Warming to the cold hard facts

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
If you listen carefully you can hear the sound of a country starting to blow its collective nose and rustle the tissues as it heads into the cold and flu season. I know ... I’ve been blowing my nose and rustling the tissues this past week. I’ve had a bit of time to think!

As you read this, hundreds of congested, hacking folk are trolling the pharmacies and supermarkets in search of the ultimate cold stopping medication or supplement.

I’d have stood neck deep in a 44-gallon drum of horse manure if it would’ve instantly cured my cold. The hacking chesty cough and mouth breathing at night while snoring like a freight train wasn’t my idea of a good time. How can we put a man on the moon and splice genes, but we can’t cure the common cold?

Sure, I whiled away many an hour on Netflix and snoozing, occasionally shifting my weight in the bed so as to avoid pressure sores. But there were still things to be done, life doesn’t stop just because I feel grotty and what happens when the entire household succumbs to the lurgy? Seriously, I don’t have time for this!

After kicking and screaming and railing against most things, I wondered if it was time for a bit of a reframe?

First, admit you’re sick: the sooner the better.

We all know people who refuse to admit they’re sick. The I’ll-be-right types who drag their runny noses into the office or the gym. While soldiering on and pushing through might have once been thought to be brave and selfless, we now know it’s foolish and inconsiderate; not just to others, but to ourselves. Admitting you’re sick is not a sign of weakness and defeat, it’s the opposite. It’s the ultimate act of personal responsibility: listening to your body when it’s telling you to stop and choosing not to inflict your manky bugs on unsuspecting innocents.

Yes, being sick is inconvenient, uncomfortable and annoying, but if we re-frame our perspective, it’s also a gift. It’s our body’s way of saying "stop, listen, pay attention. It’s time to slow down, change our habits, live in a different way". If we listen, it’s possible our present sickness may be a future pathway to even greater health. I know it’s not always easy to do but if we can stop seeing ourselves as unwilling victims of the bacteria gods in the sky, we can become empowered co-creators in our own health.

That has to be a good thing!

Secondly, it’s OK to whinge ... a little. We’re talking about giving ourselves permission to be a little miserable, let down our guard and be vulnerable.

Thirdly, you’ve got a bit of time on your hands, so how about thinking about what changes you can make to polish up your lifestyle, food, exercise, stress levels ... you know the stuff. Sure, most of us would do anything for a quick cold fix, no judgement here. When we’re miserable, we all want the fastest route to good health. Most of us would sell our children for an uncongested night’s sleep, which explains why the cold medicine industry sucks billions out of our wallets each year. However, there is a trap to the quick fix. The trap is when we put our health in someone else’s hands and think we don’t have to do anything else.

We give up responsibility to the lozenge, elixir, or multivitamin and think our job is done. Why would we give control of our health to someone else? The reality is that getting well begins with putting our health back in our own hands. To do this we need to embrace a healthy lifestyle, even when we’re sick, especially when were sick. This healthy lifestyle begins with rest, water and good food.

Most of us ignore common sense when it comes to colds ... "it’ll go in a couple of days". I hate to deliver bad news — it won’t and you’ll be contagious for about 7-9 days!

Our bodies ask us to slow down and rest, and this begins with sleep. Sleeping helps put all our resources into repairing cells, boosting energy and building up the immune system. You can’t do this if you won’t slow down.

Along with sleep is that other magical elixir: water. Drinking water not only cools down fevers, but gets rid of toxins and waste. It also helps to prevent your upper and lower respiratory secretions from thickening, which means you can clear them from your airway more easily.

The next piece of the healthy lifestyle puzzle is to eat well. It doesn’t get simpler than this: load up on unprocessed, natural, and organic foods. When it comes to building a healthy lifestyle, ask yourself one question: is what I’m eating and drinking enriching my body or weakening it?

Benjamin Franklin gave the best piece of health advice when he said "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". So, as you make your way into the cold and flu season, start your prevention and that doesn’t just mean washing your hands and keeping away from the snot infested little people. It means eating a healthy diet, exercising often, reducing stress, and staying positive. Most importantly, it means taking back control of your own health.

Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach. For more go to www.fitforlifecoaches.co.nz.

Twitter:@jan—aitken

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