Getting Sick When You Don't Have Sick Leave

Somehow, while flying back from Washington, D.C. last week, I got sick. I might have caught it from the two guys sitting next to me on the plane who were sneezing and coughing throughout the flight while wearing nothing but T-shirts and shorts. But most likely, it was because I had somehow scheduled 10 straight days of work without taking a break. I hadn’t even realized I had scheduled that much work for myself (with no self-care) until I was halfway through it. After landing home in San Francisco, I went to bed for four days straight and am only now recovering.

As a consultant, I don’t have the luxury of paid sick leave. When we don’t work, we don’t get paid. It’s like being a full-time mom. We don’t have time off. So here are a few things I’ve learned from consultants (and moms of toddlers) about how to stay healthy.

1. We are our own worst enemies. As non-profit leaders, we can preach all we want about self-care but when things get busy, we forget to take care ourselves. We put ourselves last because so many things just need to get done. We need to send out that invoice. Our kid is begging for dinner, and we need to feed them. There’s an upcoming board meeting with no agenda, so we better put one together tonight (yes, tonight!!) before bed.

As womxn of color, community care is crucial to our own self-care. By having someone else hold us accountable and fill in when needed, we are much less likely to forget the basics, such as taking our medicine or eating lunch.

2. At the first sign of possible illness, take extra vitamins. This advice came straight from a mom of a toddler who keeps her going 24/7. By staying in tune with our bodies, we can try to hedge off the cold, flu, etc. – whatever’s coming our way. Another mom shared that it helps to think of these vitamins as working retroactively. I’m not sure how much I believe that, but there’s something to be said about the mind-body connection.

3. The “Oh-well” Technique. I love this strategy because it honors that we’ve done the best that we could in that moment. It’s non-judgmental. A lot of times, we beat ourselves up when we don’t take care of ourselves or when we don’t excel. But the standards we hold ourselves up to might be a lot higher than we can hold in that moment. So, while we might want to serve our kiddo a five-star meal for dinner every night, sometimes, we have to be okay with settling for a two-star meal because “oh well, at least they’ve eaten”. And then we can try to aim for another five stars tomorrow.  

What do you think? What are some things you do to avoid getting sick?  

Jessica Liself-care, mom