5 Tips to Stay Mentally Healthy When You’re Sick

This morning I woke up all congested with the beginnings of a killer sore throat. I really, really don’t have time to get sick right now. I’m in a production of Treasure Island out in Skokie that opens in a week, which means 16 hour days every day next week. Plus I just moved into a new apartment last weekend (pics to come!).

I don’t have anything planned tonight or tomorrow, so I made a grand plan to do what I always do when I get sick: sleep for sixteen hours straight, eat my weight in gluten-free macaroni cheese, and not leave my couch. Then I started to think about how much I’ve improved my self-care game in the past few months, and I realized that my plan for the weekend probably wouldn’t be great for my mental health. I set out to revamp my sicky plan to protect my mental health, and here are the five best tips I came up with:

Sick Pinterest

Take a shower. Any time I start to feel bad, mentally or physically, the first thing I do is take a shower. It’s like hitting the reset button. Take a long shower, enjoy the steam, take longer than you usually do to get clean, then put on clean, cozy pajamas. If you’re going to be sitting on the couch for most of the day, it’s way more enjoyable when you feel like you aren’t sitting in your own filth. Besides, the steam will help if you’re congested, so it’s a win-win.

Leave the House. I feel like I got hit by a really mucus-y truck, and the last thing I want to do is get up off my couch. It’s February in Chicago, and my apartment is warm and smells nice and has all the internet and food I could wish for. That being said, the longer you sit around doing nothing, the harder it’s going to be on your mental health. You don’t need to do anything strenuous, just head outside for a few minutes. If you can afford to, pick up a little something that’ll make your convalescence more enjoyable: a hot tea from your neighborhood coffee shop, trashy magazines, Vicks Vaporub. That way you get a little Vitamin D and fresh air and you have something to look forward to when you get home.

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I highly recommend a furry cuddle buddy.

Eat your veggies. I am a junk food eater when I’m sick. I love eating mac and cheese, pizza, fast food — basically any food that gives me an entire day of calories in one meal. As delicious as that might be, I know I’m not doing myself any favors, mentally or physically. Eat foods that are high in Vitamins C, D, and B12 to help your immune system and give your mood a little boost too. Eat balanced meals instead of loading up on empty carbs. Try this awesome soup for a little comfort food that won’t make you feel gross afterward. Especially if you’re someone who struggles with your weight, eating high-fat, high-calorie foods is just going to leave you feeling bad, mentally and physically.

Be mindful of your cold meds. If you made your self-care plan, you (hopefully) established a baseline by cutting out addictive stuff for a while. That probably means that you’re becoming more in tune with how your mood and your body react when you take OTC medications. Since daytime cold meds are uppers and nighttime cold meds are downers, they’re probably going to affect your mood if you’re taking them regularly for a couple of days. Avoid taking more than one or two doses in twenty-four hours if you can, and definitely aim to be off them in three days.

Give yourself permission to rest. It’s really, really hard for me to lay around and do nothing. Between work, blogging, rehearsals, and keeping up an apartment by myself, I always feel like there’s something I “should” be doing. This mentality is really dangerous when you’re sick, because it means you’re beating yourself up every minute that you’re lying on the couch doing nothing, which can lead to a pretty nasty downward spiral. Your job when you’re sick is to get well. You’re not doing anyone any favors by showing up sick and half-assing your responsibilities because you’re too sick to do things well. Lay down. Watch trashy television. Drink fluids. Rest. Rest. Rest. Your health is the most important thing you have, so treat it gently.

I hope these tips can help keep your mental state healthy, even when the rest of you isn’t.

**Social Media Note: I’ve resolved the thumbnail issue we were having with sharing the blog to Facebook, so share away!**

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