Convalescence literally means recuperation, time spent recovering from an illness or medical treatment, or after a trauma or death.
It is something that we don’t really acknowledge in society these days. There is little patience or understanding for the fact that time is needed to recover and one doesn’t just bounce back after surgery, illness or childbirth.
So what do we need for recovery?
Did I mention low stress?
Currently there is a lot of Covid around the country. While the time you are very sick may be short, there can be a long tail where you are still lacking in energy, or have brain fog and can’t think. For others there may be a lingering cough or congestion in the sinuses that may or may not lead to sinusitis.
Be kind to yourself. Do as little as possible. Taking a month off work is not feasible for most people, nor can you leave your family to completely fend for themselves unless they are grown, so it is unlikely you can do nothing. But give yourself permission to rest when you can.
One of the most important things about this period is listening to your body. Sometimes you may feel like you should push through our fatigue, but especially when you are convalescing you need to pay attention to what your body is telling you. Need a rest after hanging out the washing? Sit down on the couch and take some time. It’s been two weeks and you don’t have energy for a workout? That’s absolutely fine, you need more time. If you feel you must do something, avoid anything strenuous and instead try a short, gentle, mindful yoga.
Stress is insidious, and long term stress produces cortisol which can suppress our immune response. Unfortunately stress is not always something you can avoid, but try and reduce your exposure to things that can contribute – switch off the news, limit social media if it does produce anger, stress or other emotions, and try to set aside the worry for the things you cannot control.
Food can be a tricky one. The convenience foods that are preprepared and easy are also often nutritional cardboard. I am not a naturopath or nutritionist, but in general nutrient dense food, protein, vegetables, and fruit are your beginning foundations. If you like medical history you can check out this article in the Post Graduate Medical Journal from 1935 which specifically talks about nutrition for convalescence (and different types of convalescence).
The mainstay then was milk first and foremost. These days we know that dairy products contribute to mucus production, so even if you are not dairy intolerant, keeping dairy intake lower when you have an Upper Respiratory Tract infection is the best plan.
Sleep is so important. Physiologically our body uses sleep as a time to repair cells and work on the cellular functions that keep us going during the day. Hormones for growth are secreted during sleep, and protein synthesis, muscle growth and tissue repair all occurs when we are sleeping. This makes sleep an essential part of convalescence.
Homeopathy can help with lingering symptoms, and while it may help speed your recovery and support your return to health, not convalescing is what we call in Homeopathy an “obstacle to cure”.
Be kind to yourself, listen to your body and don’t expect yourself to bounce back after any injury, illness or life event. Equally, try to be aware of people around you so we can begin to create a society where convalescence is not only expected, but is supported for each individual.
Credit to Janieke from Natural Healing Raumati for discussing convalescence and sparking the idea, as well as making suggestions for this post.