignoring these signs can lengthen the amount of time it will take for you to recover. Your sole job at this time is to take care of yourself physically and mentally so that you can get better.
2) Maintain Healthy Habits
As challenging as it may be, try to continue to engage in healthy habits while recovering from an illness. As tempting and convenient as junk food can be when you are sick, it may leave you feeling worse. Nourish your body by maintaining healthy habits such as drinking plenty of water and eating nutritious meals when your appetite allows you to. The meals do not have to be elaborate. You can focus on simple foods and drinks such as water, broth, Jell-O, soup, yogurt, and other easy-to-eat and easy-to-prepare foods. When you are sick, your body needs all of the energy and help it can get to aid you in feeling better. If you feel up to it, try to engage in some movement such as going for a brief walk outside, doing gentle stretches, or doing light yoga. Moving your body can release endorphins that will improve your mood.
Laying in a dark room in bed all day certainly sounds enticing when you are not feeling well. However, spending days laying in bed can tank your mental health while sick. Once you pass that initial onset of sickness where you have little to no energy, I encourage you to consider engaging in a simple routine while you continue to focus on getting better. Some examples of actions to include in your routine as you recover include getting out of bed, taking a shower or bath, changing your clothes, and moving to a different room in your home.
Connecting with close friends or family members for socialization can be incredibly helpful in maintaining your mental health while sick. Depending on the illness, you can be stuck at home isolated for days on end. Hop on a facetime call if you have the energy for it or even just make a regular phone call to someone you enjoy talking to. Chatting with a friend or loved one can serve as a welcome distraction, provide a sense of companionship while isolating, and can improve your mood. Another tip is to allow yourself to accept help if your support network is offering it. If your loved one is offering to door dash some medicine, food, or a hot drink to your doorstep, just say yes. You don’t have to suffer in silence and brave this sickness alone. Turn to your support network and let them show up for you!
5) Get Comfy
If you are sick, now is certainly the time to lean into self-care and seek comfort where you can. I have fond memories of staying home sick from school when I was a child, curling up on the couch with a cozy blanket, a random daytime talk show playing in the background for noise, and cold crisp ginger ale to sip on. As an adult, some of these acts still provide a great deal of comfort when I am not feeling my best. Some examples of ways to comfort yourself when you are sick include putting on your favorite pajamas, snuggling with a pet, enjoying some hot tea, watching a show or movie that brings you joy, taking a hot bath or shower, reading a book, or using lavender scented lotion for relaxation. Need suggestions for additional self-care ideas? Check out our blog “30 Quick Self-Care Ideas”.
Knowing how to care for yourself when you are sick is an essential part of recovery. As you begin to recover, you should see an improvement in your mental well-being. If you are currently sick like I am, I wish you a speedy recovery and hope these tips for maintaining your mental health have given you some ideas and motivation! I will now be taking my suggestions to care for myself as well. I am off to start another episode of Gilmore Girls and curl up with my pets!
If you can’t seem to manage your mental health post-recovery from your illness, our counselors are ready to provide support. Feel free to reach out to us through our contact page to schedule a free 15-minute consultation to see if our counselors would be a good fit for you.