Self care during a cold

January 26, 2015

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

Having a cold is an opportunity to practice self care.  Rather than being angry and resentful that you got sick (it happens to everyone at some point), embrace it as a chance to be uber nurturing to yourself.

With food: Practice gentle nutrition, offering your body foods that sound good, as your sense of taste may be impaired by the cold (sinus congestion will do that to you), your stomach may be upset, or you may not have an appetite.  When nothing sounds good but you’re hungry and know you need to eat, stick with something bland that is easily digested (think toast, crackers, banana, rice, applesauce, chicken noodle soup, mashed potatoes).  In that instance the food is truly just fuel.  Try to offer your body foods that will nourish it.  All foods have nutrients, and each individual nutrient has different benefits in the body.  Think of the food like medicine. If you’re recovering from an eating disorder, this is not a time to be practicing intuitive eating.  Stick to your meal plan the best you can, it’s there to guide you.

With exercise: Your best bet is to take a break, especially from vigorous activities like running, biking, kickboxing (anything cardio), as research shows that intense exercise can further lower your immune system’s ability to fight off illness.  If you’re feeling up to it, lower intensity activities may help pep you up a bit (as long as you don’t overdo it).  Things like yoga, stretching, or gentle walking might feel good, especially as you’re on the upswing of your illness.

Sleep:  Get as much as you can.  For cold and flu viruses that antibiotics can’t treat, sleep will give your body the chance it needs to fight off the illness itself.  Sleeping may be a challenge depending on the symptoms of your illness (e.g. it’s hard to breathe when you have a stuffy nose), so ask your doctor about OTC meds to help manage the symptoms.  Even when you can’t actually fall into deep sleep, rest is beneficial for kicking the cold.

Other self care ideas that may make you feel better:

  • Comfy jammies
  • A warm cup of tea (may have healing properties too!)
  • A hot bath/shower
  • A soft blanket
  • Tissues that contain lotion so your nose doesn’t get as raw
  • Cuddling with your pet (somehow they seem to know when we aren’t feeling well)
  • Your favorite movie (even if you fall asleep while watching it)
  • Unplugging from technology (the stress won’t help you heal)
  • A tube sock filled with rice and heated in the microwave and placed around your neck/shoulders (sounds crazy but it works!)
  • Letting someone do a chore/task for you
  • Saying “No” to meetings, social functions, and any other activity during this time
  • Some fresh air if you’ve been cooped up inside for too long


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