Food & Fitness

Living Healthy When You’re Ill

Last week I had a terrible cold. It lasted for six days and seemed to be a combination of about three different bugs all at once. Not particularly how I wanted to spend my fourth week as a full-time freelance writer and editor!

That being said, it was a good learning experience. It was interesting to be ill now that I have my own business: in the past, I’ve either sucked it up and gone to work (or worked from home) because of important meetings or deadlines, or else I’ve been able to stay at home, completely worry-free because you get paid for sick days.

But I don’t get paid sick days anymore. When you’ve got your own business, a sick day is the same as taking a vacation, except considerably less enjoyable!

I never used to get sick, but the past year it seems like I’ve caught something every six weeks or so. I definitely need to strengthen my immune system! At the very least, now I know how to handle things when I fall ill while I’m working for myself. Hopefully my learnings will help you to live healthy when you’re ill, too:

1) Rest and sleep as much as you need.

Once I fell asleep (which took a while, being ill – there’s nothing worse than just starting to nod off when suddenly a sneezing or coughing attack hits. Lovely), I managed to stay asleep and sleep for a long time, which was great. Most of my days for the entire week consisted of me walking from the bed to the couch, where I plunked down to watch episode upon episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel (Joss Whedon is the best).

The few times that I did have to leave the couch or do a little bit of work, it took a surprising amount out of me! Rest is crucial.

library of books

Much as I adore Buffy, it sure feels good to be well enough to read books again!

2) Only do work that’s really necessary.

I happened to have 30 (short) articles that I had to write with a tight deadline. I put aside everything else and barely even touched my emails (or my blogs!) while I was ill. I only did the work that I had to do, which was beneficial in two ways: for one thing, it gave me something to do to break up the long days of Buffy-and-Angel-marathoning, and for another, it meant that once I was finished my tasks, I could just rest and relax for the rest of the day.

3) Cancel as many plans as you can.

For so long I have gone into work or attended meetings or events when ill, partly because I really didn’t want to miss things, and partly to show that I was dedicated. This is a terrible idea. No one wants you around when you’re ill. You’re kind of gross, probably very germy, and most likely your conversation skills have also deteriorated considerably.

I committed to four of my obligations and cancelled the other four. And I was feeling much better on the days that I did attend to my obligations. Be choosy when you’re ill! I only attended the ones where I knew I would actually be missed (or would have been a hassle to reschedule). For the most part, people will be relived that you cancelled on them rather than attacking their immune systems.

4) Don’t rush into things too quickly.

When you’re couch-bound for days on end, it’s tempting to jump right into everything as soon as you start to feel better. I missed working! And exercising! And my social life! But if you start doing too much, too fast, you might make yourself ill again, or you might just burn out very quickly.

I gave myself the weekend to recover – I went out a couple of times but spent much of my time taking it easy, doing a bit of cleaning, and doing some planning for the next week of work. This week, I’m veering off of my plans for new habits* in the fitness department and going a little bit slower: just running a few times this week with Mr Science, and then adding in GoodLife Fitness classes next week. I know I’ll be working up a serious sweat in BodyCombat and Spinning, but it’s probably best not to do that AND start running the week after a bad cold. You’ve got to be smart about living healthy!

*The Lifestyle Changes & Making New Habits blog post that was published last week had definitely mostly been written the week before, prior to getting ill. But the important thing is going back to those habits after your illness is dealt with!

How do you respond to illness? Do you fight through it or take the time to rest? What are your tips for living healthy even when you’re ill? Share in the comments section below!


  1. Pingback: Day in the Life of a Freelance Editor / Writer: Round Two! « Living Rhetorically in the Real World

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