Let’s talk about how to stay well when everyone else is sick.
Whenever my kids get sick, when I travel, when life gets overly busy in general or when I feel my body getting run down, I tune into my body even more and focus intently on my self care and rest in order to keep myself well and keep my immune system strong. Today I’m sharing my top tips for how to stay well when everyone around you is sick.
5 WAYS TO FOCUS ON YOUR WELLNESS WHEN EVERYONE AROUND YOU IS SICK
1 – Recognize the need for rest
Sleep and rest really does come above anything else, especially when you’re feeling run down, you’re around people who are sick or you’re taking care of sick people. It even comes before things like early morning workouts during these times. When your system needs rest and your body is healing or fighting off sickness, prioritize as much high quality sleep and rest as possible.
If you’re taking care of others and your night time sleep is interrupted, or you’ve recently traveled and you’re not well rested, your body perceives that as stress and stress makes the cells less resilient and the immune system less robust.
As far as early morning workouts go, it’s great to get up early and workout as long as your body is well rested. But during the times when you’re fighting off sickness or your sleep is jeopardized, it actually does your body more harm than good to interrupt sleep and get up early for exercise. Your body will benefit more from the high quality, uninterrupted sleep and ideally, around 7 to 7.5 hours of it. I personally love melatonin to help me get more restful sleep. I take 1 mg 30 minutes before I want to go to sleep at night.
2 – Don’t get run down in the first place
I know, easier said than done in this world but this one is truly important to focus on when we’re talking about how to stay well. When your body becomes run down, you’re so much more likely to get sick because your immune system isn’t as robust and your cells aren’t as resilient as they should be to fight off sickness. Here are some things to stay mindful of that run your body down:
- Sleep deprivation: Focus on getting at least 7 hours of quality sleep each night (7.5 is my personal sweet spot) to stay rested, and prioritize it. It’s okay to say no to things in order to prioritize your sleep and your well being!
- Eating poor quality foods: Eating as healthy as possible will help to keep your body healthy and strong. Low quality and processed/packaged foods cause inflammation in your body which can also run down your immune systems and cause your body to not be as resilient and able to fight off sickness. There are also foods that help to bring down inflammation in your body, so favor those (more below). Avoid fast food which is highly inflammatory. Limit sugar with the exception of small amounts of natural sugars like honey, maple syrup or dates which all have vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Also avoid too much alcohol which is inflammatory to the body.
- Stressful events and overloading your schedule: Remember that the body perceives even the smallest stressors, as stress on the body. When my daughter had a high fever from the flu, my body registered this as stress. When your schedule is so packed that there’s no time for quiet or a moment of rest, your body perceives that as stress as well. Running late causes stress, traffic jams, etc. These are all going to happen and we don’t have control over it all, but we can be mindful of what kind of stresses your body is under and give yourself a few moments to take deep breaths during the day to bring the stress hormones down. Also try to keep as much white space in your day as possible, edit your day carefully and say no to anything that’s not a priority for you. Take a bath or good to bed early to help bring down stress.
- Overexercising. Again, when your body needs rest, pushing the overly hard workouts can stress the body further. During these times choose more walking, yoga and stretching for your movement.
3 – Favor foods that nourish the body
Focus on foods that bring down inflammation and help to heal the body. Plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds all help bring down inflammation. Remember that processed foods can increase inflammation in the body so try to steer clear of those.
Foods that warm the body are good choices when the weather is cold so choose foods like oatmeal for breakfast, and soups or cooked veggies for lunch and dinner. Also, don’t eat too much food if you feel your body is run down or fighting sickness. This is especially important at night. Eat early and light dinners so you can rest well. Have you ever noticed that when you overeat later at night, it impacts your sleep and you don’t rest as well? When your body is taxed from overeating (this has been researched and it taxes the digestive system), you don’t rest as well which of course, leads to your body being run down. I love soup for dinner because it’s light on digestion and nourishing to the body.
During the cold months, we should choose foods that are warming to the body. This is a long held principle of Ayurvedic medicine. Also, add more anti inflammatory spices like turmeric and cinnamon and fresh herbs to your food to help bring down inflammation in the body.
4 – Stay hydrated
This is important for every day of course, but when you’re sick or fighting off sickness, it’s so important to stay hydrated. Fever increases your body’s metabolism and you need more fluids to stay hydrated when you run fever. If you’re already sick, be sure to stay hydrated but it’s also important for prevention.
Remember that during the colder months, the air is dryer because of running the heat, fireplaces, etc. Our bodies have mucous membranes (eyes, nose, etc) that need to stay moist so they can do their jobs of catching invaders (germs and pathogens) that are trying to come into our bodies. If you’re dehydrated, those barriers can’t do their jobs as well as they should be. Drink plenty of water (at least 2 liters a day), and use coconut water or an electrolyte supplement like Liquid I.V. which is one of my favorites. I use them to stay hydrated during hot yoga classes, and also anytime anyone in my family is running fever. Herbal tea is also great for hydration.
5 – Supplements
For keeping the immune system healthy, I take a high quality multi vitamin and vitamin D. I also use melatonin as well to make sure I stay well rested. During cold and flu season, I also love supplements with elderberry, zinc and echinacea (note that echinacea hasn’t been studied in children so I don’t recommend using it for younger kids). Just make sure you’re choosing high quality supplements.
Bottom line: prioritize your wellness. Prioritize your rest and sleep. Say no to anything extra that will overfill your day and cause you more stress. These are all so important when focusing on how to stay well.
I hope these tips are helpful! Let me know in the comments below if there’s anything else that helps you take better care of yourself when everyone around you seems to be unwell.
Please note that I’m not a doctor or other medical professional, so this information is not intended to take the place of appropriate medical care. Please see your doctor if you have any concerns regarding your health or for any medical questions.