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5 Tips to Stay Sane if You Get Covid This Winter

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

By Patty Lin, Zibby Books Author

I’ve always liked to be fashionably late, and Covid was no exception: I made it through almost three years of the pandemic before finally seeing the dreaded red lines appear on my at-home test. At first, I thought I was hallucinating. But it was real. I was positive, and I was sick.

After a telemedicine call with my doctor, I took to the internet to find more advice. Many official websites had detailed medical information, but they didn’t have much to say about what I would experience mentally and emotionally. So, as we head into a potential surge this winter, I wanted to share how I got through my illness.

Call it a layperson’s guide to staying sane while sick with Covid.

1. Review your behavior, but don’t place blame

As soon as I tested positive, I started thinking about when and where I may have been infected. It’s natural to be curious, and it can be useful if it leads to a behavior change that may protect you and others in the future. (For instance, wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces.) But beware of this curiosity shading into obsession. Being retroactively angry at the person who coughed near you in the grocery store won’t change their behavior. Blaming yourself for not being more careful won’t make you recover faster.

If you find yourself replaying events like a broken record, ask yourself, “Am I getting any new information here?” The answer is probably no. Let it go and move on.

2. Stop obsessively Googling your symptoms

Doctors often say they wish their patients would stay off Google. Why? Because so much information on the internet is outdated or comes from dubious sources. Especially with Covid-19, a relatively new illness that keeps changing, much of what you read online is just plain wrong. Even reliable data can be worrisome when taken out of context.

The first few days of my Covid infection, I was constantly researching each new development of my illness. When I lost my sense of smell and taste, I knew it was a common (and usually temporary) symptom, but a disconcerting one, nevertheless. I plunged down a rabbit hole of articles on the subject until I reached full-blown paranoia. Fortunately, my husband was there to say, “Put down the phone,” and give me a Xanax.

Of course, online research can be handy and reassuring. But be mindful of the point at which it stops being helpful. A good rule of thumb is asking yourself if the information is making you feel worse. If so, ask a level-headed family member or friend to give you the highlights. Or better yet—as the saying goes—ask your doctor.

3. Give yourself permission to rest

This sounds like an easy one, but most of us are addicted to being productive. If you work from home, Covid isolation can seem no different from any other workday. But it should be. This is not the time to outline your next novel or catch up on your to-do list. Even if your work isn’t very physical, it still takes energy, and before you know it, you’ll be exhausted. If you absolutely must do work, take frequent breaks and set limits so you won’t overextend yourself.

For years, every time I was sick, I’d get depressed because I felt “useless.” But with practice, I learned to ignore the taskmaster voice in my head and remember that my most important job was to rest. Now, even though I don’t enjoy being sick, I look at it as an opportunity to slow down and recalibrate.

If resting is making you stir-crazy, try soothing, low-impact activities. Even reading can take a lot of brain power, so maybe don’t tackle Finnegans Wake right now. Here are some things I did while I had Covid: ironed clothes, binge-watched The Patient, and looked up food videos on YouTube. (Did you know that mayo on a sandwich not only tastes good but provides a hydrophobic layer that keeps the bread from getting soggy?)

4. Let your days take on a natural rhythm

I’m a creature of habit and I love following a routine. But when I was sick, it didn’t make sense to get up at seven, exercise, and sit at my desk for hours. I slept until my body awoke naturally. I let go of intermittent fasting and ate when I was hungry. Huge chunks of time drifted by with no agenda and nothing to show for it. And my body thanked me.

However, I did create comforting rituals. I’d eat lunch on the patio to get some sun. I’d curl up with a book and a mug of tea in the afternoon. Before bed, I’d take a bubble bath, watch PBS News Hour, and listen to my sound machine until I fell asleep.

Even a modicum of self-care or guilty pleasure, repeated over time, can turn into a ritual that you look forward to, one that genuinely helps you feel better.

5. Don’t be shy about asking for support

As an introvert, I enjoy solitude; it’s not my first instinct to reach out to others when I’m going through a hard time. So I never imagined that if I had Covid, I’d want to post about it on social media. But after two days of quarantine, I found myself doing just that. The outpouring of sympathy buoyed my spirits, and I even heard from an old friend who also had Covid and, to my surprise, had recently gotten married.

Connecting on social media is not the same as in real life, just as a Zoom call is not the same as an in-person meeting. But when you’re not allowed to leave the house, connecting virtually can keep the loneliness at bay.

Even a modicum of self-care or guilty pleasure, repeated over time, can turn into a ritual that you look forward to, one that genuinely helps you feel better.

I almost added a sixth tip, but it can be annoying when someone tells you to be grateful. So I’ll just say this: remembering where we were in 2020 made me feel fortunate to be going through Covid with the benefits of vaccines, boosters, and all the medical knowledge culled over the last three years.

Sometimes it’s good to show up a little late.


Patty Lin is an author and former TV writer and producer whose credits include Freaks and Geeks, Friends, Desperate Housewives, and Breaking Bad. She has also written pilots for Fox, CBS, and Nickelodeon. Her Breaking Bad episode, “Gray Matter,” was nominated for a Writers Guild Award. She retired from television to save her sanity and began writing a memoir as an answer to the question, “Why would you quit such a cool job?” She lives in Los Angeles with her husband.