Christmas Plague 2019

I’m not sure about you, but almost everyone I was surrounded by at Christmas this year was sick. Some, your common cold, but others were on antibiotics, or plagued by a wicked-sounding chest infection with coughs and phlegm that seemed to come from the depths of their souls and go on for days. I will be the first to say that sharing is caring, but all bets are off when it comes to sicknesses, in which case sharing would be the opposite of caring. Especially during Christmas time. The gift of love and the presents of other’s presence are one thing, but slightly different when that love and presence comes with green mucous-y tissues and a cough that sounds like a wet bark. I knew I had to bring my immune system A-game. Perhaps even A+.

I have a tendency, and have had for years, to run all systems at 100% for as long as the systems will run, and then one of two things happens: I either get very ill, forced to bed and to rest until I recover, or I stop cold-turkey, granting myself the rest I need, at which point… I get cripplingly ill and then am forced to stay in bed to rest until I recover. Not a lot of choice here. The die is cast.

Of course, this year was no exception for full steam ahead-ing. I worked 114 hours in the pay period before I left for vacation. During that time, I was also finishing business school (like, the very last week…), and running this start-up. Additionally, I was trying to: do yoga, meditate, eat right, get enough sleep, hydrate, exercise, take my supplements and still be social, as I knew how pertinent these were to my immune system and fighting whatever burnout bug was lurking in the wings for me this year. Just a couple of things on the go; classic Heather.

I worked as a nutritionist/dinner chef/support worker. I created the dinner menu for our clients, did the grocery shopping and meal prepping. I had to make and freeze 14 dinners for 10 for the 2 weeks I would be away. Writing this now I know it sounds like a massive undertaking. It was, but it didn't feel that way, I was just doing my job. I also was fortunate enough to work with some exceptional humans at my 9-5 - which was actually 12-8:30 Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and 8:30-4:30 Monday, Wednesday, just to confuse you. Everyone was always willing to lend a hand for the good of the team, and sometimes to the detriment of the helper themselves. I was confident and calm and ready to leave because of some spectacular help and some pretty epic planning.

I feared I would land in Calgary, hit that wall and be taken down with something lethal on day one. I knew I was healthier than ever, but I had also put myself through arguably more than I ever have in that marathon of life and work. I was determined - I would not get sick. I had more tools than ever to keep me healthy (more on that below), and was in the best health I have probably ever been in. I would make it out healthy! Unscathed!

I was spending Christmas with my two little darlings, my 5- and 3-year-old cousins, who were about as amped as anything for Santa and Christmas, and also amped that I was going to be there for it all. Imagine when I found out upon landing that many in my family had been struck by the Christmas Plague. My poor aunt was on antibiotics, some cousins were drinking Buckley’s and some were still getting over colds. We were all to be together for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day (my Uncle’s birthday). I landed on the 19th, knowing I had 4 ish days to figure out my immune system and tackle my own stuff before it had to tackle everyone else’s as well. (I'm re-publishing this 8 months into the pandemic, and does reading that make anyone else's skin CRAWL?)

The first, and I think critical element in my quest for health, was actually NOT stopping cold-turkey. With kiddos involved, there really isn’t a stop button, so I was kept busy with kiddo things, pre-Christmas things, pre-Christmas kiddo things (i.e. seeing the big man himself, making gingerbread, etc) and catching up with family. It was a good busy. Notably, a different busy than I had been accustomed to.

I normally see the prep for vacation as running on one treadmill at full speed - doing my actual job as well as doing work in advance for when I wont be around to do it later - and then when vacation hits, instead of getting out of the gym and lying on the beach, I just jump onto a different treadmill that is consequently at almost-full-speed, as well. This felt more like a sprint on one, then a nice jog on another. Enough to keep me moving and not seizing up post-sprint, but not too fast that I wanted to either jump off or just fall on my face, thankfully. This was a solid piece in my puzzle, but there were many more.

So what else did I do? I went on the defensive! I kept up with my daily B12, roughly 1000 mcg, this is Doctor prescribed. I kept up with my daily Vitamin D, about 1000 IUs, sometimes a bit more. I decided on this one myself, after learning that the longitude of where I live in Canada means that between October and March, the sun's rays are not strong enough for the body to construct its own Vitamin D. I bought Genuine Health’s probiotics and fermented superfood powder (which you can buy here - I prefer the unfloavoured and unsweetened version, but they have summer berry and orange ginger, as well), which I took daily before breakfast. I kept hydrated, drinking more than 2 Liters of water a day, and herbal tea on top of that.

In the tea realm, I was having Traditional Medicinals Echinacea Plus, Pukka’s Feel New (formerly their Detox tea), and their Lemongrass and Ginger, as well. We also made teas of our own on the stove, consisting of things like: turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, lemons and cayenne pepper. We added lemons to our water and had spoonfuls of honey for its antimicrobial properties, on top of its decadent flavour. I also frequently indulged in Joyous Health’s Rejuvenate tea, which has nourishing ingredients like lemongrass, ginger, milk thistle and lemon peel. You can buy some here.

My cousin’s friend had made a Fire Cider, which I had a spoonful of every day. For those new to Fire Cider, fear not, I didn’t know much about it until this point, either. From my understanding, you throw apple cider vinegar, horseradish, garlic, cayenne pepper, lemon, and a bunch of other immune-boosting ingredients (e.g. any herbs you like, this one had thyme in it) into a mason jar and let it sit for about 5 days, up to 6 weeks - I will try some recipes and post them here post-taste-test! Sounds gross, but I swear it was my superpower for making it through. Or, at least a patch in my superhero cape, if you will.

If all of these elements were patches in the cape, then there was one other element that I am convinced was my supersuit. Sleep. After Christmas, when I could actually start to feel that sickness knocking on my tonsils, I slept around ten hours a night… three nights in a row. It was strange, as I was actually staying in bed, asleep until about ten o’clock, which I hadn’t done in months. I saw that as a sure sign that I desperately needed that sleep.

Boxing Day I woke up still very tired, but convinced I was in the clear. Two more nights, and I was on top of the world. Energy levels were back at peak. I was still staying on top of all the other supplements and food choices, but I knew the sleep was the kicker, and I knew I had given myself and my body what it needed. I was so proud! It might seem like an odd thing to be proud about, but I will wear that sleep and health like a flashing badge of honour. I don’t think I’ve ever made it out of Christmas or marathon-sprinting through life without catching something plague-like.

Isn’t it incredible what happens when we nourish ourselves? I invite, and strongly encourage you to Go Nourish - yourself and your loved ones - whatever that may mean for you.

In health, nourishment, and happiness,