Button Up Your Overcoat

October 16, 2011

When I was in the seventh grade, something shifted with my immune system.  From the time I was 12 to May of last year, it seemed like I was always sick.  If there was a cold going around, I got it.  If someone I knew had the flu, I absolutely got it.  Laryngitis was a constant problem, and because during college, I was singing an absurdly large amount of the time, I often couldn’t even perform at baseline during proficiencies. During internship, I got sick only one time (onset was in the middle of a group with traumatized young women), and I got my hopes up that something had changed.  It hadn’t.

I spent the first few years of my career very unhealthy, but a couple of Christmases ago I had a few life changing realizations which have kept me healthy for the past year and a half (until yesterday).  Here they are:

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One version of the Neti Pot

Neti Pot – An ancient ayurvedic nasal cleansing system.  I use it before I shower, pretty much every time, and it cleans out and moisturizes my sinuses.  It helps prevent cracked skin, which can allow germs to undermine my immune system.  The act of using it is unattractive, but I believe it has contributed to my health over the past year or so.  I strongly recommend trying it out, but make sure you let all the saline drain from your nose before starting your day.

Hand Sanitizer with Aloe – Everyone knows what this does, but I wanted to point out that I not only carry a little bottle of it with me in my purse, but I also have a push dispenser of it in my car so every time I go into or leave a facility, I use it.  The aloe just helps keep my hands from crumbling in dry air.

Rest and Relaxation – I let go of a job I was burning out from, which afforded me several months with significantly less work just in time to fully enjoy summer.  I then found a relaxing outdoor hobby that I really enjoy, gardening, which allows me to relax and space out while doing something productive, creative and in the sunshine (Vitamin D), and I get to see the product of my work every time I look outside and see all of the vegetables, herbs and flowers painting my yard.

Vitamins – Zinc has been a savior for me for many years, but here’s my PSA about Zinc: Don’t take Zinc tablets before you’ve eaten anything that day.  You will be disabled by the stomach discomfort it causes on an empty stomach.

My "Apple-a-day."

Things that also help are:

Sleep – I like to get 8 hours of sleep a night.  The best nights are ones when I wake up before my alarm goes off and I feel rested.  MMMMmmmmm…

Healthy, Balanced Eating – Normally, I drink lots of water, eat a salad a day, watch my sodium intake, and I try to eat a breakfast I really love (homemade breakfast sandwich with one egg, a little ham or turkey and .5 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese on a high fiber multigrain english muffin).

Exercise – I hate the gym.  I do.  In the summer, I generally don’t go, because I prefer to be outside, BUT – I have a dog, and I take him for several 3+ mile walks or hikes/week, and in the winter, as an augmentation to the gym, I try to go snowshoeing or hiking as often as possible (as well as shoveling absurd amounts of snow, which I talked myself into thinking of as exercise).  Exercise also keeps me mobile enough so I can bounce around while leading groups, a la the last post.

Vacation – I know many people who don’t take vacations, but I think they’re priceless.  You don’t have to take an expensive trip, but as long as you’re able to get away for a couple of days here and there, or even take a stay-cation where you just don’t have to work, it makes all the difference.

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Bourbon, Lemon, Honey, Hot Water and Whole Cloves? Yes Please!

So, those are some of the ways that I take care of myself, and usually they work like a charm – I must have touched my eyes or mouth without clean hands sometime last week – oh well.  What I will say though, is that since i got sick, I have been: careful to not get anyone else sick, able to rest my voice, relax, sleep and take Mucinex for the past two days; and while I can’t control how long this lasts, I can safely say that I’ll be more careful about hand sanitizer for the remainder of the fall and winter seasons.

Okay, now back to my Hot Toddy

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How do you stay healthy?

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