Signing on to Facebook today, I saw yet another slew of friends and acquaintances update, “Ugh! Flu!” or something of the ilk. I of course feel great sympathy for all of them as, in the past three months, I have had TWO flu’s (one of which sent me to the emergency room…twice!)
I am a philosophical caretaker by nature, and upon learning that anyone I know/love is ill, I immediately start suggesting remedies – usually homeopathic, sometimes completely outside of the realm of actual medical advice (e.g. laughing/smiling often).
A friend of mine, Brian, recently sent me this link and I have since been forwarding it out to everyone I know. Remedies for colds and flu’s that are flying around the internet right now range from Theraflu to hydrogen peroxide in the ears to putting onions in your socks (?!)
But let us forget remedies for a minute…as I assume you may already have your own, or at least have access to find what may work best for you through the internet and/or your physician.
I’d like to have you take a step back and look at temporary illness (like a cold or the flu) in a different way. Let us think about the question:
“What should I do with all of this glorious down time?”
Of COURSE you should sleep as much as possible. Confession: I’m a napping champ. I can take a nap anywhere at any time. (I recall falling asleep on the sidewalk in the middle of Walt Disney World once when I was in high school.) But I can only sleep so much. One can only sleep so long before they are wide awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, not knowing what to do.
Normally, people suggest you curl up in front of the t.v., or cozy up and read a good book until you fall asleep again. These are legitimate suggestions, but what if you could actually do something impactful with all of this spare time?
Over Thanksgiving last year, I contracted a very nasty stomach virus with symptoms similar to toxic shock. This virus left me relatively nonfunctional for about three days. As soon as I started to feel a little better – in that place between sick and well – I found myself with some spare time with which I could do a number of things. For whatever reason, my mind thought it to be a great idea to use this time to meditate. I’m not a very experienced (or serious) meditation student, but have taken a few classes for purposes of stress relief. Often, I find it difficult not to follow my mind’s wanderings. Maintaining a completely “void” mind is beyond my expertise. As a suggestion, my meditation instructor once offered up a simple meditation: focus on one thing at a time and explore that thing. For example, I can focus on my knee.
- My knee is sturdy.
- My knee has a bones in it.
- My knee is covered in skin.
- That skin is smooth.
- My knee helps me walk from place to place.
- My knee hurts in one spot.
- If my knee could talk it would tell me it wants to be loved more.
Etc. ad nauseam until my mind inevitably moves on to something else – like my shin. One can practice this single-pointed meditation quite easily. A single point (for me) can be anything: a physical object, a feeling, a sound. You learn to herd your thoughts, allowing for some sort of subconscious queue, but tightly focusing on one thing at a time.
Back to my sickbed, I began by making an intention for my meditation (a sort of inversion of what I just described); I would meditate ONLY on things that brought me happiness. I would allow my mind to explore what came about with acceptance until I encountered an emergence of negative feelings/emotions. I would then dismiss the thought and move on to my next thought.
– It may be helpful to mention here that I had been struggling for nearly two years to find contentment in my career. At the time, I was searching for the ideal career-switch – a career that would feel fulfilling and more like play than work. I hoped that this meditation would shed some light on what truly makes me happy so that I could further explore that happiness. –
I began my meditation…[abbr.]
- Music. Love, sonorous, spirit, relaxing, exhilarating…temporary…more than I can give. THERE WAS MY NEGATIVE THOUGHT. So I moved on.
- Jewelry. Fun, creative, hobby…expensive…temporary. Again, negative. So I moved on.
Immediately upon thinking of food, I felt a sensation – a sort of burst of energy or of adrenaline. Among words of joy I FELT joy and drive. I explored this moment and discovered – without a doubt – that I wanted to help others somehow through food.
Have you ever had an experience in your life where things just fell into place – with little-to-no effort – until some event occurred? Some call it serendipity. Some call it kismet. Volumes of novels and self-help books have been written to help people recognize these moments in life where change can occur. I can recall a few times in my life where merely being in the right place, at the right time, with the right mindset set off a spiral of events that lead to an easily achieved result.
This meditation was one of those moments, and it lead me to the path I am currently following. On this path, I keep running into new moments of ease…of clarity…of simplicity. This path is like a choose-your-own-adventure in which I keep picking the most awesome actions.
So let’s fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I got the terrible terrible flu that is going around (H3N2). Not ever having had a flu like this (more like a really really really bad cold), I had no IDEA what was going on with me. The thought that kept going through my head was, “oh C’MON Kristin! It’s just a cold! You’re such a wuss!” Because I didn’t get a flu shot this year (although I’m now hearing that the shot given in 2012-13 is only about 62% effective) I was down and out for about eight days. During that time, I listened to my body. I drank plenty of fresh lemon-ginger tea with turmeric and cinnamon, ate bland but hearty root vegetable soup (perfect for someone with no sense of taste or hunger), and slept a LOT.
I want to back up again, for just a moment. I got engaged over a year ago (December 2011) and since then have been trying to lose about 10 lbs for the wedding. This is purely for aesthetic purposes, I know, but is a goal that is attainable and reasonable. I have really focused on healthy diet (and in the process, gradually transitioned from being 100% vegan to about 80% vegan), following a realistic work out regimen, and lowering my stress levels. Still, I plateaued at 138 lbs for FOUR MONTHS.
There is nothing quite as frustrating as plateauing when you are putting in a HUGE effort to lose weight. I watch contestants on The Biggest Loser nearly burst into tears if their weight does not change at all after a week of genuine hard work. Our bodies are fickle, and they are sending us messages all. of. the. time.
One person’s weight plateau can be attributed to an emotional issue while another person’s plateau can be attributed to needing to cut out a single food.
I’m convinced my plateau was my body’s way of telling me to slow down, relax, sleep, shut down all systems for a bit. How convenient [sarcasm present] that a very virulent and debilitating flu is going around this year!
I am convinced that getting this year’s flu was the second best thing to happen to me in the last 4 months. In eight days, I went through a sort of morbid detox. I ate nourishing foods specifically for what they would give my body at a time when it needed a full arsenal to fight illness. I ate small portions of food. I drank my nutrients in homemade juices and teas. I – most importantly – stopped drinking caffeine, which has been a struggle for me for years. (I started drinking coffee at age ten!)
In eight short days, I lost four pounds, cut my caffeine addiction (which in turn solved many of the digestive issues I’ve been dealing with for years), and felt infinitely better than I had before I got sick.
So here is the message I am trying to send to you:
View sickness as a blessing – as a gift in a very indecorous costume.
We live in an era of constant motion. I place myself among several networks of friends who push and push and push – who carry two to three full-time jobs because of our drive – who strive to “do it all” in a very short period of time, and who pressure ourselves to be the best all the while. This behavior certainly is admirable at times. But when one of my colleagues gets ill, it is a shock to the machines in which they live. All productivity ceases, and (inevitably) my Facebook news feed populates with “why me’s” and “why now’s.”
Perhaps the answer to these questions is that you are being given a gift right now to reevaluate, recharge, and accomplish a whole different set of things.