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Last Updated on July 20, 2023
All is going well in your life until BAM! You wake up horrendously groggy, your throat feels like razors, and your nose is so stuffy you can’t breathe. Let’s face it: being sick sucks!
But are there ways to make it suck less? Yep, you betcha. These ideas for self care when sick will help you go from “this is the worst I’ve ever felt,” to “I can get through this.” Remember, no matter which self care activities you do, be patient and compassionate with yourself!
This too shall pass. But in the meantime, here’s what you can do to make the best of a sucky situation!
Here’s 30 ideas for self care when sick to fight sick-day blues!
1. Take it easy, even if that feels impossible
I’ll be the first to admit that when I have a mile-long to-do list, I definitely fret for a minute about how I’m going to get it all done. Add being sick to the mix, and it’s even more of a disaster. But that’s never the right approach, because well, you can’t control being sick!
So instead of panicking because you got sick at seemingly the worst time, take this as a sign to rest and relax. No matter how impossible that might feel at first.
2. Hydrate and humidify
Hydration is a pretty well-known remedy when dealing with any illness, but humidifying may not be something you think of right away. Upstate Medical University suggests that spending time in a warm, steamy bathroom (or running a humidifier) alleviates congestion.
3. Do things you don’t normally get to do
One of my favorite things to do when I’m sick is play childhood video games! I know that in my normal daily life, I never seem to have enough hours in the day for fun stuff. But now you do, so take advantage of what you can do (while lying in bed of course!)
4. Get as comfortable as possible
Although it takes a little bit of effort, it pays off to make yourself as comfy as you can. This means staying warm with plenty of blankets, wearing your softest pajamas, fuzzy socks, or anything else you need to make this experience a little more bearable.
5. Take a long hot shower or bath
Especially if you’re sick and tired of your sinuses! I love taking showers when my nose is horribly stuffy, because then it almost feels like I catch a break from the sickness. Not to mention the warm water relaxes your muscles, so it’s a body-wide benefit for self care when sick.
6. Don’t be afraid to let others help you out
If you’re a super independent, people-pleasing person like me, it can feel almost painful to ask others for help, haha! But if your significant other, mom, or sister offers some help, just accept it. You want to drain yourself as little as possible, so it’s a good idea to let others care for you if they’re willing.
7. Don’t expose yourself to what you’re missing out on
It’s wise to avoid consuming a lot of social media or checking any type of work email at this time.
If you’re exposing yourself to all the beach vacations, productive work days, or fun times people are having with their friends that you aren’t doing right now, you’ll just feel bad! Stick to movies, YouTube, games, or anything else that lets you “unplug” from the world for self care when sick.
8. Normalize taking sick days, even if you work from home
This is a HUGE one. Our society pushes hustle/grind culture so hard that we feel straight-up GUILTY for taking the time off we literally need! The temptation to work through an illness is even more prominent if you work from home.
But sick is sick. No matter your working conditions, you should never feel wrong about calling off when you truly need to. The more we collectively practice this, the more it becomes normalized.
9. Get all the sleep you need
It’s no secret that your body needs more sleep when it’s busy fighting an illness. Don’t deprive yourself, catch those zzz’s! Even if you feel like it’s just a mild cold, you don’t want to jeopardize your recovery.
10. Fresh air is never a bad idea
Being all cooped up for days at a time doesn’t feel the greatest. You don’t have to do anything too strenuous, but even stepping outside for a few minutes to bask in the fresh air can make you feel a little better both physically and mentally!
11. Binge your favorite series
Might as well get caught up on that new series you’ve been dying to watch, am I right? I usually only have time for one new episode at a time during my regular busy schedule, but being sick means I have the freedom to watch all that I want! This is probably my favorite part of self care when sick.
12. It’s okay to let the house go a bit
Another common thing many people feel guilty about is not keeping up on household chores like they normally do. But let’s be honest, tidying up the kitchen when you’re walking around like an exhausted zombie is awful. It’s okay to let things go more than you typically would. It will all get done in time!
13. Use a guided journal
If your physical sickness is making you feel bad mentally, it can help to write it out. Only problem is, your brain might not be in peak performance right now. So trying to start from a blank page can feel impossible!
To make the process as painless as possible while still working through your feelings, you might want to try guided journals. My printable mental health journal and printable self care journal for busy women are PERFECT for this! They’ll help you get all those feelings out of your head and onto paper.
14. Get to bed a little earlier
You don’t have to tell me that twice! But someone out there could surely use this reminder. It might be tempting to stay up all night when you don’t have to get up early for work the next day, but you’re only doing yourself a disservice. Sleep should always be a big priority for self care when sick!
15. Aim for acceptance
Being sick always does a number on my mental health. I feel anxious about what I have to miss, and even a little depressed because I’m convinced I’ll be sick forever! All that does is make me stress more about what I can’t control, though.
So what CAN give you power in an otherwise powerless position? Acceptance. All you can really do is accept the fact that you’re sick. Remind yourself that it will be okay, you will get through it, and it will pass.
If you’re blowing your nose 24/7, you know that awful feeling of red, dry, irritated skin around your nose! And in general, your skin probably feels a little off when you’re sick anyway. Staying moisturized can be a little boost to make you feel at least an ounce or two better!
17. Take those vitamins!
You may wonder, “do vitamins really do anything when you’re sick?” And actually, they do! Vitamin C supplements may reduce the duration of a cold by about 8% in adults. It won’t be anything dramatic, but any little bit helps when you’re on the struggle bus.
18. Drink your favorite hot drinks
Tea is going to be one of the better choices, especially herbal. It may be controversial, but I personally enjoy coffee even more than normal when I’m sick–maybe because it makes me seem less exhausted! But go for whatever hot drink helps you feel better.
19. Create a DIY self care kit
Complete with tissues, cold/flu medicine, cough drops, coloring books, your favorite book, or any combination of things that soothe you. And make sure you prep it ahead of time when possible, so it’s ready to go the next time you’re feeling rough!
I have a complete guide to creating your own DIY self care kit with tons of ideas for you!
20. Soothe your senses
Tuning into your 5 senses and doing things that feel, look, smell, sound, and taste good can go a long way in boosting your mood. Put on some relaxing music, dim the lights, eat your favorite snack, use an essential oil diffuser (if you can smell!)…or whatever suits you for self care when sick!
21. Gargle with warm salt water, eat a spoonful of honey, or suck on hard candy
Sore throats are THE WORST! If that’s what you’re struggling with right now, make sure you do these things! Also, sucking on hard candy does the same trick as a cough drop, believe it or not. Either choice produces more saliva and makes your throat feel less dry.
22. Indulge in some comfort food
If you normally watch what you eat, now is the time to give yourself slack in that area. There’s no shame in indulging in things that offer comfort when you’re sick, and good food can be just the thing! You can have a warm bowl of soup, mac and cheese, or ice cream if your throat is killing you, to name a few ideas.
23. Sleep in
If you’re able to sleep in, do it! I’ve already mentioned how much of a priority sleep can be in the healing process, but it really is one of the best things you can do. You probably don’t have many opportunities to sleep in normally, so it’s just another thing to take advantage of!
24. Do non-screen activities
Eye strain is not something you need to add to the mix, so limit the screen time where you can. Opt for puzzles, coloring books, crosswords, or anything else to keep you busy without a bright screen.
25. If symptoms are mild, try light exercise
They say if your symptoms are mild or “above the neck” (like just a little nasal congestion, rather than a deep chest cough), it can be safe to do gentle movement. This could be a short walk or following along to a gentle yoga video. Do listen to your body, and stop if it’s only making you feel worse!
26. Do meditation or breathing exercises
I know breathing might not come easy to you right now, but doing what you can to breathe deeply and slow down is good for you.
You can also meditate and follow a guided meditation to soothe you and distract you from your negative symptoms. I highly recommend Headspace’s guided meditations if you’re new to this!! Get 14 days of Headspace free right here!
27. Read a good book
Keeping your mind busy by immersing yourself in a story is a great way to escape your sickness. Finishing a new book can be rewarding and give you something to think about and focus on, so it’s a great idea for self care when sick!
28. Make a to-do list for after you recover
Like I said before, please do not stress over completing tasks when you’re sick! But to help you feel a little better, it can help to keep a running list of all the things you plan to do when you’re not sick. This will also remind you that it’s only temporary. Life will be there waiting for you when this is over!
29. Let yourself ride out this wave
Be sure to practice patience and self-compassion toward yourself when you’re sick. We all get sick, and it’s out of our control. We also can’t control how fast the sickness runs its course, so be gentle with yourself and trust that your body will heal you in due time.
30. Go slow when returning to your normal activities
Most of all, make sure you really ease back into your normal activities at a slow pace. And only after you’re feeling well enough. Don’t push yourself, and don’t expect too much too soon. It’s okay not to be at your most productive immediately after recovering from an illness! Self care when sick (and even afterward) is top priority.
Struggling with your mental health right now? Self care helps, but therapy is where the real work happens. Therapy has helped me tremendously. I always recommend Online Therapy because it’s a comprehensive, effective online therapy toolkit at an affordable monthly cost. Get 20% off your first month at the link below!
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