Can You Be Mindful When You’re Sick?

Can You Be Mindful When You’re Sick?

Being mindful is the absolute last thing I want to be when I have the flu. I want popsicles, crappy TV, symptom dulling over the counter meds, and pretty much anything else that can distract me from my feverish aching bones stupor. Forget being in the present moment, I want to be in next week where this flu is history.

When I get sick, the first thing I do is beat myself up for being sick. How did I let this happen? Have I not been eating well enough, have I been exercising too hard in the cold? Then comes denial…but I’ve been washing my hands incessantly and what the heck I don’t even hang out with people so this can’t actually be happening? Then comes the stress of how I am going to handle all of my responsibilities feeling this awful and then feeling totally resentful for all the things I’m going to miss out on while I’m sick.

Wait a minute, perhaps I am actually being mindful by noticing all these emotions being sick brings about.

“It might seem crazy to want to be more conscious of illness and discomfort. Yet mindfulness — moment to moment, nonjudgmental awareness — may be exactly what your body most needs when you are run down and under the weather,” says Dr. Mark Bertin. Since stress can have a negative effect on our immune systems, we often make our symptoms worse by reacting negatively to them. Being anxious and stressed about being sick can actually slow down recovery so the best thing you can do is approach your illness with acceptance and a lot of self-care.

Funny how the flu reared its head on the first day of my noticing project and gave me a challenging opportunity to practice this simple task of daily mindfulness. I definitely noticed how sweet and cuddly my dog is to me when I am sick and how nice it is to receive help from others even when it is just filling my water bottle or handing me the bottle of ibuprofen so I don’t have to bother getting up. The sun never felt so fantastic on my face or the air so fresh after venturing out for a walk after a few days of self-imposed quarantine.

I like this advice on how to be mindful when you are sick, “Let go of striving to fix anything for a moment, staying aware of both your illness and desire for relief, and return yourself to a healthy state of mind, over and over, supporting your body as it heals.”

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