How can one cough germ contribute to a healthy lifestyle?
I came ‘home’ to Javea with a cough that I picked up in England. I know I have no proof of when I caught it, and as every second person in Birkenhead and Liverpool had some form of mucus-cold, I could have picked up this virus on any number of daily buses I took to and from shopping centres. However, I am sure I can remember the exact moment when that bug entered my system.
I was on the train from York in England to Dundee in Scotland and there was a woman sitting two seats in front of me, at a table and facing my direction. She was hacking up what sounded like a fathomless pit of thick, gross, mucus. Her coughing hadn’t been too bad at the start of the journey, but as the train made its way further north, her coughing bouts increased. I did feel for her, she sounded tired and, as she was armed with a massive box of tissues, I reckon she had had this cough for a while.
My little inner voice (LIV) began working overtime, asking me “Do you think you're in the zone of the germs that are likely to be flying out of her mouth at a rate of knots?” Now, I don’t know about you, but my LIV always communicates with me in questions; it never uses direct commands. That confused me for years, because I usually end up arguing with it, (I know, dumb) but I have come to the conclusion that has something to do with Free Will.
Anyway considering the amount of thick viscous coughing this poor woman was afflicted with, I reckoned there was a large cloud of germs spreading around her fast. But there was a problem with a getaway plan. I was next to my suitcase, and my suitcase was stashed at the bottom of a very large pile of other bags in the case compartment close to my seat on the super-crowded train. I just couldn’t envision getting my bag out without an avalanche of other suitcases and I didn’t want to leave my case in a different carriage to me, so call me timid, but I stayed put rather than move to a cough free zone.
My LIV quietly retreated to the back recesses of my brain – or somewhere up in the clouds – wherever it resides. I think it would have a look of stoic resignation on its face at being ignored again, but I’m not sure it has a face. The salient fact here though, is that I chose to stay in a carriage very close to a woman who was spreading serious cough germs at close to the speed of sound. I didn’t have a chance, and I almost felt my body being invaded.
Three days later, I noticed the beginnings of a tight, hot,troubled chest and that began a weird cough saga that lasted for the rest of my UK trip plus a week on returning to Spain where my neck glands got swollen and I developed a sore throat as well as a wheeze. I say weird, because it didn’t start with a sore throat and temperature, but rather, silently crept up on my chest like a ninja.
What worked to get rid of the cough and what didn’t?
I prefer natural remedies and normally, a strict routine of very high doses of Vitamin C
This time travelling a lot meant I was not following any consistent routine and felt low grade tiredness most days. I put the fatigue down to being constantly mobile, coupled with the massive emotional roller coaster I’d been on since putting our Australian house on the market three months earlier - and then there was the three months of renovation work before that! So I think my usually perky immune system had lost some of its sparkle and the first strong invader to pound on its door, managed to barge in unassailed.
In England and Scotland many of my relatives and friends had already contracted this strain and said it lasted around 21 days. Some of them said it was called Australian Flu. I honestly don’t know why, because I’d just come from Australia and I hadn’t seen sight nor sound of it while I was there! I sometimes play around with whimsical ideas that maybe authorities like to give ‘flu’ exotic names – like “Spanish Flu”, “Asian Bird Flu” and “H1N1”, because it’s easier to think of something nasty as coming from somewhere ‘foreign’, rather than developing in our own friendly back yard.
Regardless of where it all began, by the time I got back to Spain, I was weary from coughing, and when I got the sore throat that kept me awake at night I also felt I was getting sleep deprivation, which wasn’t helping my body fight this thing. So, a week after returning to Javea, I desperately marched into a farmacia, equipped with my trusty Google Translate phone App and soon left fortified with some cough mixture, throat pastilles and a box of paracetamol. I read the ingredients on the cough and throat medicines and very happily discovered they were all natural! Did they work?
Four days later, the cough mixture (Arkotos - which tastes like liquid jam) and pastilles (Juanola Propolis - which taste of herbal honey) had kicked the cough into touch. Coupled with the paracetamol which had granted me several good nights’ sleep, and nightly inhalation of my breathe blend of essential oils, I woke one morning knowing I was on the mend! I was so grateful! Naturally, it could be argued that the cough had simply run its 21 day course...
This episode however, taught me an important lesson: I need to stay healthy, I need to keep my immune system strong, and I can’t take my health for granted.
Routine is a valuable key
Reviewing the whole coughing episode, I realised that routine is a valuable key to my physical well-being. As well as allowing for the usual eat, work, play balance, it can also enable me to add into my day time to attend to my mental/emotional and spiritual well-being with relaxing, meditation and ample time to sleep and dream. There are many studies showing the value of REM (dreaming sleep) and I know how much more sane I feel when I’ve had a good night’s sleep.
From the very moment we moved out of our house in Australia, I have been on the move and travelling. And please don’t get me wrong, I have loved every moment! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed seeing new sights, meeting old friends and connecting with family members. But when I returned to Javea, I realised I felt unsettled. The apartment we’re in is fabulous, and has given us one attractive and well-positioned base to operate from while we look for our permanent home – our yacht. But the apartment is a temporary residence. But the sense of being unsettled doesn't just spring from not having a permanent home at the moment.
Barry and I have also just retired and are having to explore a whole way of living, which doesn’t conform to a nine to five work routine, with a two day weekend. We are finding our feet in our new lifestyle; one that will carry on over to our boat. On immediate return to Javea, I needed lots more sleep than normal to give my body time to rest and mend. I realised during that time (when I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself) that resting is actually something I want to incorporate more into my day. I like that there is a Siesta in the middle of the day here in Spain, where businesses shut around 1-2pm and open again at 4-5pm. I think it is very civilised! I recall afternoons when I worked in an office, trying to type straight after lunch and having to fight sleep - really wanting to have a snooze. Well, now I have that choice!
I actually come alive later in the evening, and often produce my best written work after 5pm, so getting up fairly early, having a snooze at siesta time and then working till fairly late looks like a winning routine to me! Barry and I have been discussing fine tuning this so that it works well for both of us. Obviously, this won’t be set in stone, but one possible daily schedule for me may look like this:
Early morning – awake, meditate, breakfast, shower
Morning – discuss the day’s plan
Late morning - go out and explore, film video footage, take photos
Lunchtime – have lunch, siesta, chill, daydream creative ideas
Afternoon - edit films, write blogs, work on a creative project
Early evening – snack, chill time, go for walk
Evening – finish projects, watch a movie, or chill out to music
Bedtime – bed, “to sleep, perchance to dream”
Of course, this schedule is a work in progress and a guideline so to speak. Neither of us wants to get into a tight and strict timetable that ends up feeling restrictive, as that will just be defeating the purpose of our new lifestyle! But I do feel excited that we are both looking at a new living plan that allows us to be creative, productive, feel nurtured and have fun, in a way that flows better with our natural rhythms as well as necessary timelines.
Our bodies are amazing; they carry us through life, generally not stopping or failing us, no matter how hard we work them. They are in a constant state of regeneration to the best of their ability (and what we put in them), even when they are often last on our list of priorities - after work, play, shopping, money, relationships, hobbies, [insert what’s important to you here: __________________ ].
If we whiz through life with general disregard to what our body needs, at some point, like a car that hasn’t been serviced, it will break down, seize up, or show us in some other way that it needs our attention. Like my body did recently when that chest bug invaded because my immune system was at a low ebb.
As my close friends know, I’ve always been someone who has struggled with routine, especially during those times when my work schedules have been long, demanding and strict. My struggle often saw me wanting 'Freedom', which I would put on a pedestal. What did Freedom mean to me? It often meant complete downtime, or alternatively, full focus on a creative project, such as painting or making a felt scarf out of unspun wool. But when I look back at those times, I can see with hindsight that when I chose unrestricted Freedom, while I did catch up on sleep, I often felt frustrated at the end of the ‘time off’, as I hadn’t really accomplished a lot. Time is precious, and I’d often felt I’d wasted it. Yet, during industrious creative times, I would end up with something satisfying and beautiful.
My paradoxical realisation here is that in order to be creative I actually do work within a routine. A piece of felt doesn’t just manifest automatically by throwing some fibre into a bowl and voila there it is! It happens via a series of methodical steps, from selecting the fibres and colours, to laying out the wool, to soaping and watering and rubbing, to rolling on a pool noodle, to more rubbing, to rinsing, and towel drying, then ironing. If you'd like to see this process in action, I've a created a video showing how to make felt.
For the first time in my life I can appreciate routine. Structure. It’s something that Barry embraced as a young child and continues today. And it is within that structure that something unique can be crafted. Writing my blogs occurs within a certain routine, as do my videos and other creative projects.
Now I see that, rather than totally ‘bucking the system’ and living a routine-free life in the name of Freedom, I can achieve a much more satisfying result, which is also enjoyable moment by moment, beginning with drafting a schedule and using it as a guide to live by. Not only will my creative projects benefit, but so will my body. In my new daily routine, yes, I’ll factor in times to work, but I’ll also include time to rest; time to meditate and time to eat healthily; time to exercise and time to sleep. I’ll listen to what my body needs instead of driving myself to a strict timetable, and as long as I achieve in a week what I need to, then the rest of the time is for playing, laughing and loving!
So thanks to a pesky chesty cough germ, I’ve not only got a better appreciation for my body, but I’m also looking forward to settling into a more natural and healthful routine.