It’s becoming increasingly obvious how important it is for individuals to take health into their own hands. I’m not talking about replacing the need for vaccines or the medical care system. These things have an important place in our society and I’m grateful everyday for the nurses, doctors, scientists, first responders, and health care workers who dedicate their time and resources to help save lives. What I’m talking about is BEFORE you get sick, and AFTER.
I tested positive for Covid and was admitted into ICU on Dec 29, 2021. I’m 45 years old and fully vaccinated. While in the hospital, I experienced times when my blood pressure would suddenly drop dangerously low, my hands turned yellow, I couldn’t breathe, and had no strength left to squeeze the nurses fingers. I spent 3 days ebbing and flowing through different degrees of these ‘episodes’ before being discharged to finish recovering at home.
When I was discharged from ICU my heart was still palpating often, I was still having difficulty breathing, and I still had to sleep sitting up. (I slept sitting up for 3 weeks to help keep my heart stable) The internal medicine doctor I had was very good and explained to me that I had no underlying health condition, nothing in my family history, and no current organ damage (determined from a heart MRI, x-rays, ECG’s, echo-cardiogram, and blood work). The doctor assessed that the ‘episodes’ were being caused by Covid and should wane as I healed from the virus. Recovering with no organ damage seems a miracle but is actually attributed to the fact that I’ve kept my physical fitness in top shape. (hence, the ‘taking care of your health BEFORE you get sick)
A month later, I’m almost fully recovered. Why?
Realizing the importance of physical fitness, the importance of your own health, AND recognizing you have the power within you to heal is a revolutionary approach.
Many people are getting Covid right now and are advised to stay home and isolate until the symptoms subside. For many, the symptoms are lessening but not actually subsiding. You’ve probably heard stories of people, months later, experiencing shortness of breath or extreme fatigue. Even if a person is not admitted to ICU they may have difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, brain fog, or fatigue. I personally know people who are struggling with heart palpitations and gasping for air with little help or advise from their doctor ~ primarily because the medical community is so overwhelmed, plus this is all still new and doctors are figuring out more and more as time goes by.
I was discharged from ICU with the instructions to purchase Pedialyte (an electrolyte drink) while I recover. This was great advise, but it was the only advise. For many people, without instructions from a doctor, it’s a waiting game. It’s not uncommon to lie in bed with fatigue and wonder if this will ever go away, or to return to work before being fully recovered because it’s required in life. How about the single parent who is struggling with shortness of breath but still needs to pick up kids, take them to activities, make dinner, and put them to bed, all to do it again the next day? There are times when taking care to recover can seem impossible. During these times, try to recognize the ‘windows’ of opportunity in your day. The window of opportunity when you’re already up and can do a bit of movement to increase blood flow, or when you’re either going to bed or waking up and can focus for a few minutes on soft deep breaths and quiet meditation. Recovery is an active and intentional event.
Whether you have Covid or not, taking responsibility for your health may save your life, prevent you from long term damage, or enable you to return to your life sooner than later.
It IS possible for you to attain optimum health, but no one will do it for you. YOU are worth it.
Here’s how I did it:
Disclaimer: None of what I will list should replace medical advice. Check with your doctor before implementing any of these things. I am not a doctor, nor do I have any medical training whatsoever. I’m self studied and only sharing what has worked for me.
Hydration is HUGE and drinking electrolytes was the main advise from my doctor. Pedialyte was the recommendation because it has less sugar than others and is the same formula they give in the IV bag at the hospital. Any time I felt shortness of breath or heart palpitations I drank Pedialyte and it seemed to calm the episode down. I also learned a recipe to make a homemade electrolyte drink (thank you Mom). I alternated between the two during the day plus I drank approximately 6 – 8 glasses of water and 2 cups of herbal tea each day. (Yes I was going to the bathroom often!) Here’s the recipe for a homemade electrolyte drink:
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup pomegranate juice
1.5 cups coconut water
2 cups water
2. Neti Pot
When my family tested positive for Covid, the doctor looked at us with concern. She seemed to carry an expression that said, “I’m so sorry, and I truly hope you will be ok.” After a long silent pause, she said, “Do you have a neti pot?” We did. She proceeded to tell us that using a neti pot daily has been shown to lessen symptoms from the Covid virus, even if there is no sinus congestion present.
Using the neti pot in combination with gargling with WARM salt water worked amazingly. Neti pot first, gargling second. In that order. After returning from ICU, I began to do this as a daily ritual, sometimes twice a day.
At one point over the last month I grew tired of having to heat up the water to the right temperature every day, blah blah, you get it right? Gosh, why do I have to do this again?! So one day, out of rebellion, I didn’t. My sinuses weren’t congested. Certainly I can miss one day. The next morning my arms felt like two heavy logs, I couldn’t lift them! I was so fatigued that I could barely walk from the kitchen to the bedroom. The doctor was right. After experiencing what it was like to miss a day of the neti pot ritual, I happily returned and the extreme heavy log arms didn’t come back.
With a bit of research, I compiled a list of foods and spices that seemed important to include daily. Ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, oatmeal, blueberries, bananas, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, TONS of fresh veggies including yams, beets, kale, celery, green onion, broccoli, cauliflower, purple and green cabbage, bone broth, and fish.
When I began cooking for myself again, I would ask the question, “What ingredients do I need to help me heal?” If you’re not currently sick, you could rephrase this question to something like, “What can I add to this meal to boost my health?”
These are the vitamins I have been taking: quercitin, vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc. Please do not take these vitamins because I’m taking them. Ask your doctor first. This is not advice, I’m only sharing what I’ve been doing.
Many of us have a favorite tea. Mine is in constant flux. I waiver between peppermint, nettle, ginger, and chai. While healing from covid I gravitated toward ginger and, wanting to include as much turmeric as possible, I sought out a tea that had both. I found a tea that has become an instant favorite (thanks to the help from our local health food store) and I’ve been drinking one to two cups every day. Its called Turmeric Three Roots by Numi. The ingredients are: turmeric, ginger, licorice, and rose. I highly recommend it. mmmm 🙂
10 – 12 hours of sleep at night plus 3 – 5 hours during the day. That’s how much I slept for 3 weeks following my discharge from the hospital. Don’t feel like you shouldn’t, or guilty if you do, this is essential to your health and vitality! Sleep as much as you can. Curl up with cozy blankets and pillows and rest for as long as possible without a concern in the world.
Everyday I that I can, I make a point of moving. In the hospital, I had to receive a needle to the stomach each day to administer blood thinners. If a person is in bed for long periods of time, there is a chance of the blood pooling. That, coupled with covid, which is known to thicken the blood, means blood thinners are important in the hospital. Being at home, I’m still in bed a lot so I’ve been eating foods known to help with thinning the blood…and I’m moving everyday. Movement helps blood circulate!!! It’s so important to healing!
Movement is life.
When I was still in the hospital, the day before I was discharged, I got up and did some movement. Shoulder rolls, gentle leg swings,and side bending. The day I was discharged, I did a little more. I added in a couple of yoga poses, 5 minutes of meditation, and two minutes of Nadi Shodia (left and right breathing exercise).
Each day since then I’ve done something, even if it’s only 5 mins. Slowly (with some good days, and some not so good days) there was a steady increase in what I could do. At present, 4 weeks after being discharged from ICU, I’m going for walks daily (including up and down hills), practicing yoga daily, and riding a spin bike I have at home. Bit by bit, slowly but surely, with patience and care, my abilities have returned. It can for you too.
I made a video with a few of my daily exercises for you. (attached at the end) If you watch this video, stand up and follow along with me! It’s 12 mins long. Do what you can, rest if you need to. If you like the video, follow along with it every day. Movement is an important part of the healing process!
8. Breathing exercises
When I was in the hospital, I could only take small short breaths. Breathing exercises didn’t work because I couldn’t breathe, and if I tried it hurt. But, as I began to get better, I had windows of time where I could take deeper breaths again. When I had these ‘windows’, I would take the opportunity to breathe with slow, deep, intentional breaths. This would gently expand the tissues of my lungs and belly to create ‘internal exercise’. Learn to recognize your windows of time when you can breathe with ease. Use that opportunity to practice slow deep breaths in a relaxed state and invoke movement within your lungs, diaphragm, and abdomen. This will bring fresh blood flow to your organs and help your body heal!
Soft breath is the expansive breath.
Breathing softly creates a deeper breath than if you force a big breath in.
Here’s an exercise for you to try:
First, let’s practice the soft breath. Right now, as you begin to notice your breath, imagine that the air is so soft, like silk. Feel the soft coolness of the air as you inhale, and the soft warmth as you exhale. As you’re breathing, feel the breath become even softer. As if it has texture. A texture that is silky soft. Have your inhalations begun to expand? Has your breath lengthened? Try counting your inhales and exhales. Inhale slowly to the count of 4, and exhale slowly to the count of 5 or 6. Enjoy this soft, nourishing, expansive breath a little bit longer. Close your eyes and experience this breath as long as you like.
This soft breath is wonderful for your nervous system. It can calm feelings of fear, stress, or anxiety.
Return to normal breathing.
Next, notice what happens when you breathe in forcefully. Try to inhale as quickly as possible. Like a ‘gasp’. Notice the restriction that happens within your body. With forced quick breath in your body goes into protection mode. Your body will stop the inhale short by contracting muscles. Did you feel it? This sends information to your nervous system that there is danger and prepares your body by bracing. If you did it correctly, it probably didn’t feel all that great and you’ll be craving the slow soft breathing again.
The soft breath is something you can spend time with every day. You can practice it any time of day and in any position or situation. Usually 2 – 3 minutes of this breathing exercise will make a noticeable difference in how you feel.
I’ve had a daily practice of mediation for approximately 10 years now from the tradition of Vijnana Yoga. It’s referred to as ‘Just Sitting’ and is normally practiced by sitting in good posture quietly, and in stillness, for long periods of time. I was able to transfer the same practice to a lying down position when I was very sick, gradually returning to a sitting meditation as I recovered.
Meditation gives your mind an opportunity to quiet. When the mind quiets, the body rests deeper, and the cells have an opportunity to repair themselves. Whatever style of mediation you may be familiar with, incorporating it into your day or night will help.