During Week 9 of my covid-19 journey I experienced a brief moment when I thought I was healthy again. Looking back at it today, I felt I had some minor symptoms left in my body but they were so small compared to how I had been feeling that I ignored their existence and started living my life ‘as normal’ again. Huge mistake! As you can read in my Corona Chronicles, just a week later my brain turned into Corona Brain and the journey continued. During that week however, when I thought it was all behind me, I wrote Covid-19: My Tips And Insights.
Today marks the start of Week 24, meaning that it was exactly six months ago that I started to feel my first symptoms. I want to write something in the same spirit again today, as so much more has happened since I wrote about my first tips and insights. There is a big difference in being ill for nine weeks and being ill for half a year, I have noticed!
So, here are some additional tips and insights I have gained from having Long Covid:
I am not alone
To get infected with covid-19 and being ill for a couple of weeks is challenging enough as it is. But my symptoms just didn’t disappear, some even worsened and new ones emerged from time to time. Not so much that I needed hospitalization but severe enough to completely disrupt my life. So, I became a Long Hauler. Long Covid-er. Person with Post Covid Syndrome. The terminology hasn’t really been set yet, it seems.
Anyway, suddenly I became part of a group of tens of thousands of people all over the world. I’m pretty convinced that every person in this group will attest to Long Covid being (besides a total b**** in terms of symptoms) a hell of a mental challenge. Why? I believe because no one has any answers as to why this is happening to our bodies, which creates stress. No one knows yet if some symptoms will become chronic, which is a huge fear many people carry. There is no medicine that gives total relief for real. You basically just have to sit with lots of strange and scary symptoms in your body that seem to relapse forever, for months on end, while the medical community tries to search for a solution.
All of this is extremely challenging to deal with, it just is. So, realizing that you’re not alone can be immensely reassuring! At least it is for me. If you are interested, there are different support groups on social media and also following #LongCovid on Twitter can give a pretty good overview of what’s going on in different countries.
Rest, Rest, Rest!
I believe that every single person with Long Covid will put this tip on their list too. It is by now quite commonly known (I hope) that too much exertion leads to relapses. And by exertion I don’t mean going to the gym or running a mile. I mean talking on the phone or making a cup of tea. Listen to what your body can do and then do half of that, with plenty of rest in between. I have found the Spoon-theory a brilliant tool for managing my energy throughout a day, you can read more about it in Radical Resting. I wish I would have practiced Radical Resting from Day 1. I’m convinced this would have made a difference for me.
Keep focus on my mental health
I believe this is very personal as we’re all different from each other. Some people, for example, benefit from anxiety medication and other people (like me) don’t want to take any medication. Some people monitor their heart rate and blood oxygen level at home while for other people (like me) even the very thought of daily measurement of body vitals stresses them out. And some people want to have all the available medical tests done while other people (like me) prefer to sit it out at home (unless it’s an emergency of course, which it became for me in Week 6). The most important thing, I believe, is to feel into how what you do makes you feel. Does it make you feel anxious or stressed? Try to avoid it as much as you can. Does it make you feel calm? Go for it. As simple as that! This way of thinking (and living) really made a huge difference for me.
Find my resources
This is also connected to keeping focus on my mental health. What helped me greatly is making a list of my resources (all of the things that make me feel good) and using them throughout the weeks. I’ve had to adjust my list quite a bit at times because some things that make me feel good just weren’t an option because of how ill my body was. But still, even during the worst weeks I found resources in the smallest of things: choosing which tea I want to drink for example. Or asking my husband to buy a pink flower that I can look at from my couch (I love the color pink and I love flowers).
Meditating and writing.
People (or pets) can also be resources, of course! However I’ve had to limit my contact with so many people for months: not because I don’t like them, it just took too much energy to communicate with everyone. Also TV shows, books (when possible to watch and read), podcasts or quotes can be great resources. It’s a bit of a cliché but this quote really helped me during my worst times and I often repeated it as a mantra to myself:
Trust my body
I found this really difficult to do because for many months my body felt foreign to me, almost like it was invaded by something alien. So how can I trust it? But I have noticed that during these past six months my body has been speaking to me. For many weeks, for example, it has craved salt. I couldn’t get enough of salted pistachio nuts and Skruvar (a form of salted potato chip here in Sweden). It reminded me of the time when I was pregnant and ate kilos of oranges! My body also craved liquid. Water felt most natural for me, so I drank liters of it every day. It also intuitively felt like a good idea to skip alcohol, caffeine and ultimately also refined sugar which has made a big difference for me. In hindsight, I wish I had skipped refined sugar from Day 1.
Initially I bombarded my body with a lot of vitamin and mineral supplements; that felt right at the time. A month ago, I scaled back on all of that and today I take just one supplement with a daily recommended dose of the most common vitamins and minerals recommended on the market, just to be sure. I also have been yo-yo:ing with yoga. Some ‘good’ weeks I managed an online Yin Yoga-class (that I love) but my body reacted quite strongly in a negative way, so I paused my classes and started taking very slow walks instead.
It is my experience that the human body has a magical capability to heal itself. Today, I still don’t feel 100% ‘there’ yet physically but perhaps about 85%. I am happy to have discovered reflexology treatments; it feels like they are helping my body to find its way back to itself, so to say. That’s what Long Covid feels like to me: my body completely lost its way and it needs plenty of time to re-set, re-generate and find its balance again.
Did covid-19 somehow cause a malfunction in my brain and the way it steers the autonomic functions of my body? I have read some theories that this might be the case. This would certainly explain why my body pretty much constantly feels like it is in fight-or-flight-mode. Still today it’s difficult for my body to truly relax, I have noticed. It will be an interesting day somewhere in the future when the mystery of Long Covid has been revealed!
So, there you have it: five more tips and insights to complement my previous list. I hope it will be of benefit somehow!
You are reading #20 of my Corona Chronicles. I was inspired to write this by a picture someone recently shared online where the following was written in chalk on a pavement:
One day you will
tell your story
of how you’ve
you’re going through now,
and it will become
part of someone else’s
With love ♥
Photo: Jeremy Bishop – unsplash.com