Nursing Yourself through the Winter Cold

Soft focus on the pause button of a vintage audio cassette recorder. Focus is on the word "pause" below the button. Warm colors of copper, red, and creamy yellow.
So, the universe hit the “pause” button for you.

The tickle in the back of the throat. Sneeze one, two, three, four, five. Oh, the buggers. It’s official. I have a cold!

Sometimes, I think that the universe is offering me an opportunity for reflection. Other times, I realize that I am being stopped in my tracks for neglecting to support myself fully. And, of course, I also remember that I live with a seven year old germ magnet who plays daily with over 100 other germ magnets.

So what do I do to bring myself back to health while the cold virus is running its course? Here is my go to list:

Echinacea Immune Support tea by Yogi.  Local honey unfiltered & raw by Mt. Creek Apiary.Large yellow-brown mug made by Maya Zelkin. Silver electric tea pot by Cuisinart.

Drink. Drink. Drink.

Drink. Drink. Drink. So much so that I am heading to the bathroom hourly.

Our bodies are 75% fluid. That ocean of liquid that lives inside of us is essential to cellular metabolism, muscle movement, blood flow, the cerebral spinal fluid that bathes our brain and spinal cord, and much more. As our body is fighting off “invaders”, the need for fluid increases. White blood cells go to the site of infection. As they destroy the virus, they too die. Fluid is necessary to flush, sneeze, and excrete the germs and dead cells.

Drinking is more important than what you drink. Your body will take fluid from wherever it can get it. Of course, water is the simplest way to get fluid in, but it may not be the palatable when you are sick. Try to avoid lots of sugar. (Germs love sugar to feed on.) My go drink when I am sick is echinacea tea with local honey.

Moxie a black rescue dog laying her head on my lap which is covered by a striped blue & green fuzzy blanket. Moxie has a white line down her nose.

Rest. Relax. Stop doing.

Rest. Relax. Stop doing. For me, that means couch time.

When I am sick my world shrinks to the couch. That’s not just because I don’t have enough energy to go anywhere else. The couch is my way of limiting what I can do. I usually end up sick because I am “doing too much”.

Everything I need has to be within reach of my spot on the couch. This includes my hot tea, a snack, tissues, trash can (for my dirty tissues), my smartphone, my Kindle, my journal, pens, the remote control, and hopefully an animal or two. I watch Netflix. I read. I journal. I drink, and drink, and drink. I snuggle with Moxie the dog or Parker the cat. I sleep.

Interestingly, my forced downtime sparks my creative flow. So, I always make sure I have a place to write things down or draw ideas out. However, I do steer clear of making any big decisions or putting things into action. My neural synapses are too clogged up with buggers to be reliable at this point.

Caucasian women's hands covered with soap bubbles with water from silver sink faucet running into her cupped hands.

Wash everything.

Wash everything that comes in contact with your hands and face.

The common cold is transmitted by virus-infected air-born droplets or by direct contact with infected secretion from contaminated surfaces. Yes, it is important to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. And to wash your hands thoroughly before touching communal items. Those things help others to not get sick. But how does washing everything  help you when you are already sick?

The common cold can be caused by many different viruses. More than 200 different types of viruses are known to cause the common cold, with rhinovirus causing approximately 30%-40% of all adult colds (1). We are constantly surrounded by germs. In the winter, we tend to spend most of our time indoors without the air being refreshed. Luckily, most of the time our immune system takes care of all of those likely invaders without us even knowing. But when you are already sick, the immune system is not playing its A-game.

Washing everything that comes into contact with your hands or your face limits our exposure to new viruses and mutated viruses. Here is my list of things to wash or replace at least once daily:

  • wash cloth
  • hand towel
  • tooth brush
  • pillowcase
  • kitchen towels
  • water bottles
  • cloth napkin
  • dishes & utensils
  • my body & hair
  • my nasal cavity
  • clothing

You may not be ready to shower twice daily at the onset of your cold. You may want to stay in those same comfy clothes you put on when you first started feeling sick. You may feel so tired that you just want to rinse your hands instead of taking the extra time to lather them up with soap. Don’t! Get out of your germ filled stew in any way you can.

Listen to your body.

Listen to what your body is asking for. It knows what you need.

No matter how great the suggestions and ideas are for helping you move through the common cold, if they don’t resonate or make sense to you, then they are not right for you. Ultimately, everything I have written about above is designed to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system.¬†

The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is one of the two branches of the autonomic nervous system (which regulates the body’s unconscious actions).¬† The parasympathetic system is responsible for stimulation of “rest-and-digest” or “feed and breed” activities that occur when the body is at rest (2). The action of the PNS counterbalances the action of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for stimulating activities associated with the fight-or-flight response (2). We do not heal in a sympathetic state. We heal in a parasympathetic state.

What do you do to support yourself through a winter cold?


  1. “Common Cold” by Steven Doerr, MD & Sandra Gonzalez Gompf, MD, FACP
  2. “Parasympathetic Nervous System”

Photo Credits

  1. “Soft focus pause button, focusing on the word pause, vintage style” by NikomMaelao Production
  2. “Hot tea with honey” by Chris Widlund
  3. “Moxie dog” by Chris Widlund
  4. “Woman in a bathrobe is washing hands” by Summer Photographer
  5. “Young man eavesdropping” by file404

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