How to be sick
February 2, 2022 8:28 AM   Subscribe

I am sick (but not major sick), most likely with Covid-19. I’m congested, I have headaches sporadically, I have an itchy throat and periodic coughing fits and I don’t want to do anything and I am bored shitless. I can’t sleep, or I would. I am not too sick to do things that are productive, such as cleaning, I just have zero desire. I can’t seem to find anything appealing to read or watch. Naturally I am not leaving my apartment. When you find yourself in this sort of situation, how do you cope? Any ideas about how to use up the time until it’s night and actually time to sleep would be most welcome.
posted by Bella Donna to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think now is a good time to watch any movies, TV series, educational films, etc. that you've been wanting to watch for a while.
posted by saeculorum at 8:30 AM on February 2, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: If it were me I would get on my library ebook app, download some Terry Pratchett audiobooks and listen while doing something like a jigsaw puzzle.

My instinct is always to use time like this "productively" and listen/read/watch something worthy and improving, but I think that is the wrong approach when sick.
posted by The Librarian at 8:31 AM on February 2, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I make myself start on something even if it’s boring and I don’t want to. I usually fall into it at least a little within 20 minutes or so. Trying to find just that perfect thing can end up taking several frustrating hours and I never usually find it in the end, just more of a headache than I started with.
posted by acantha at 8:34 AM on February 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For me, listening is the best, to audiobooks, podcasts, radio I haven't caught up with for a while. If I fall asleep, as I often do, it's fine, it helps me get well faster. If I get restless, I can iron some clothes while I listen, or clean the fridge (both small tasks with clear limits, vacuuming is too much).
If you still have your sense of smell, order in the ingredients and make a chicken stock and then a chicken soup, still while listening to something nice. There is very little actual work, but a lot of soothing sensations.
posted by mumimor at 8:38 AM on February 2, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Knock yourself out with some NyQuill and sleep as much as possible. While awake I'd try to drink fluids and eat as much as I'm able. Saltines and instant chicken soup is always my go-to.

Read a bit, play some phone games if that's your thing. Just put the TV on to a channel you can tolerate and leave it there.

The trick is, once you feel your energy improving slightly, resist the urge to DO STUFF. Just keep taking it easy for another day or two.

Good luck!
posted by bondcliff at 8:38 AM on February 2, 2022 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Take a hot bath?

Listen to podcasts. You will nod off with your eyes closed and they automatically stop at the end (vs audiobooks where I lose my place constantly)
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:39 AM on February 2, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe one of the zen/calming kinds of games from this recent Ask?

If it were me, I would probably (re)watch episodes of Landscape Artist of the Year on YouTube.

OH! Or LeVar Burton Reads podcast, maybe "Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear.
posted by Glinn at 8:40 AM on February 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For me, the answer is always "lie down and turn on Mystery Science Theater 3000." Your media comfort food may vary. Should be something comforting but not so boring that you can't pay attention at all.
posted by mskyle at 8:40 AM on February 2, 2022 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I'm sorry, that particular flavor of restlessness that comes with illness sucks.

You should be resting your body, so really the best thing would be to binge-watch TV or read a whole book while cozied up on the couch or in bed. Lots of snacks, lots of liquids.

But I get that "I should do something" twitch too, and this is a great time to put some easy-binge show on the TV (Golden Girls maybe? There's 5 seasons of The Great Canadian Baking Show on youtube) and haul some boxes of crap from your closet that you've been meaning to sort/purge and sit on the couch and do both at one time. This kind of activity kind of gives me the same time-passing vibe as doing a puzzle, but I also find that the crankiness of being sick makes me less sentimental about keeping stuff I don't need, so it's a good use of a bad attitude.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:40 AM on February 2, 2022 [12 favorites]

Best answer: audiobooks, sometimes paired with mindless games, sometimes lying back with my eyes closed
showering - it makes me feel better to be clean and the steam helps with the congestion
making and eating favorite sick foods - for me, it's a brothy soup with lots of onions and garlic, low effort and comforting
endless cups of tea - make tea, drink, get up to pee, make more tea
wash those few dishes from cooking
enforced nap/resting periods - put on a sleep-associated album or do a cognitive shuffle for a set time, like 15 or 20 minutes. often leads to a real nap
posted by carrioncomfort at 8:41 AM on February 2, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm currently recovering from Covid and my symptoms included brain fog and an inability to concentrate. I coped by re-watching low-stakes TV and movies I enjoyed in the past. I had a really hard time following dialogue from new stuff but the old stuff was fine, and if I fell asleep while watching it, nothing lost.

I hope you feel better soon!
posted by cooker girl at 8:46 AM on February 2, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: hie thee to the couch/recliner; put on either a comfort TV binge (90s sitcoms or whatever your jam is) or a gentle movie you otherwise wouldn't make time for. I watched "the Trip to Italy" under similar circumstances and it served very well. If you fall asleep: bonus.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:55 AM on February 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's counterintuitive, but just like when a car is sliding on ice, it's good to lean into the curve.

First, change your bedding and take a hot shower several minutes longer than your usual, a bit warmer than usual. Put on something clean and warm. Settle in, and take your time with it: Apply lotion carefully, attend to the elbows and knees, moisturize. Move slowly. Make tea, one that smells especially nice. Use the stovetop kettle instead of the electric one because it takes more time. Steep the tea. Watch the color deepen.

Settle in. Put on a movie you've seen a million times and pretend to watch it. Notice the softness of a blanket. Listen to the furnace turn on, wait a little while, be perfectly still, listen to it sigh when it turns off again. Look out the window. Daydream. Watch the colors and shadows on the wall as the afternoon light changes. Wait it out. Outlast it. Settle in.

(Feel better.)
posted by mochapickle at 9:10 AM on February 2, 2022 [24 favorites]

Best answer: Podcasts! I particularly like Maintenance Phase because it has good, well-researched content and the hosts have good witty repartee between them.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:10 AM on February 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Nthing audiobooks.

I also find it rather relaxing to organize things (small things that can be organized while sitting in bed - e.g. a bin of craft supplies, a big pile of old photos, etc).
posted by MorseCold at 9:20 AM on February 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: After 6 rounds of chemo in addition to a similarly mild-but-enervating bout of COVID, I have two suggestions. One, close your tired eyes and listen to Stuff You Should Know or The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week or other low-key, interesting-but-not-essential podcasts with multiple hosts who talk mostly to each other. Weirdly I have found that single hosts who are talking to "me" are more stressful to listen to because I feel obligated to fully attend to them.

And two, grab a mask, leave your apartment and go for a walk outside. Once you get some sun, get your blood moving, expose your senses to cold air and interesting shadows and weird city smells etc., you'll return home with less brain fog and more energy. Just a walk around the block will make a huge difference. You're still not going to read Finnegan's Wake, but you'll probably be up for some decent food and favorite comfort movies/shows.

I hope you feel better soon!
posted by headnsouth at 9:28 AM on February 2, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Crawl into bed. Put on a mellow TV show or movie, something you've seen before or that's predictable. Think Clueless, Spaceballs, Labyrinth, or episodes of Escape to the Country.

While it's playing, do some sort of brain tease activity, like a sudoku.

Your body is resting, but you're accommodating the restlessness.
posted by champers at 9:29 AM on February 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Podcast archives or rerun tv. Enough stimulation to keep from being painfully bored but not something you need to pay too much attention to.
posted by rikschell at 9:31 AM on February 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Are you trying any medication to help you sleep, like cough medicine? Or sleep gummies? (Not that I'm recommending any particular medicine, but it's something you can call any pharmacist and ask them about if you're not sure)

In these situations I try to do a hard reboot on myself by making myself sleep even if it's not coming naturally & it usually helps.
posted by bleep at 9:43 AM on February 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh yes. "I'm ill, I'm going to do nothing but lie in bed and read!... I can't read, I feel ill..."

In recent years I've turned in these situations to phone or iPad games, puzzle magazines, and rewatching episodes of ER and Star Trek: TOS. Rereading favourite children's books sometimes suits too.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 10:05 AM on February 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Another podcast suggestion you can binge (126 episodes): Were You Raised By Wolves? Two charming good-natured hosts, one of whom is somewhat more a stickler for the rules of etiquette than the other. Lots of "can you believe someone would do this?!" horror over small (and large) etiquette faux pas(pases?).
posted by Glinn at 10:11 AM on February 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'd probably just eat stuff? If I were hoping to kill a lot of time plus eat stuff, I would figure out a longish but not too fussy baking project, because then you gotta do the baking, clean up, wait for the stuff to cool, maybe frost or decorate or whatever, and then eat. That's your whole day right there.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:23 AM on February 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: FWIW that sounds exactly like my experience of Covid a few weeks ago. I listened to audiobooks and podcasts while playing casual games, also did a lot of Duolingo once I was feeling a bit better. I tried to do some useful things but found I couldn't do a lot in one session, so I had to do things in short bursts.
posted by altolinguistic at 11:37 AM on February 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There are YouTube videos called things like "tv for dogs 10 hours relaxing nature outdoors" that are great for this. My favorite one is just a bunch of ducks hanging out at a stream doing chill duck stuff. The only sounds are ambient brook noise and the occasional quack. Sometimes you just need gentle filler content for your brain while you reset, and this is good for me. Bonus: my dogs love it, too.
posted by phunniemee at 1:27 PM on February 2, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, this was four days in early January for me (go Team Moderna!) The husband still has The Cough. Totally different animal from February 2020 when we had COVID-19 the first time. Brutal, that.
This time the husband and I did a smell test of mouthwash, Vick's Vapor Rub... nothin'. The only food sensations were salt and temperature.
I took two-hour naps, woke up, still felt tired. Half of Wheel of Fortune was too exhausting.
Robitussin DM and Dayquil killed the cough and congestion (IANAD). Then it was just waiting it out.

I suggest lots of warm showers, comfortable heated towels from the dryer, and enjoy the bubbles if you can't enjoy the smell. I used colored night lights or candles. Breathe in the steam. Have plenty of handkerchiefs or facial tissues handy.
We leaned into comfort food, in small portions (restricted appetite). Warm mashed potatoes, soups, stews, and ice cream were welcome, even if we couldn't taste or smell them. Warm and cool drinks kept us hydrated.
I watched a few minutes of old DVDs, read a chapter or two of favorite novels, and found bird-watching videos on YouTube. The key was small sessions of familiar entertainment, not anything that I had to concentrate on.
Enjoy a few moments of the Georgia Aquarium webcam.
If you have the patience for crochet, a 9 by 13 granny square blanket takes 121 granny squares. I just finished one in which half of the squares were solid, which is very repetitive.
Mainly I just gave myself permission to chillax. The fleece blankets were warm, the pillows were soft, the lighting was muted. If I could avoid a coughing spasm and my sinuses were okay, all the better.
posted by TrishaU at 9:38 PM on February 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Live cams! Kitten Academy is pretty fantastic, and you can find some kind of animal rescue or nature livecam happening for any given time zone. Even better if there is an accompanying chat, which often includes repetitive platitudes about cuteness or beauty or exciting moose sightings or whatever.

Also, incremental video games. We refer to this genre as “numbee go up” at my house. Cookie Clicker is the classic, I also like Plantera. It’s great for being sick because you can just poke the button repeatedly and feel like you’ve done a thing, but also when you zone out you are still doing a thing! Success! A nap was useful!
posted by Mizu at 12:31 AM on February 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I’m sorry you’re not feeling well and hope you feel better soon. I wonder if some easy easy gentle or restorative yoga or stretching would feel good. If that sounds appealing but you don’t know where to start, you can try looking for restorative yoga on YouTube. Yoga with Adrienne might work. I use Aaptiv, an app that talks you through different exercises but they have stretching, yoga and meditation, and you can choose the intensity. And if you happen to fall asleep during meditation, that’s ok too. Best wishes!
posted by kat518 at 8:42 AM on February 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Are you feeling better, Bella Donna?
posted by mochapickle at 8:35 PM on February 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all so much! Reading all your helpful answers made me feel loved and cared for and warm inside when I was sick and alone. Good job! Tusen tack, as we say in Sweden, for your kind responses.

Luckily, I have recovered fully (thanks for asking, mochapickle). I was surprised by how exhausting my mild case of Covid was. I nearly never nap, just because I do not have that talent. Thanks to Covid, I took long naps for five days straight. Also, thanks to your advice, I marched off to a thrift store and acquired a groovy pink recliner with a serious 70s vibe. The next time I get too congested to sleep well in bed, I will follow the advice above and plant myself in front of the TV in that recliner. Best 25 bucks I’ve spent in a while.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:35 AM on February 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

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