Practices for Loving Yourself Through Sickness
Being sick is common enough, but that doesn’t make it suck any less. Whether you’ve got a simple cold or a more serious long-term illness, being unwell can really make life feel a heck of a lot harder. It’s harder to find patience and hope, it’s harder to think about the future, and it’s darn uncomfortable, too.
Part of the work of illness is taking care of our bodies, of course, but spending some time caring for our spirits when we are feeling sick can also be worthwhile. Besides, giving our spirits a boost generally gives our immune systems a boost, too, and that might help us get better sooner. Here are some practices for loving your sick spirit while your body recovers.
The body craves warmth and comfort when we’re not feeling well. Get the softer blanket, the cozier slippers, the sweatshirt that really makes you feel at home. Take a hot Epsom salt bath or immerse your feet in warm salty water, if you don’t have a fever.
Sometimes our adrenal glands are depleted when we are depleted, and they really like warmth and weight. This area, which is just below the shoulder blades around the midback close to your kidneys, can get physically quite tender when the adrenals are needing some support. Get a hot water bottle, heating pad, heavy blanket, or similar prop and place it over your adrenal glands. You can do this laying on your stomach on your bed or over some pillows. You can also lay back over a hot water bottle or heating pad on that area.
When your energy is depleted, it needs to be restored in some way. We receive energy into the body through food, sunlight, and breath. Whenever possible, take really deep breaths, all the way down into your belly as well as up into the entirety of your ribs, filling yourself with breath energy. Spending a few minutes focusing on deep cleansing breaths can help to coax your energy back.
Nourishing food is another source of energy for the body, but what this means is different at different times, including when you’re not feeling well. Notice what foods seem appealing to you. Smell your food before you eat it, noticing how your body responds. Take it slow and really ensure your body is requesting and consenting to the foods you are eating.
Keep in mind, however, that it is harder for your gut to manage highly processed food that includes a lot of sugar and salt, and these aren’t the best for your gut or immune system. But raw, fresh fruits and vegetables might also feel too hard to process right now. Thoroughly cooked whole foods are easier to digest when you’re not feeling well. Warming, comforting foods like soups, stews, sourdough bread, and so on can be helpful here. Whenever possible, eat colorful fruits and veggies that have the vitamins and minerals (vitamin C, zinc, and so on) that will help you get better faster.
Movement (or Not)
Restorative yoga is a powerful practice for supporting your immune system when you’re not feeling well. It is a form of movement that’s actually about stillness: resting in comfortable postures for a long period of time. It helps calm the nervous system and allows the body to spend time in the parasympathetic nervous system state, which is where our best healing practices are done. [Try a class with Julie here: https://www.juliepeters.ca/video-library.]
If you’re feeling well enough to move, do so gently and intuitively, taking lots of time to rest. You could try an intuitive movement meditation practice.
Listen to the Sickness
Perhaps most importantly, listen to what the sickness is telling you. Sometimes sickness has an energetic signature—a message for us about something that’s happening in our lives, or a response to something that’s going on. For most of us, sickness means being forced to slow down and be with our bodies and our feelings for a little while. What is your sickness trying to tell you? Consider these questions for meditation, contemplation, or journaling:
- What is your sickness allowing you to avoid?
- What is your sickness allowing you to focus on?
- When you think about your symptoms, what do they mean to you metaphorically? Are streaming eyes allowing you to cry? Are you vomiting out an experience you are trying to cleanse?
Being sick is no fun, but it can be an opportunity to slow down, feel our bodies, hearts, and spirits, and hit reset on our self-love and self-care practices.
- by Julie Peters