It took me by surprise when I realized last year that I was struggling with Long Covid.
Last January the facility I was working in was filled with influenza and Covid. The holidays were stressful, work was super busy, I let myself get rundown, and joined the crowd of the sick. Unfortunately I had influenza followed directly by Covid 19 (FLU-RONA) and it knocked me down hard. My body took a long time to recuperate, I developed a chronic cough, asthma like reactions to allergens, and could not get enough sleep. For like 9 months… Talking with a coworker about my lingering symptoms 3 months after the infection, she brought this fact to light that I actually had Long Covid: and it hit me hard. The number of health care workers in America that have struggled with Long Covid is high. Healthcare tends to be an exhausting line of work. With all of the mental, physical, and emotional stress brought on with the pandemic, many of us pushed our bodies to the limit.
I did a lot of research to find ways to facilitate my Long Covid recovery.
Of course, with the pandemic and Covid 19 being new, the idea of “Long Covid” was being born as we felt it. “Research” was more like multiple people experiencing the same after effects reported on surveys. However, finding people with similar problems, and sharing what was helping was beneficial. Likewise, common sense and recovery principles from other similar illnesses came into play. Although I would not want to repeat that experience, it has allowed me to help my coworkers, and encourage my patients with Long Covid, and similar ailments. As well, it has given me more compassion and insight for how to help people I work with that have long term chronic health issues.
Here are 10 lessons I learned from Long Covid.
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1 It is great to set high goals, work hard, and achieve. However, it is important to hold reasonable work and life activity habits. You are replaceable at work, but your health is not. Use common sense with activities and what you ask your body to do. Set goals that are actually achievable and not ones that set yourself up for unhealthy effort or failure. Consider this: if you were in charge, would you ask someone to do what you are doing to yourself?
2 Prioritize healthy eating habits. We all know that it is important to eat healthy foods. but what about consistency (don’t skip lunch) and amount? Don’t under eat because you are in a hurry, and don’t overeat because you are stressed. Give yourself a short break to eat slowly, digest your food, and relax your brain:)
3 Put immune boosting foods on your menu every day. There are so many vegetables, fruits, and herbs/spices that can help bring our system back to health. Make a list and make sure to eat a variety, and to eat a few every day. If you have a health issue that requires certain types of nutrients, take the time to build that food into your eating plan.
***Clinicians: If you enjoy learning about nutrition and health, consider gaining CEU credits with this awesome course: Food as Medicine, by PESI (affiliate link).
3 Stay hydrated. Take the time to drink from your water bottle! Make it a habit to refill at lunch and before you leave for the day. Hydration keeps your mucous thin, and allows you to expectorate it more easily. Thick mucous is more likely to lead to an infection. Also, a myriad of other health benefits to staying hydrated…Check out this water bottle with measurements for hydration goals: (affiliate link)
4 Don’t underestimate the benefit of hot tea. There are many teas with immune boosting effects, and respiratory assist. Find the one’s you enjoy and make sipping on them part of your routine. A warm beverage can be very relaxing before bed to help with sleep!
5 Make sleep a real priority. Your body heals while you are sleeping. My Covid recovery somewhat mimicked my recovery from Mononucleosis as a teenager: I was desperate for sleep. I could not get up before 9, and it was difficult to stay up past 10. There were many weekends I slept in until 11 or 12 pm. That is completely opposite of my prior routine, and was frustrating at first. But I found from others and my own experience, that when I slept well and long, my symptoms decreased. Over time, my need for sleep has decreased. but I still watch my health if I go a few nights with limited sleep, and prioritize making it up. I had a patient who was struggling with recovery and her family was upset that she was sleeping so much…. I was able to help them understand and help her regain her strength.
6 Seek help. If you are struggling with symptoms, make sure to seek out answers. It took me 3 visits to physicians to figure my symptoms out, find medication to help, and make sure I didn’t have any other damage. This recovery process has been new for everyone, and even the professionals are trying to figure out what will best help people. Just like counseling or physical therapy, it may take a few visits to find the right professional you gel with. It is worth the effort to find someone that hears you and has the insight and knowledge to help your unique health situation.
7 Advocate for yourself. It may take time for coworkers, family, and friends to understand your limits and needs, but ask others to help you help yourself on the recovery journey. If someone offers to do something- let them! Also, don’t forget to thank the people who assist and encourage you in the process.
8 Stay moderately active. You may have to pace yourself, but make activity and exercise a part of your routine. Exercise is good for all of our body systems, and will help us recover. However, you may have to adjust your activity and the expectations you have of yourself. I cannot walk at my usual pace without symptoms yet, but I am consistently working toward that. I have worked with many people with chronic health issues over the years and have encouraged that even if they can’t do what they have done prior, any exercise is better than none!
9 Make deep breathing a regular habit. I will never appreciate being able to take a deep breath freely so much after this experience. But deep breathing several times a day is good for many aspects of our health: lungs, heart rate, emotions, tension, cognition. Make it a priority to keep your body systems healthy by incorporating deep breathing into your daily routine. (Better Breathing)
10 I am extremely grateful for the power of prayer. When people ask if they can pray for you- let them! Likewise, I found it consistently helpful when I made prayer a priority in my day as well. A positive mindset is helpful for recovery. There are many studies that have shown that people who pray tend to be healthier (huffpost, 2012), as well as people who have faith in a higher power. Knowing there is purpose and meaning, especially when you are struggling, is life changing. There are many helpful devotional books out there for people struggling with chronic health issues.
Here’s a FREEBIE: A printable encouraging quote!
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What other information or tips would you give for healthy recovery with a long term illness? I would love to hear from you! Subscribe to my blog for tips, information and insight into senior living and senior care, and receive a few printable FREEBIES!