It’s that time of year where everyone seems to be sick. From the common cold, to flair up of chronic conditions, to the flu. Despite it being a regular occurrence we seldom make room for sickness in our life. If you have been hit by sickness then here are some psychological tips to ease your discomfort.

1. Acknowledge it.

You are sick. There is no denying it. Forget the Codral cold message of “soldier on” – you need to stop and listen to your body. Just acknowledging you are unwell and then asking yourself what you need can ease your discomfort. Even better is if you can make time for being sick – rest and allow your body to repair. Remember to see your doctor if symptoms persist.

2. It’s o.k. to wallow.

It’s ok to wallow or have a good cry. It’s is frustrating when illness gets in the way of you living your life as planned. I generally give myself a 24 hour wallowing window, for any illness or bad news in general, and then shift focus to my more functional self-care behaviours. They might include asking for help, giving myself permission to take time of work or work from home, or going to the doctor. Not surprisingly I am usually over myself in the first few hours of wallowing.

3. Cultivate self-compassion.

We wouldn’t kick a dog when it’s down, so why do it to yourself. Try to keep self-blame of self-critical thoughts at bay, and if they do sneak in then practice some self-compassion. We all live in a body that’s susceptible to illness and injury. You are not alone in your suffering. Try to speak kindly to yourself while your body fights of the illness and helps you to repair.

4. Take refuge in impermanence.

This too will pass. While it can be hard to imagine anything improving when you are unwell, it will. Nothing stays the same for long, including your moods and your physical symptoms. Remind yourself that even if you get worse before you get better, your symptoms will improve a bit at some point. Be patient and wait for things to change.

5. Practice gratitude.

Sometime illness forces us to rest. Even if it is inconvenient, permission to stop and take time out from our normal life can give us perspective. While you are sick try noticing the things about your life that you are missing? Maybe its your fitness routine, you social life, or being out in the winter sunshine? When you are well again make sure you take time to savour and appreciate these parts of your life that we often take for granted.


More Reading

How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers (Second Edition) 2018

1 comment

  1. “We wouldn’t kick a dog when it’s down, so why do it to yourself.” That’s so true! It’s great to have a reminder of all these things.

    I’ve been with a cold for the past 5 days, and I can’t wait to be fully recovered to go out for a run in the morning. It’s one of the moments when I feel grateful the most, not just for my body and mind but also for the opportunity to be present with each and every step!

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