On Wednesday morning, I woke up with a sore throat, a dull ache in my sinuses, and a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. Perhaps it had been only a matter of time before I caught my first cold of the season, but knowing this didn't exactly make the prospect of sniffling and coughing my way through the next few days any easier to stomach. So I called in all available reinforcements: I put some hot water on the stove, gathered my best immunity boosters, and got to work. If nothing else, I thought, I could at least try to relieve some of my symptoms.
After several hours of carefully employed TLC, my body decided to do me one better: I woke up the following morning feeling impossibly refreshed, with just the faintest echo of a tickle in my throat. A day later, I'm feeling right back to my healthy self. Maybe I was simply blessed with the world's flightiest, most docile cold; a co-worker suggested that perhaps it was a freak bout of allergies, though I've never gotten them at this time of year before. Either way, I managed to completely reverse my symptoms in a matter of hours—and I'll be deploying my strategy for doing so the next time illness rears its ugly head.
Step 1: Fill up on Immunity-Boosting Supplements
The first thing I do when I wake up every morning is make a nutrient-packed green smoothie, so I took extra care to give this one a cold-kicking punch. That meant adding a few pinches of adaptogenic herbs, which help our bodies adapt to stress by dialing back cortisol. (Cortisol, our body's "stress hormone," has been shown to significantly weaken the immune system.)
I opted for reishi, in particular, an adaptogenic mushroom celebrated in Eastern (and, slowly, Western) medicine for its immunity benefits. Beyond that, I also added a couple of drops of echinacea to my water—another natural fighter of colds, it's my go-to for stopping symptoms in their tracks.
Step 2: Drink Tons of Water (And Eat Well Too)
Starting off the day with a steaming mug of hot water with lemon did wonders to soothe my throat, and a hefty pinch of minced ginger cleared out my sinuses too. I decided to be particularly religious about my fluid intake and got up to refill my water bottle countless times throughout the day. In the interest of keeping my body in fighting shape, I also made sure to ignore any sugar cravings and stick to a simple but nutrient-packed diet: Finishing the day with a big bowl of veggie-packed lentil soup was extra nourishing.
Step 3: Yoga, Stretching, and Myofascial Release
My local yoga studio offers a weekly back class that is the very definition of "hurts so good"—much of it is spent using lacrosse and tennis balls to knead through the fascia, the often overlooked connective tissue that encloses our muscles and organs. By class's end, I'd rolled away so much stress and tension embedded in the tiniest nooks and crannies of my musculoskeletal system. This is called myofascial release, and it actually has a pretty profound impact on the immune system.
Truthfully, I was dying to go to class so I could breathe, stretch, and massage my way to cold symptom relief. But in the interest of not exposing a studio of people to an advancing illness, I opted to flow through my own series of stretches at home. These lacrosse balls are my favorite Amazon purchase in recent history, and they seriously get the job done—I generally just sit or lie on them and roll my body gently, as I would with a foam roller, allowing them to knead deep into my muscles.
Step 4: Humidify and Soothe Any Remaining Tension
Call me a wuss, but it really does get chilly in Los Angeles this time of year—and when the mercury drops to the mid-40s at night, I'm going to turn my heat on. This turns my apartment into a desert, which doesn't bode well for lubricating my throat and sinuses. So on this particular day, I geared up my aromatherapy diffuser, which releases a small amount of steam into the air, and moved it close to my bed for maximum inhalation. Sniffing the relaxing scents of lavender and patchouli didn't exactly hurt matters either.
Step 5: Sleep
Depriving yourself of shut-eye is one of the worst things you can do when you're under the weather—extensive research shows how vital sleep is for the immune system to function properly, which is part of the reason we tend to feel so fatigued when we're fighting off an infection. Sure enough, I was feeling exhausted by the end of the day and decided not to take any chances: I shut off my lights at 10 p.m., knocked back an herbal sleep supplement, queued up a guided meditation by Stop, Breathe, & Think (free), and drifted off to dreamland… only to wake up on the other side feeling a million times better.