December 9, 2014 12:37 PM   Subscribe

Whenever I get sick, I also get concurrently really sad. Something about the physical crapness and being alone all day really gets to me. Any suggestions for keeping your spirits up when you're feeling low both physically and mentally? What has worked for you?

I live alone which I like 99% of the time. The remaining 1% is when I get sick - not a minor cold, but semi-serious illness, which hits me once a year or so. I have asthma, so am prone to flu-related complications which require me to take a week or so off at a time. Right now, I'm stuck at home with a chest infection.

Ever since I was young, being sick has made me feel really lonely and vulnerable, both physically and emotionally. I get nightmares because of fever. I miss my parents. I get stupidly anxious about complications and the side-effects of my medication (even though I try very hard never to consult Dr Google!).

I stick to really, really light viewing, like Friends reruns or Disney movies, but I find it hard to stop my mind wandering. I try to make it like a 'stay-cation' at home, with take-out, lots of sleep, good books, good TV, lots of texting my family and friends. I do chores and tidy up the house. But it hasn't really helped. I've always found that I get sad/anxious when I get sick. I have suffered from mild depression in the past, but this is nothing like that; it dissipates as soon as I'm fit, and can go out and be productive and see people. I know I'm extremely lucky to be able to say that.

I know no one likes being sick, so I'm not exactly a special snowflake. But what have you guys found to be helpful to your mood when you're home alone sick?
posted by Ziggy500 to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I get as much sleep as possible.
posted by zutalors! at 12:43 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Binge-watch entire seasons of TV shows on Netflix (or similar).
posted by mon-ma-tron at 12:47 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Rest, don't think in words, go ahead and feel sad, because feeling sad and getting it over with is better than being afraid of being sad. Watch comedies and just remember, you're just feeling bad because you're sick. It's normal.
posted by discopolo at 12:49 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I totally understand! I get this too and usually it's because my body has gone into overdrive trying to use whatever nutrients I've got to fight what's making me sick. My doctors have encouraged me to:

Up my vitamin C intake
Get in direct sunlight for 15-30 minutes a day
Get extra calories (especially from fruits and veggies if possible)

You might also want to bring this up with your doctor if you haven't already. I've been having really profound depressive spells in tandem with feeling like I have a permanent case of the flu, and one blood test later and I learned I have a thyroid problem. Maybe there's some underlying cause of this for you, too,
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:51 PM on December 9, 2014

I also tend to get depressed when I get sick (in fact, it's usually a way I can tell minor congestion from an actual cold). I agree with everything that's been posted. I like to drink really high vitamin C juice, which is possibly debateably healthy given the extra sugar, but has a psychosomatic effect of making me feel like I'm doing something to fight the cold. I tend to get some sort of nighttime flu relief pill and make a conscious effort of getting an additional 1 or 2 hours of sleep. I've also found that getting lost in a narrative of some sort helps, especially something disposable like cheap fantasy / scifi.
posted by codacorolla at 1:04 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sleep as much as possible.

I don't know if it helps but feeling sad is part of the healing response as well, your body wants you to stay put & heal so if feeling sad so you don't want to go out and do all the things is what it takes that is what it will do. If you think of it as biology, like your ankle hurting when you sprain it so you don't keep walking on it but will rest it & let it heal, it might seem less scary.
posted by wwax at 1:06 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I get cranky or sad before I get physically sick. Haha! I get this!!

Sleep. Rest.

House of Cards binge watch, or similar.

Uplifting podcasts!! Especially someone with a soothing voice I can fall asleep listening to.

Hope that helps!!
posted by jbenben at 1:14 PM on December 9, 2014

Best answer: Rationalize it.

"Depressed" is not just an annoying attitude problem; it is a coping mechanism of your body and mind.

If your body is about to face 6 months of reduced food availability, colder temperatures, and less daylight to safely use for food gathering, getting mopey and not wanting to leave the cave much is arguably a survival tactic.

If your body is tasked with the metabolic challenge of fighting off infection or illness, getting mopey and not wanting to leave your bed is a pretty good psychological trick to keep you from wasting valuable energy by catching up on your letter writing, organizing your stamp collection, and baking pies.

If you are sick, and get depressed, it is a fairly effective trick your body uses to maximize your downtime.

Accept the wisdom of your body, while understanding that this unpleasant feeling of lethargy, ennui, and even despair is just a metabolic trick the ancient parts of your brain are using to outargue the cerebellum.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:30 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe when you're not sick and not feeling depressed, make a "Sick Day" jar and periodically throw ideas in there of things to do on sick days. These should be things that you think would be low-impact but also something you'd look forward to doing (watch a particular movie, read a new best seller, eat a certain guilty pleasure, etc). You aren't allowed to do things in the jar except on a sick day. So, when you get sick, it's all "darn, I'm sick =(.......wait! I get to do Sick Day Jar things now! Yay!"
posted by melissasaurus at 2:00 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Whooboy, you are not alone. Things that have worked for me: First, reminding myself that this happens Every time, that it usually dissipates within the week, and that thus I'll feel better emotionally and physically Very Soon. This helps with my catastrophizing that I have Always felt like this and it's Horrible and will probably feel like this Forever.

However, that doesn't help that much with the actual sad/vulnerable feelings. I can totally logically understand that this is fleeting and yet also deeply feel that, no, this time I will likely be depressed forever.

So Next, I gently mock myself. I, um, sing a sad panda song? It's a song that I make up on the spot about how I'm the saddest panda, oh, being a sad panda sucks, waaaah, sad panda has to get up and take care of herself again, why, sad panda, why is sad panda so sad... This gives voice to my feelings and also makes me laugh, because it's over the top and silly.

Lastly, I move on to the really smart things you're doing: all of the self-care I can stand. Baths and naps and OJ and asking a friend (so hard!) to, yes, drop off that soup they offered, and watching the most comforting silliness on TV and sipping tea and grabbing good blankets and resting.

Like meditation, I frequently have to catch my mind back at the bad sad panda place and go through at least some of these steps again. But if you do it often enough you'll eventually a) feel better, and b) have a pretty rockin' sad panda song.
posted by ldthomps at 2:25 PM on December 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

This happens to me too after a few days of being sick, often because I start to catastrophize and think things like "What if I never feel better again?!?" It also makes me feel kind of helpless--I hate relying on others for comfort or to get me some groceries, etc.

So, do you have any thought spirals going on here? Can you work on being mindful of them and counteracting them, like Idthomps describes above? For example:"I will get better, it's only been 3 days, my body just needs the time and rest and care." Maybe even say it out loud! With regards to getting help from others: try the perspective that many people *enjoy* helping other people. I would be happy to bring you soup for example, because it would help you out and I'd feel good about something I did that day.

Another thing you can try is to just feeling your feelings without thinking too much about them, maybe by locating how they make your body feel? Sadness makes my throat feel tight and an ache in my chest and if I just let that happen for a while, sometimes it dissipates faster.

Sometimes I watch a happy/sad movie in instances like this, something familiar and comforting that also has parts that make me cry. I get some crying out but also some distraction and comfort.

I hope you feel better soon.
posted by purple_bird at 3:15 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

A couple of months ago I started stockpiling tv shows that I liked and cutting down severely on what I would watch as soon as it aired, to maybe 3-4 shows a week (nothing gets between me and The Good Wife!) except for sick days when I would watch as much as I liked. It's been great because on healthy days I have less time diverted to TV, and I almost look forward to sick days because I can catch up with Grimm or whatever I've been saving.

If TV isn't your thing, what else do you enjoy that you can limit to sick days as a treat - your favorite food delivery place, a stack of great magazines etc.
posted by viggorlijah at 4:04 PM on December 9, 2014

My bed is amazing. I have one of those foam toppers, really high quality pillows from Costco, the most amazing fleece sheets, and the softest blankets ever.

When I am in that bed I feel so lucky - even when I am sick.
posted by beccaj at 4:06 PM on December 9, 2014

Sing "soft kitty".
posted by SyraCarol at 4:19 PM on December 9, 2014

Best answer: Spending a week at home alone, sick, doesn't sound like it makes you 'think' you are lonely, it sounds lonely.

For me, it feels like there is little survival-brain part of myself that doesn't want to be completely alone when I'm sick (I don't want people BOTHERING me, but that is different), because blah blah evolution just-so story, it might mean I'm sick with no tribe, so might DIE. I had a flu bad enough one time that I couldn't get water for myself or call for help, so my logical brain concedes that survival brain probably has point.

Also, when depressed, I need people, sleep, exercise and healthy food, even if I don't want them. Everything but the exercise is good if you are sick.

You know this happens semi-regularly, so could you make arrangements in advance (discuss what you need) and you'll email some friends when you feel sick so that they can drop round, bring you food, call or Skype when you need it?
I would do that for you if I knew you. Message me if you want to Skype etc (which I normally never use!). :)

If it is warm enough outside to go for a slow shuffling walk outside, go outside, and smile at people walking on the street (if there are any). You still need your minimum of positive social interactions when you are sick, and a head nod can really help fight feelings of isolation.
posted by Elysum at 5:52 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

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