As I lay here in bed nurturing a cold, I am realizing that as a part of redefining normal in my mind, I have redefined health. From a small child through my young adulthood, I was sick very often. A normal cold often turned into a three- month long disaster that ended in bronchitis, sinusitis, ear infections, mononucleosis, strep throat, or any number of things – often more than one at a time.
But this year, I went through almost the entire winter without a single cold, even as many coworkers and friends were sick time and again. Why is that?
Ways of Redefining Health
- Emphasize Preventative Health. As a result of eating local, seasonal, organic foods I eat a diet low in additives, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, and other things that aren’t good for me. Instead, my meals are high in nutrients and amino acids that boost my immune system. I also take extra vitamins, go to my doctor annually, and I take good care of the ailments I do have – like asthma.
- Nurture Yourself When You Are Well. In the same way nutrition and health maintenance is important, so is emotional maintenance. Nurture yourself, allow yourself time to relax and unwind, learn quick and easy destressing mechanisms like meditation or concentrated breathing. Give yourself family time and self time often, and leave work behind when you do. Spend your free time doing things that make you happy!
- Pay Attention To Your Needs. Something I didn’t learn until a few years ago is to see the warning signs in my life and in my own body. For instance, when I get stressed out I often clench my jaw or tense my shoulders. Doing yoga a while back actually taught me to notice when I’m tense, and to then relax those muscles. Also, I know that certain foods don’t make me feel good, so either I don’t eat them at all, or in the case of acidic or spicy foods sometimes I take an acid reducer beforehand. Know your limitations, know when your body is telling you something, and know what to do to make it better quickly.
- Wash Your Hands. Huge. No need to be paranoid, but before you eat make sure to wash your hands. If you’re in a public space or shaking a lot of hands or wiping kids’ noses, don’t touch your face or mouth until you wash your hands with hot water and soap. So easy, but so often forgotten.
- Sleep Well. Eight hours a day keeps the sickness away! Your body needs to regenerate, so let it do its job.
- Reduce Stress. Stress can make you sick or leave you more susceptible to illness. If you think you’re doing too much, you probably are, so allow yourself to say no and set boundaries.
- Nurture Yourself When You’re Sick. Rather than filling yourself up with pills and tonics and all sorts of things to make you feel “normal” while you’re sick, stop and relax. Make yourself take the time to heal. You will ultimately be more productive if you’re out for 3-4 days, rather than sick and in the office for 10-12 days. Plus you’ll save your co-workers from becoming sick as well.
- Weigh The Pros and Cons of Taking Cold Medicine. Your body rids itself of germs by fighting them internally and getting them out of your system with mucous. When I really can’t sleep because I’m coughing all night, I sometimes take a decongestant to help my body sleep – so that my antibodies can fight off the germs. But during the day, I often let my body do its thing without medicines. As a result my colds are usually quicker!
The only thing that costs money here is #1: Preventative Health. And only that costs money when you visit a doctor for checkups and to take care of your chronic health issues. Ultimately that is cheaper than ending up paying for the months of care you will need if you don’t take care of yourself in the first place: for example, if you end up with bronchitis you’ll need multiple doctor visits, xrays, antibiotics, a humidifier, and any number of other things that cost money.
Redefining Health As A Society
As a society we still don’t value preventative health enough in my opinion. And it is extremely unfortunate that many of us don’t have the money to pay for preventative care. At the same time, I think we often don’t effectively prioritize our spending as a society: we often value cable television more highly than preventative doctor visits, for example.
We also punish ourselves at work by having to take time off when we’re sick, which is a deterrent for taking time off. Instead, it seems like we could be rewarding productivity, which might force people to take a few days off to get better so they could be more productive in the office. Suddenly regenerative health would make sense from an economic perspective as well.
If you are an employer you can help redefine health at your office by encouraging people to take time off when they’re sick, and rewarding them with their level of productivity when they are healthy. You can also keep people from becoming sick by helping them destress, encouraging them to nurture themselves, and providing preventative health care.
And as a family member and friend, you can help others to learn how to redefine health in a way that most benefits them.