What helped with Covid-19

This is a post about the things that supported me through my bout of Covid-19. I was one of the lucky ones. I didn’t need hospitalisation, I was able to stay in the comfort of my home. But it still had its scary moments.

What follows is what helped me. We are all different so that doesn’t necessarily mean everything will help you, but I hope at least some of it does. Feel free to take what you will, and ignore the rest. And share the link, tell people you think might benefit.

  1. The brilliance of our NHS staff. The system may have been systematically underfunded and undermined but the people are amazing: compassionate, patient and full of reassurance. They deserve better. In particular:
    • The doctor who gave me facts, support and reassurance which I trusted. Who took time to explain symptoms, helping me to understand what was happening. And listened to my anxiety and prescribed an inhaler just in case.
    • The NHS 111 nurse who took the time to talk to me as a human. I cannot tell you how much difference that made. 
  2. People.
    • my husband, who looked after me, cooked, cleaned and gave me regular back massages in a particular place which seemed prone to pain and knotting. 
    • My family and friends who checked in on me, talked to me, sent me positive thoughts and wishes. 
  3. Self-help.
    • Doing breathing exercises as recommended by a doctor and nurse at Queen’s Hospital.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwLzAdriec0&feature=emb_title Who knew that your lung alveoli in your back played such an important part in breathing? I definitely felt better when I did this exercise.
    • Vitamin-C. This is anecdotal, although there is a study in China currently underway, which hypothesises that high doses of vitamin-C can reduce damage to the alveoli and protect against other kinds of damage. (Ref: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04264533 ) A herbal throat spray also eased the scratchiness and coughing.
    • Paracetamol: I was lucky in that I wasn’t in a great deal of pain, but once I understood that my bouts of shaking were caused by fever spikes, I dosed with paracetamol in the early evening, when it seemed to be worst, and at other times as I started to recognise the signs of an attack. 
    • Distraction: when my anxiety levels crept (or rocketed) higher, reading, TV (so much crappy TV), and on sunny days just watching and listening to the birds in the garden.
    • Pilates: exercising was counter-intuitive, in fact one of the nurses suggested bed-rest. Somehow though I felt that keeping my body moving just a bit would help. The gentle stretching of a very few basic pilates exercises – and it was very, very gentle – felt good. My muscles relaxed and breathing, an integral part of the exercises, became naturally deeper and easier. 
    • Walking and fresh air: just getting up and walking slowly around the garden every so often, felt helpful. Listening to the birds singing their hearts out.

Crucially, using these remedies gave me at least the illusion of some kind of control. I was taking some agency in the fight  – and it did feel like a fight – rather than lying back and letting it happen.

I learnt the importance of listening to my body, trusting myself to move around gently and stretch, walk and sit or lie when I needed to.

And of course, the interconnectedness of mind and body. Before it happened I had a great deal of anxiety around getting the virus, both for myself and for my husband. Once it did happen I was conscious of the importance of trying to maintain a positive attitude, a strong and clear intent to get better. Don’t get me wrong, during the waves of attack this nasty bug kept mounting, I veered from anxious to scared to relieved and back to scared again. I tried to keep in mind a need and want to keep living and a determination to do so. This sounds melodramatic when I read it back now, but that’s how it felt. 

The other part of this interconnectedness was to nurture a sense of healing. For me that meant letting go of the (bad) news, the tales of mismanagement, lockdown transgression, mad statements by crazy so-called leaders. I stopped watching or listening to anything that made me angry. Good news was ok, no news was even better. Being in the moment, right here, right now: the sun is shining, I can see blossom from my window. And the birdsong – did I mention the birdsong?

5 things I have found helpful in coping with anxiety

A few friends have posted things to do with anxiety recently, so I thought I would share what I personally find really useful, and many of my clients seem to do too.

1 Concentrating on this moment (and the next, and the next) 

When I get anxious about something which may (or may not) happen in the future, (for example,  going walking up a mountain in Wales when I don’t think I’m fit enough) I say to myself, ‘right now you are ok. everything is ok. Concentrate on this, right now it’s all ok’. And repeat.

2 Do something to get some distance

A long day dancing like a crazy person at a local music festival helped me to start to come to terms with the possibility that we may never manage to sell our house on the terms we would like…

3 Breathe and count

This is great in those moments when you feel the agitation or panic rising, sometimes without you consciously knowing why. The counting is important: it takes your mind away from doing the worry temporarily and allows your body to calm itself.

So, belly breathing, expanding your stomach like a balloon as you breathe in, and letting it collapse gently as you breathe out: in for 2, out for 3; then in for 3, out for 4; then in for 4, out for 5, and so on, to the point that feels comfortable for you. Don’t push it. This is not a test. 

4 Tell someone

It doesn’t have to be a big deal, maybe as simple as ‘I am feeling a bit jittery right now’. Choose someone you trust to be supportive.

5 Learning to not mind

This one is longer term and needs work. In my case, a LOT of work. It is also potentially the most helpful. It’s about letting go of needing things to be a particular way. For example, ‘I must get a job’, ‘I should be better at keeping in touch with my family’, ‘I ought to do more about rejecting plastic in my local supermarket’, ‘I need us to be able to sell the house soon’ (you see a theme developing here?)

Trying to let go of the ‘should’, ‘must’, ought’, ‘want’, need’ words, trying to be ok with my flaws, and to accept what the world throws at me. Kind of close to ‘everything happens for a reason’ but not so glib perhaps; more, ‘let me be ok with what happens even if it’s not what I wanted to happen right now’.  When you find out how to do this seamlessly and easily, please let me know.