Six steps to help your recovery from mild Covid and winter flu
Suffering from mild Covid? How to speed up recovery, bolster immunity and reduce side effects
How to cope if you fall ill with Covid-19
Thankfully, for the vast majority of us, hospitalisation will not be necessary. But that doesn’t alter the fact that if you get Covid you're likely to feel very unwell and utterly exhausted. The golden rule is to listen to your body’s needs. If you have tested positive, it’s vital to allow yourself plenty of time for recovery and rest as much as possible. If you try to rush things you run the risk of making symptoms worse.
If you can’t face eating regular meals, a bowl of simple nourishing soup and a nibble of toast or crackers may help to restore energy levels. Make sure you keep well hydrated too – two litres of water a day will help to flush out toxins. You could also try tisanes, the herb, spice and flower infusions that will help alleviate pain and promote mental and physical balance. Or perhaps toy with a cup of pure cacao made with hot oat milk and a dash of honey for an extra boost to mind and body. Cacao can help to invigorate the cardiovascular system and is full of healthy vitamins and minerals.
Whichever recovery route you decide to take, these six steps will help speed up the process and help to strengthen your immune system for the long term.
1. Boost your energy levels with a healthy and nutritious eating plan
After the first seven to 14 days of Covid you should start to feel a little better and you may regain your appetite. In this early stage of recovery, try to eat three small meals a day.
Focus on complex carbohydrates – wholegrains, sweet potatoes, brown rice and pasta – for optimum energy. Include protein – meat, fish, cheese, eggs, tofu, soya, pulses – with each meal. This will help to build and repair muscles and bones, and to produce vital hormones and enzymes. Don’t forget to eat plenty of healthy fats (omega-3s found in oily fish, and omega-6s typically found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds). These will help brain function, vital organ function, and healthy hormones.
Eating little and often will keep your blood sugar levels stable, which will help you to achieve maximum vitality in the long term.
2. Supplement with vital vitamins and minerals
The ravages of Covid-19 may well leave you depleted in essential vitamins or minerals — think about supplementing to promote a speedy recovery. Vitamin C will bolster the immune system; vitamin D helps prevent fatigue and shift feelings of depression or low mood; calcium promotes healthy bones; and echinacea works wonders in seeing off colds at an early stage. Consult your doctor if you require personalised advice.
3. Start regular, gentle exercise
It may well be the last thing you feel like doing, but once the main symptoms of Covid have subsided it could be a good idea to start a little exercise. The most important thing is to be aware of your physical limits (sometimes known as your ‘energy envelope’), and set yourself realistic goals, diarising any personal limitations. If you push too hard too early you may be at risk of developing PEM (post-exertional malaise), which is a debilitating syndrome that can linger for weeks or months after being afflicted with Covid. For those who are worried about having symptoms of long-Covid it is advisable to seek the help of an exercise rehabilitation professional before embarking on a programme. Otherwise listen to your body and if it feels right for you, try the following ideas to gradually build up your strength.
- Start with some gentle stretching, twice a day.
- When you feel ready to face the great outdoors, try to take a walk every day. Ten minutes round the block is enough to kick off with, then build up the time/distance gradually over a few weeks. The cardio activity will benefit your heart and lungs, and the blast of fresh air does wonders to promote the feel-good factor.
- Embark on a simple weights programme to strengthen the muscles and speed up the metabolism. 15 minutes twice a week is a good start point.
4. Do breathing exercises to help repair your lung function
Many of us take breathing for granted as an autonomous function of living, but breathing properly is something that takes practice. Covid can compromise the health of your lungs in the short term, but practising regular breathing exercises will help restore them to full health. Take a few minutes every day to practise this simple breathing exercise:
- Sit comfortably with a straight back and relaxed shoulders. With your eyes closed inhale deeply through the nose, feeling your chest cavity expand as you do so. Count slowly to four as you inhale, then hold your breath for a count of four, then exhale slowly through the nose for a count of four, feeling your chest cavity shrink as you do so. Continue this for at least two minutes.
5. Get plenty of sleep
We all know the benefits of a good night’s sleep – post Covid, this is even more important. Try to get eight hours a night – even if you are unable to sleep for the whole time, rest can be just as restorative. Good-quality sleep promotes the repair of all the cells in the body. It also maximises brain function, boosts the immune system and promotes a healthy cardiovascular system.
6. Boost your mood with meditation and yoga
A bout of Covid will not only cause damage to your physical health but can also be very debilitating for your mental health. You may feel very low or lacking in confidence, or experience feelings of anxiety and dread that may last for weeks or more. Meditation, mindfulness and yoga can help rebalance your mind and body. Classes are freely available online. Check out Glo.com, an online platform that offers hundreds of online classes in meditation and yoga for as little as £13 per month.