When I contracted COVID in January – the dreaded virus had made its way into our household, and our use of masks and attempted isolation did not contain it well enough. – I experienced a sudden onset of pain. The pain was in my muscles and joints; luckily I only suffered very slight, occasional headaches. But it was like something was trying to burst out of my muscles, almost a humming discomfort that refused to let me sleep or even rest easily. It may help you or a loved one to read what I learned from COVID.

My routine for 9 nights when I woke from the pain was to ease myself out of bed and onto the hard floor. There was something comforting about the hard floor: Clarity of sensation. I could feel exactly where it hurt. I stretched. Stretched. Stretched. I was literally to open up my muscles and let the pain out.

It worked, at least most times, at least partially. The best, most restful sleep I had during my COVID bout was after a good stretch.

While symptoms seem to vary, keeping my muscles and joints moving, gently and as needed, was the best solution I could find for pain. But other symptoms like fatigue and headaches need attention too. Here are my 5 top tips to deal with Covid.

  1. STOP
    This is the first lesson. Not just physically, but mentally. It wasn’t the “brain fog” that is listed as a COVID symptom that made me stop, it was the exhausting nature of thinking. The brain uses up a startling 20% to 25% of the body’s overall energy, mainly in the form of glucose. That translates to 350 or 450 calories per day for the average adult. That’s why studying is so tiring. That’s why fatigue causes error.
    I believe that what helped me recover was letting go of technology and resting a lot. Even if you cancel your zoom meetings (and yes, you should!), it’s easy to pick up the phone, scroll down Instagram, comment on social media, read the news, and worry about … whatever you like to
    worry about. Don’t. Sit down. Lie down. Read the comics if you must (your headache or eye ache may prevent you from doing even that) Drift. Close your eyes. Open your eyes and stare at the ceiling, or the sky. Do this for many days. It’s ok. Got kids needing home schooling? They will never, ever remember “today” as a standout day in their life because you didn’t home school them properly. It doesn’t matter. Let them play, draw, “watch TV” (whatever that means to you these days), clean their room, go outside if that’s appropriate.
  2. WALK
    Walk? But you just said to stop!
    Think of this kind of walking as “stopping in motion”. Stroll, and breathe the fresh air a little more deeply to boost your immune system and your mood. Don’t go too far – you’re not challenging yourself, you’re coddling yourself. Just for a few days. Bundle up, and if you feel like a good stretch while you’re strolling along, stop and enjoy a nice big stretch. This releases lactic acid from your muscles and moves your lymph. Both good for “getting rid of” stuff you don’t need.
  3. DRINK
    “Drink plenty of water”, states the HSE’s website.
    I happened to read about lastminute.com founder’s Martha Lane Fox, who suffered a near-tragic jeep accident while on holiday some years ago, drinks tumeric+pepper in hot water every morning as part of her pain management regime. I have included tumeric and black pepper in many smoothies and hot drinks since then. Tumeric is known to reduce inflammation.
    During your walk, as suggested above, or a really good stretch to get rid of the stiffness associated with COVID. Here’s a short video on my favourites – and a “chair yoga” version, here.
  5. BATHE
    If you have the option, a nice hot bath can relax you and your muscles, It seemed to help me. I added Epsom salt – available over the counter at a pharmacy in nice big 4 L tubs – though there is no solid evidence that the salt gives additional benefit. A few drops of essential oils like lavender are helpful. The lovely smells (if you still have your sense of smell) can indeed help to relax you.
    Enjoy the comfort!
    I resorted to pain medication a handful of times when nothing else was giving me relief, or I was too exhausted to put up with it any more. Paracetamol worked well for me, although it did nothing to help me actually sleep. Remember that you are treating a symptom (pain), not the actual virus. The HSE says this: “Paracetamol or ibuprofen may help with symptoms such as pain or fever.
    Paracetamol is usually recommended as the first-line treatment for most people. Before taking any medication you should read the full package leaflet that comes with your medicine. You should also follow any advice a healthcare professional gives you.” There is a LOT of disinformation, and also simply not enough research, to know for sure what is best and what may work against you.

I hope this blog post on what I learned from COVID has helped you. Find out more about my yoga classes here.

Read more at https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/news/media/pressrel/advice-about-anti-inflammatory-medication-and-covid-19.html


Update: April 2021

Two weeks after I recovered, I noticed my muscles becoming sore again, and headaches, this time around the eyes, returned. I kept up a simple yoga practice which included arm movements (prana mudra) and relaxation with my chest slightly elevated. Marma points associated with heart, lung
and blood are around the neck, shoulders, chest and arms. The arm movements, done with deep regular breathing, improve the heart and lung channels in the body
I’m still not as strong as I was but this could be the virus or a simple reduction in fitness. .