Recovery From A Viral Illness
This is a short blog this month as I have had a nasty little virus and have been making sure I practice what I preach and giving myself the time and self-care to recover fully.
I’m not sure what virus I have had as I didn’t test positive for Covid-19, but it was a virus that kept me in bed for a few days and almost 4 weeks on has left me feeling more tired than normal and suffering from post-viral joint pain and a little bit of brain fog.
I think I am probably susceptible to post viral joint pain as I suffered badly with this in the past. Fifteen years ago I had a virus that made me ill and took me a whole year to fully recover from. And I only recovered about 80% of the energy I had before I got ill. it wasn’t until I learned much later in life about more holistic approaches to health including diet and lifestyle medicine that I finally got back to 100%.
This time around I was prepared and already looking after my health before I fell ill, getting regular exercise, taking time out for relaxation and meditation, eating nourishing foods and supplementing with vitamin D. When I fell ill, I didn’t feel like eating and I know that this is one of the sickness behaviours your body activates so that your energy can be used by your immune system. I dosed myself up on more vitamin D, vitamin C, elderberry, echinacea, zinc, quercetin, an iodine nasal salt pipe and steam inhalation with some essential oils. I basically used everything in my first aid kit. After a couple of days I added in black seed oil for good measure having read about its anti-viral properties. I was drinking warm water steeped with lemon and ginger and a small spoon of manuka honey. Now I am over the worst I have added in some high dose turmeric and berry powders for their anti-inflammatory effect on my joints.
My family rallied round and looked after me, I rested up and when my head felt like it, I watched documentaries and read books and magazines that I don’t normally get the chance for. When I started to feel better, I wrapped up well and sat outside in the fresh air and watched and listened to the birds. Soon I felt much better.
I know that one of the key things that can make a difference to how well you recover from a viral illness is your lifestyle and pace. You might have heard of pacing or perhaps the term ‘energy management’ which is used in the new NICE guidelines for chronic fatigue syndrome. It is also being talked about by doctors and other health professionals in relation to recovery from Covid-19 and other viral illnesses. Pacing is about being very careful not to overdo physical, mental, emotional, and social activities before you are completely well again.
In our busy hectic lives, when we often don’t have family support nearby to help with young children or when we often feel under pressure to return to work as soon as possible, there is a big risk that we don’t fully recuperate. The word convalescence was used the past, but you seldom hear it now, I think it is almost deliberately frowned upon as something that is a luxury and not a necessity. Well for some of us it might just be what is missing in supporting our recovery. I think science is beginning to unravel the mystery of why some people recover well from a viral illness and others don’t. It seems likely that this maybe to do with how much stress we place ourselves under. I don’t just mean mental stress but emotional, physical, and perhaps even environmental. If you want to know more about this, then read this blog. When I was ill fifteen years ago, I went back to a high stress management job too early and I’m sure it didn’t help.
When we place ourselves under any of these types of stressors, we activate our sympathetic nervous system, our fight or flight response which changes the biochemistry in our individual cells and can impact our immune system too. We know that if we place our bodies under too much stress, and of course being ill with a virus is a stress itself, then our body responds by giving us symptoms to make us rest, slow own and give ourselves a chance to recover. We ignore these signs at our peril. This is one of the main theories of why chronic fatigue often appears after a viral illness.
So what does pacing or energy management mean? Well it means paying attention to your body and how you feel so that you avoid doing anything that may leave you feeling worse as a result. Everyone is different which is why we need to learn to listen carefully to what our own body is telling us and recognise that we each have our individual limit on what we can do without causing a negative effect. When you listen to your body you can be flexible and alter what you do so that you try and keep within the energy limits that your body has available. This may mean different things as you recover and find sometimes you can do more and sometimes less.
I find when working with clients that even just understanding this can be helpful and make it easier to ask for help when you need it, it can stop you feeling guilty when you put your feet up and have a rest or even help you to have a conversation with your employer about a flexible phased return to work.
I’m off to have a break and put my feet up! I am back at work but being a bit careful about what I commit to for the next couple of weeks and making sure I get plenty of breaks and looking forward to a couple of more weeks of rest and relaxation at Christmas. I am still making sure to eat well, take my immune supporting supplements and get out into the fresh air for gentle walks. Taking the time to stop bring its own rewards too – this morning I watched a red squirrel in the garden while having my morning coffee!
If you would like a copy of My Personal Long Covid Checklist then please click HERE.
The checklist tells you exactly what I would do if I was suffering with Long Covid. It gives you a checklist of actions for the 6 key areas which I think are most important.
This is my starting point and it focuses on the key areas of energy production, immune and nervous system health, reducing inflammation, moving your body gently and syncing your body clock. No matter what my exact symptoms were I would go back to basics and do this first.
Disclaimer: Before changing your diet or lifestyle and taking any supplements always seek the advice of your doctor or another suitably qualified professional such as a nutritional therapist. The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor with regards to any questions you have about a medical condition.