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How to Keep Stress at Bay with a Cold

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Here’s how to shake the anxiety of everything you’re missing and focus on getting better.

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Being a parent is stressful enough without a cough or cold burying you under a pile of tissues and tea bags. How can you cope when you're not at your best? Dr. Nina Ellis-Hervey, a licensed psychologist, has a few tips:

Acknowledge you're sick

Many of see getting sick as a sign of personal failure, in part because we’re not able to accomplish as much when we’re under the weather as we are when we’re healthy. “A lot of us define ourselves by the work we produce," Dr. Ellis-Hervey explains. While it can be tempting to push through your illness as though you're operating at full capacity, that approach can compound your stress and ultimately backfire. "I find that not acknowledging your illness and not taking proper care of yourself causes you to feel worse," Dr. Ellis-Hervey says. Instead, accept your circumstances so you can focus on getting better.

Reset your priorities

You may think certain errands need to get done, but Dr. Ellis-Hervey urges you to reconsider. “We treat everything as equally important,” she says. “But energy spread across that [many tasks] doesn't make you effective at anything," especially when you’re sick. Most of your to-do list—even those agenda items intended to benefit your children—can probably be shelved for a later date or at least modified to accommodate your recovery. “Kids often adjust to what you give them,” Dr. Ellis-Hervey says. “I'm not saying to lessen your level of care or be inconsiderate or unkind.” But if you can’t stay for gymnastics practice because you need to go back home and rest for that hour your kids are occupied, for example, that’s fine. When you de-prioritize certain responsibilities, you may find that everything is not as needed as you think it is, Dr. Ellis-Hervey explains.

Plus, by putting yourself first and demonstrating how much you value good health, you’ll also be setting a positive example for your kids, which teaches them a level of self-care and the importance of making boundaries, Dr. Ellis-Hervey says. (And here’s how they can take care of you!)

Stock up supplies ahead of time

The last thing you want to do when you come down with something is scramble to find remedies. You probably regularly keep a stash of sick-day supplies for your kids, so make sure you’re thinking of yourself too and save your future self the trouble by keeping a medicine like Robitussin 12 Hour Cough & Mucus Relief stocked in your house. "[That way] you don't have to run around every time you're not feeling well," Dr. Ellis-Hervey says.

Celebrate your accomplishments

As counterintuitive as it may sound, Dr. Ellis-Hervey suggests taking time while you're resting in bed to give yourself a pat on the back. "Look back on the things that you have been able to achieve and accomplish while well," she says. "That brings you back into that [feeling of] self-worth and self-esteem." On the flip side, it might help you realize that those successes have come at a cost: a lack of sleep, perhaps, or not eating as healthy as usual. Acknowledge all you’ve been doing and remember that you deserve to take care of yourself, too!