The Formula for Illness

Sometimes I struggle with what to blog about, and other times it’s blatantly obvious what I should blog about. I’ve written a lot in the past few months about the importance of self care. I’m pretty lucky in that I rarely get sick. I try to compound that luck by eating well and getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night. But none of us have perfect immunity, and sometimes even the best of us succumb to a virus or bacteria. Such was the case for me last week.

As I was thinking about how and what to write about this experience, I started backtracking through my week and kept finding more and more clues as to what threw me off and where I could have perhaps evaded the unpleasant outcome: sinus inflammation and a sore throat. So for the sake of clarity, I’ll start at the beginning.

Wednesday night/Thursday morning: I didn’t sleep well. While I have no trouble falling asleep early, staying asleep is often a struggle. I fell asleep before 10 on Wednesday night but woke around 3:30 Thursday morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. Somewhere between 4:30 and 5:00 am, I got out of bed and started my day with the intention of taking a nap in the afternoon to make up for the few hours of sleep I had lost.

Thursday afternoon: I taught my lunchtime yoga class, came home, ate my main meal of the day, did some online coursework for my yoga health coach training, and instead of taking a nap, as I had promised myself I would do, I “powered through” and got some more work done. I was on a roll. Why stop? Not so coincidentally, as the day went on, I noticed my low back and my neck tightening up, so much so that I called my chiropractor’s office to schedule an appointment for the next morning.

Thursday evening: I normally have Thursday evenings free, so this would have been the perfect time for me to slow down, spend the evening resting, and maybe go to bed even earlier than usual. However, I had committed to helping out at a doTERRA make-n-take at Watson Elementary. (I pride myself on being the type of person who does what she says she is going to do. I rarely back out of commitments, and if I do, I can assure you, it is unavoidable. But we all know that pride can lead to some unpleasant consequences.) So I spent a couple of hours at the school; I was home by 8:30 and in bed at my usual hour.

Friday: I woke up with some sinus congestion. My chiropractor’s office called me to reschedule my appointment because the doc was out, so I went about my day feeling okay but not great. Fridays are busy for me, so there was no time to slow down until I got to the studio a little after 4 pm, which was when I realized that the sinus congestion was blossoming into something else. Luckily, it was reiki night at the studio, so I received some reiki, which I think accelerated the healing process. By the time I left the studio, my voice was hoarse, which for me is a sure sign that sinus congestion is breaking up. I went home and oiled up with a blend of essential oils that included oregano and frankincense – I was determined to eradicate my bio invaders.

Saturday: Ugh! I woke up with my throat on fire and almost no voice left. Determined to burn out the virus, I spent some time in the sauna with essential oils. Saturdays are normally my free days, so this would have been the perfect opportunity to rest and nurse myself back to health. But not this Saturday. This Saturday I had committed to a two-hour shift at the Main Street Fairmont booth at the Feast of the Seven Fishes. (And we’ve already discussed my sometimes irrational aversion to backing out of commitments.) For those of you who don’t know, the Feast of the Seven Fishes is an outdoor festival in Fairmont usually held on the second Saturday in December. That’s right: an outdoor festival in December in Fairmont, West Virginia. So basically I had committed to standing out in the cold for two hours, and despite my best efforts at dressing for warmth (layers, quilted coat, warm boots, hat and mittens), I was a human popsicle by the end of my shift. An ill human popsicle. The only good news was that I only had one more thing to check off my to-do list before heading home for the evening. I got that done quickly and was home eating miso soup by 4:30.

Saturday evening involved full illness protocol. Now, two years ago, that would have meant a trip to Med Express where I would have been given antibiotics, a decongestant, and possibly Prednisone. These days, illness protocol looks like this: a hot bath in Epsom salts, diffusing essential oils (in this case ginger, oregano, frankincense and OnGuard), and plenty of warm liquids to drink (this time it was ginger and turmeric tea). I spent the evening on the sofa under a blanket, went to bed shortly after 9 pm and woke Sunday morning with a much less sore throat and clearer sinuses.

So here I sit on Sunday morning, under a blanket, post sauna and shower, with a diffuser diffusing, feeling better physically but kicking myself for not doing what I knew I should have done on Thursday. If I had taken the nap I had promised myself on Thursday afternoon, could this whole scenario have been avoided? Quite possibly. At the very least, not taking the nap probably made me more susceptible to the germs floating around in that elementary school Thursday evening.

So what’s the moral of the story here and what the heck does it have to do with yoga? Well, if yoga is about anything, it’s about listening to your body. When we practice regularly, that listening starts to happen off the mat as well as on the mat. When we listen regularly, we develop an intuition about what our body needs and wants. When we develop and work with that intuition, we make healthier lifestyle choices that support our wellbeing. And when we choose to go against that intuition, we can observe and learn from the consequences.  This is my observing and learning.

For the sake of clarity, this is the formula for illness:

Stress (physical, mental, emotional, or some combination of those) + not enough rest + exposure to viruses and/or bacteria (in this case, an elementary school) = illness

And to those of you who work in the public school system and aren’t constantly ill, you have my deepest respect. 

See you at the studio!