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How Holidays and Vacations Make you Sick and What to do About it.

I woke up this morning with a tickle in my throat that has developed into a painful sore throat. This is a familiar beginning of a cold or flu will likely hit me full force tomorrow… Today is the Sunday of my Thanksgiving break and impending sickness must be my punishment for enjoying four peaceful days of no work, good food, great company and lots of relaxation!

The Let Down Effect

Odds are many of you find yourselves in similar situations during the holidays or vacations. There is a condition that has been introduced to the world by Dr. Marc Schoen of the UCLA School of Medicine called The Let Down Effect.

Dr Schoen says that when under constant stress our bodies release hormones that strengthen the immune system. When we rapidly shift from a state of heightened stress to to relaxation our bodies stop producing these hormones. This means sudden relaxation that comes from your Thanksgiving holiday could actually be leaving us more vulnerable to sickness than before.

(That’s not to say you should sustain your stress, there are long-term consequences to doing that. You can learn more about it, as well as The Let Down Effect and how to minimize it here.)

What I Do When I Get Sick

When I sense the sickness coming on, I immediately start to take both defensive and offensive measures so as to not have too much effect on my productivity. I know I’m supposed to just take it easy, but in reality running my own business makes it nearly impossible to hide under the covers for a few days without prior planning.

Aside from following the generic “get as much rest and drink plenty of water” advice, here are some things I do to stay as productive as I need to be:

Zicam

Common homeopathic recommendations for managing colds or the flu are Vitamin C, Echinacea, and Zinc.

There are studies that have shown Vitamin C does nothing to help with a cold or flu. This is what got Airborne in a heap of trouble for false marketing. I may drink orange juice for the electrolytes and to stay hydrated, but I don’t go out of my way to get extra Vitamin C.

I’ve read about studies on Echinacea that have shown if you take it regularly your immune system could get a boost, but by the time you start feeling the early symptoms of your sickness it is already too late. It sounds like a waste of time and money to me so I don’t mess with it.

That leaves is Zinc. There are studies that show Zinc can reduce the length and severity of the common cold. My personal experiences have shown this to be true. Zinc is the active ingredient in Zicam and I start taking it according to the directions as soon as I think I am getting sick.

I used to use the kind that you shoot up your nose. Apparently that causes some people to lose their sense of smell so its been recalled. This time I bought the lozenges.

Yogi Tea Throat Comfort

This stuff is amazing. Not sure what they put in there and I don’t really care. It just works better than any other hot drink option I’ve tried. I buy it at Whole Foods and I keep a few boxes on hand just in case I ever get sick.

I like to drink it with fresh lemon and honey. It tastes great and feels even better on my throat.

Advil

I don’t mess with Sudafed, DayQuil or any over the counter cold medicines unless things get really bad. They just make me feel more sick than the sickness itself. If the packaging says you shouldn’t be operating heavy machinery, you probably shouldn’t be operating your business either.

I take the recommended dosage of Advil for the entire length of the sickness. This is mainly defensive measure to minimize pain from sore throats or headaches. If Advil doesn’t work on its own, I also have some cough drops or throat lozenges on hand.

Exercise

I can’t do my normal workout routine when I get sick, but I try my damnedest to not spend the entire time laying down. Following Dr. Schoen’s recommendations, I do short, fast workouts to boost my immune system.

I go to the gym in my building that is always empty during the day (if it’s not I try again later.) I do a brisk walk for 3-5 minutes to warm-up, run a mile as fast as I can then do 3-5 minute cool-down. I ignore the fact that my body wants nothing to do with exercise or the treadmill. I come out feeling great because of it. It takes a lot of discipline, but its worth it.

Avoid Taking NyQuil and the like.

NyQuil seems like a great idea as it does help you fall asleep faster. However, it doesn’t allow you to reach REM sleep, which is the only kind that matters. It actually prevents you from getting the only kind of sleep you need. That’s why you always seem to feel hung-over the morning after taking these types of medicines. Not really worth it.

If you have the Advil working full force, this is enough in the later stages of a cold or flu. Early on I take throat lozenges or cough drops before bed to give me enough relief to fall asleep.

If my illness is particularly bad I may break out the Sudafed before bed. I haven’t seen anything that says this blocks the REM sleep and it usually does help me sleep. I try to avoid it as a matter of principle because it makes me feel so loopy.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

I hope all the American readers enjoyed their Thanksgiving and were able to get through it without getting sick. I wish I were so lucky, but I can guarantee during my next vacation I’ll be taking the advice towards the end of this post to avoid The Let Down Effect the best I can.

Now if you’ll excuse, me I must go make some more tea…

Your turn… What do you do to keep sickness from taking over your productivity and your business?

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