It feels weird writing this a few days later, while basking in a glorious mini-heatwave that has hit us this weekend, but I succumbed to a cold a few days ago. That is not particularly alarming news to anyone, I’m sure, because it’s not exactly a life threatening or rare condition. It was alarming to me though, because basically, I DON’T GET SICK!!
Obviously I do – everyone does – but years of working in the hospitality industry have instilled a real workhorse attitude in me where I feel I simply cannot stop just because of a simple cold! Even years later, now in a classic 9-5 office setting, I can’t shake that part of me that feels like I’m letting the side down if I get sick. In a way, I’m pretty proud of my work ethic – I stand by the fact that provided you are not horribly contagious or causing a risk to yourself and others, you SHOULD sometimes drag yourself out of bed and get on with it. There is a huge difference in being too ill to work and simply not feeling like it, and I do think these days we have a tendency to blur the two. But as I’ve gotten older and (a tiny bit) wiser, I’ve started to accept that slapping on a grimace and battling through like a martyr isn’t always the best approach. There are times when you really do need to listen to your body and take some time out. Or at least listen to someone smarter than you, like your lovely boyfriend, when they tell you to stop ignoring your body’s desperate pleas for help and go back to bed like a good girl. One of the two…. (no prizes for guessing which one was me!)
So this week when I picked up a pretty nasty strain of lurgy, probably while visiting Mum at the hospital, I gave in and took a couple of days off. It’s probably just because the last few weeks have been a bit of a drain, but for some reason, this very common and harmless little bug seemed to knock me for six, and even I had to admit defeat, despite my irritation that this would blemish a 5 year absence free record. Here’s how I got through it (hold on to your hats now, this is real edge of your seat stuff…!)
As someone who has the tendency to go through random bouts of insomnia, I value my sleep at the best of times. I have some bad sleep habits though. I keep my phone by my bed, I binge watch TV before going to sleep, and it’s sometimes pretty late by the time I get around to eating in an evening. The worst one though, is that I am really bad at giving in to the urge to nap, always resisting and telling myself there are more important things to be done. Obviously sometimes it’s a good idea not to succumb to those urges – I’d hate to relive the experience of waking up in Brixton at 3 in the morning after falling asleep on a London night bus once – but sometimes this is your body’s way of telling you you that you need to recharge. I slept for about 12 hours straight and it felt gooooood!
I am pants at keeping my fluid levels topped up to be fair, but it’s really important to stay hydrated when you’re sick. My normal reaction to that fuzzy, sluggish feeling is to want to dose up on caffeine, but this is going to dehydrate you even more, as well as con you into thinking you don’t need that extra sleep, so it isn’t the best idea! Keep chugging the water, it will help to flush all those nasties from your system and replace all the fluids you are probably busy sweating and oozing away at a rapid rate (painting a gorgeous picture of how I looked a few days ago, right?)
Lemon, Ginger & Honey – STAT!
Lots of people swear by over the counter remedies, but I’ve never been one to medicate for the little things. There is just one thing that I believe truly works and it’s entirely natural – hot water with a couple of slices of lemon, a decent wedge of fresh ginger and a generous squeeze of honey. Not only is it pretty delicious, it contains all the goodness you need to get you back on your feet. Lemon contains plenty of Vitamin C to give your immune system a bit of a boost, ginger contains natural anti-inflammatory properties and honey helps to soothe a cough and a sore throat. Sipping hot drinks is also known to help ease congestion, so it’s an all round winner and I swear it’s the reason I usually bounce back pretty quickly! If you’re feeling too pants to make it yourself, Twinings and Birt & Tang both do rather nice lemon & ginger teas, but I much prefer the added zing of the real thing.
The last thing I feel like doing when I’m all bunged up is eat, but it is crucial to do so when you’re feeling run down. Nourishing yourself, apart from giving yourself plenty of the aforementioned nutrients, helps to give you the energy and strength you need to fight off any bugs. As above, warm soups or broths are ideal to both comfort you and ease congestion, so my top tip would be to go for something with classic Asian flavours like lime, ginger, chilli and turmeric to get a load more of those handy antioxidants in. Plus, all those aromatic spices are bound to get you breathing deeply again! I was lucky enough to attend a Malaysian cooking masterclass with Chef Norman Musa at the start of this year so I’m well equipped with his Prawn Laksa recipe (though I prefer it with chicken!
If you’re anything like me, your skin will not be happy while in the depths of a nasty cold. Mine tends to go incredibly dry, especially around the lips and my poor nose, which starts flaking at the mere sign of a tissue in its vicinity! As soon as those sniffles first appear I am always sure to be proactive in keeping moisturised to try and limit the damage I know will inevitably come using a gentle, unscented moisturiser – always looking for one which contains glycerine to tackle any chapping. Now, I’m going to have all sorts of people tell me off here for recommending this, I know, but when times get really tough and I’m looking pretty Rudolf-esque I dab a little hand cream on the worst affected areas, as they are usually pretty tough on dry, flaking skin. Don’t go slathering it all over your face, please, because your facial skin is far more sensitive that that on your hands, but when my poor ravaged nose has gained the texture of a battered old leather armchair I’m not sure I can do it much more damage… Let’s not forget those sad, sore lips though – my current obsession is Nuxe Reve de Miel lip balm, which contains honey and shea butter, and has the dreamiest, softest consistency ever – not in the slightest bit slippery or waxy. The delicious orangey scent is just an added bonus…
Sorry, this last one is annoying because not everyone has the luxury of these, but seriously, if a snuggle with a loving little pup isn’t the most sure fire way of curing all ills I’m not sure I know what is….