Long COVID: A recipe for recovery

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

After recovering from a "mild" COVID case in November, I developed long COVID, with debilitating symptoms that included persistent shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and insomnia.

  • At one point, I counted 23 symptoms.
  • As my symptoms grew worse, I was admitted to the hospital, where I underwent numerous tests. Thankfully, no major organ damage was found — apart from an obstruction in my lungs, which is still being treated.

Why it matters: Long COVID was an alarm bell that I needed to make huge changes in my life.

Flashback: Before getting hit with this life-changing illness, I frankly hadn’t taken great care of myself. I let stress and anxiety get to me. I ate poorly, drank too much coffee, and rarely made time for exercise.

  • Very soon I realized: If I’m going to get better, I need to completely change my life. I’d never be able to go back to those bad habits.

So I improvised this three-ingredient recipe for recovery:

1. Structure: Following a daily routine is my new lifeblood. Every morning, I write a list of everything I want to do that day — then check off each task as I do it. I follow a healthy diet, drink lots of water, take my medications and supplements, and attend pulmonary rehab.

  • Almost every hour of my day is scheduled, even rest and recreational activities — watching a movie or listening to music. It may sound overkill. But this has radically improved my life.

2. Pace: Pacing is a technique that has been used for years by people with chronic fatigue syndrome. You limit your daily activities and reduce your energy expenditure based on your symptoms.

  • On days when I’m in pain or fatigued, my list of tasks is shorter. If I’m feeling good, I don’t push myself to the point of exertion. I might walk an extra five minutes on the treadmill, cook dinner for my family, or take the dog to the park. When my body needs rest, I rest.

3. Faith: Thinking positively has always been challenging for me. But with daily prayer and meditation, it’s getting easier.

  • The mind is a powerful instrument. I’m learning to use it for my betterment, not detriment.

The bottom line: In four months, my symptoms have improved by 60-70%. But in lots of ways, I’m healthier than I was before getting COVID.

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