No one likes to take sick days. But if you’re feeling under the weather and taking time off is necessary, you might as well make sure you’re well rested. Taking care of yourself by taking a sick day can quicken the healing process and get you feeling better faster. Whether you’re physically unwell or need a mental health day, there are several things you can do to make the most of your time off.
1. Rest up.
The body needs rest, and it often isn't until we feel sick that we realize our body is craving sleep. While at home, make sure to give yourself the rest you need and deserve. If you’re called to sleep for multiple hours during the day, then listen to your body ‒ it’s sending a clear message!
2. Get cozy.
Make your space cozy so you can spend time relaxing instead of worrying about something you “need” to do. Grab your favorite magazines and books, have plenty of fluids close by, and be sure you have anything else needed to keep you occupied and comfortable.
3. Keep hydrated.
Drink lots of fluids on your sick day. If you’re congested, try adding a splash of lemon juice to your water. This acts as a decongestant and contains vitamin C, which can help alleviate the symptoms of the common cold. Teas and warm broths are also great options.
4. Remember to eat ‒ and when you do, focus on nourishing foods.
When you’re feeling poorly, fueling your body with healthy and nutritious foods is key. Depending on your level of appetite, food can both comfort you and kick-start the healing process. Soups, stews, and anything with lots of hearty vegetables are great options. While they may be tempting when you’re not feeling well, avoid foods high in sugar and/or stimulants like caffeine; they can cause you to feel jittery as well as feed the inflammation your body is trying to fight.
5. Call a loved one.
Hearing the voice of someone you love can create a safe space, and just the soft tone of your friend or family member can instantly perk you up. (It’s like a virtual hug, if you will!)
6. Get fresh air.
If your symptoms or illness allow, go for a walk outside and get some fresh air. If you're in the house all day, that may further contribute to any stuffiness you’re feeling. If it’s too cold, too hot, or rainy, take a few deep breaths, to get fresh air in your lungs ‒ and if you can tolerate it, open a window.
7. Have a spa day.
Spa days don’t have to be expensive. Facial masks are available at your local supermarket, beauty supply store, pharmacy, and big box retailer. You can even make DIY facial masks with ingredients you probably have in your kitchen right now. Up-level your at-home spa experience by putting on some soothing music, dimming the lights, and soaking in a warm bubble bath.
8. Practice gratitude.
Journal about what you're grateful for in life. Writing can help you take your mind off being sick and remind you to give thanks for all that’s going well in your life. Our minds are powerful machines, and this simple act can make you feel better!
9. Catch up on your reading or find a new favorite TV show.
Start a book that's been on your to-read list for a long time. There’s no rush, and spending the morning reading may be all you do for the day. You can also watch your favorite movies or binge-watch a new series. You're not going anywhere, so why not fill the time with what makes you happy?
10. Do nothing.
Do nothing! The act of doing nothing is okay ‒ and so is taking the time necessary to get well.
What to avoid on your sick day
Your sick days are meant to be used for rest and healing – that's why (some) employers offer them separately from vacation days. Taking advantage of your provided sick time shouldn’t cause you to feel stressed, since it can prolong or even exacerbate your illness. It’s good to take steps to feel better on your sick day.
Here's what's not advised:
Life will go on while you're recuperating. You’re doing your best, and that’s all you can do. Talk with a friend or a Health Coach about these feelings so you can let them go and focus on getting better.
Work will be there when you get back. Set boundaries and allow yourself to reset, recalibrate, and rejuvenate. It can be hard to separate work, especially when you work remotely, and you may feel obligated to work through illness, since you’re not actually in an office. The best thing you can do is recover so you can return to work and be your most productive self.
Running errands and doing housework
When you’re feeling better, you can check items off your to-do list. You may expose others to whatever illness you have by running errands, and you may wear yourself out even further by doing chores as usual. The dusting and cleaning will need to wait until you’re better!
Exercising (unless you really want to)
Depending on how sick you are, exercising may make you feel worse. Listen to your body and check in with yourself to see if you’re up to working out.
Get well, your way
My own cautionary tale: I remember a time I had the flu and didn't follow any of the steps outlined above. I thought it was a day to get extra work done, not to heal. I didn't take the time to rest and ended up in the hospital with dehydration. I wanted to complete overdue assignments and run errands instead of sleeping, hydrating, nourishing my body, and taking it slow. I've since learned my lesson, and I help my clients see the benefits of resting while sick, based on personal experience.
Feeling sick looks different for everyone, and there is no cookie-cutter way to approach getting well. As a Health Coach, I know the power of assessing a person holistically in order to take care of their needs better, which will include finding the ways to help them feel their best, whether they’re recovering from a bout of the flu or overcoming larger health concerns.