It’s that time of year again. Everyone’s getting ill all the time (or as Bill Nighy might say, “illness is all around us”). So I thought I’d share my top tips on how to shake a cold. Yes, a lot of these are well-known – but I think it’s important to reiterate them, given how many people I know who ignore this advice time and time again. Without further ado, here are my top 5 tips:
#1: Get enough sleep
Let me just explain this one. When you’re ill, you need more sleep than usual. Significantly more, in fact. I usually need around 8 hours’ sleep, 9 on occasion – but I can easily sleep 10 or 11 hours when ill, and need that amount of sleep! Often I wake up after an extra-long snooze and feel disappointed that my day has been wasted – but it’s important to remember that a day spent getting enough rest is a well-spent day. Which brings us to #2…
Do NOT go to work (unless you’re super contagious and you really hate your colleagues). Every day you force yourself to go to work ill, you’re extending your cold by another 2-3 days. Take at least one day off, ideally a couple – trust me, it’s essential and will actually increase your overall productivity. This is particularly important if you’re a freelancer or self-employed (or a student). There is no one to monitor your days off – it’s ALL down to productivity. The overall time lost taking a day off is gained by the fact that you can actually focus, and work more efficiently, by getting better quicker.
Once you’ve made this decision, do NOT feel guilty for staying at home sick. Going to work ill all the time doesn’t make you a “tough guy”, it makes you a selfish bastard who cares more about their own reputation and maximising opportunities for promotion than about actual productivity (and avoiding being an incubus of viral plague). There may be times when you need to power through, but realise that this comes at a cost, and that you will pay for it when you’re still coughing up mucus 3 weeks after your cold started.
#3: Stop taking paracetamol all the time
This is something I go on about a lot. Basically, paracetamol (or ibuprofen, whatever your painkiller of choice) only masks the symptoms of a cold. Taking it can often make you over-exert yourself, and can lead to you not getting the rest you need to recover. I therefore only allow myself to take paracetamol in the following circumstances:
- If I just HAVE to do something and it’s super important and I’m making the decision to power through and potentially crash later because of how important this task is, or
- If I KNOW I’m going to be relaxing (e.g. at home in bed watching Netflix) and therefore want to feel slight better while doing it.
I would definitely recommend taking drugs to make yourself feel better, rather than avoiding them altogether, particularly if you know you’re going to be doing nothing that day, as managing your symptoms can really help you feel well-rested and thus en route to a speedy recovery.
#4: Eat well
There’s an old saying: “starve a fever, feed a cold”. It turns out this is completely false (you always need energy to fight off illness), but it’s surprising how many people still believe this. Something else many people do is use their cold as an opportunity to eat actual garbage. I think the “relaxing at home” vibes can often lead to ordering Domino’s or some other deep-fried, overly-salted, processed meal (followed by an entire tub of Ben and Jerry’s).
Here’s my advice: eat as healthy as you possibly can. Stay at home, but have homemade soup, salad bowls, and hearty stews. Eat well – pastas, roast vegetables, or whatever your preferred balanced meal. You need the vitamins to get better, and it’s surprising how quickly you’ll feel the effects.
#5: Comfort Activities
Watch your favourite film. Cuddle up with your favourite cat (assuming you have more than one). Have some chamomile tea. Indulge with a small amount of ice cream (provided you’re also eating healthy the rest of the time). Basically, do whatever you can to make yourself feel well-rested (and don’t feel guilty about it!)
Bonus tip: this probably goes without saying, but steer clear of caffeine and alcohol. I know, me writing this in a blog post in December is going to have absolutely zero effect on how much you just need that trip to the pub or that mulled wine at the Christmas party, but trust me – you can still have fun without it (you don’t need drugs to have a good time, kids!!) and your body will thank you in the morning.
Let me know if you have any more suggestions, and happy bettering!