When Bugs Strike

It's no good feeling like this.

It’s no good feeling like this.

For the last several days, I’ve been fighting flu germs. I realized that while I’m not immune to getting a bug now and then, I don’t get nearly as sick as I did before I started my lifestyle change. Had I not been writing the blog doing lot more self-reflecting on the healthful changes I’ve made since 2001, I’m not sure I would have made this connection.

Though I had the benefit of eating a vegetarian diet, before my lifestyle change, I was very overweight and didn’t regularly exercise. What’s worse was that I’d run myself ragged, taking on too many responsibilities and activities, trying to balance school, work, and a social life. When I got sick, I didn’t take time off until I just couldn’t function anymore. I tried to push through feeling terrible hoping I’d magically recover.  Practically every semester I’d end up in bed for at least a week with a bad cold or sinus infection, bronchitis, or some flu bug.

Without question, opting for more healthful food choices and regular exercise are responsible for getting sick less frequently. But my lifestyle change was much more than just those things. I spend much more time in thoughtful meditation through regularly walking. Rather than just plugging in earphones, I use that time to process what was going on in my life. The (Sorta) 7 Minute Workout helps me stay fit but also combats stress.

I’m also much more aware of how I’m physically feeling. In graduate school, instead of fighting with myself to take time off, as soon as I started to feel like I caught a bug or unusually run-down, I immediately took some time off to recover and tried to slow things down until I was feeling back to normal. It was really difficult at first because I was so conditioned to try to push through every ailment. I realized this was a much more responsible approach to dealing with germs. And in a cost-benefit analysis of the situation, I actually came out ahead. Rather than ending up so sick that I’d need a week off to recover, a few days of a reduced workload usually got me back on my feet.

I’m likely also less susceptible to falling prey to every germ cultivated in the Petri dish that is the classroom due to some other changes I’ve also made. A few years into teaching full-time, I started treating myself to a massage every other week. I found a wonderful massage therapist who spends 90 minutes helping me to unwind.

Encouraged by my spouse Michael’s daily meditation practice, I started listening to a meditative relaxation recording every day after lunch. I found two apps for my iPad that I really like, and trade-off between them, depending on how much time I have or feel I need to reflect that day. I also try to make sure I do some meditative stretching a few times a day, or a longer yoga session at the end of the day.

This latest bout has lasted a bit longer, no doubt due to adding the blog to my regular responsibilities along with getting a new puppy who has worn me out by needing almost constant attention. Even so, while I’ve spent a few days fighting off body aches, a headache, and this odd feeling of germs coursing through my veins, I didn’t end up in bed for a week, needlessly suffering from much worse symptoms. This has been a good reminder to me that a lifestyle change is an ongoing process.

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