Tips that help me manage long Covid
By Zoë Swann // BBC The Social contributor // 11 May 2022
Hi, I’m Zoë, and I’ve been living with long Covid for almost 10 months. Long Covid has a lot of similarities with other chronic illnesses, like ME and PoTS, with symptoms including brain fog, fatigue, heart and breathing problems, and many more.
I’ve never had an illness like this, and I had no idea how much it would impact my life. Everyone experiences illness differently, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are the things that have helped me.
Don’t do too much, too soon
In a world that promotes hustle culture, taking time off can almost feel like a crime. So how do we rest and pace ourselves? Something that I’ve been doing is taking a note of which activities exacerbate my symptoms, and then either saying no to them or making sure that I have a rest day afterwards.
Sometimes it’s about making adjustments to the way I approach things. For example, instead of working a full eight hour day, I’ll do a couple of hours, take a break - often a nap - and then do a couple more hours.
Instead of going to an event all night, I’ll go for an hour or so. I also make sure to stay in touch with people in less demanding ways - such as virtually, rather than in person.
Illnesses affect everyone differently, so I’ve had to learn what my specific symptoms and triggers are, and how I can avoid them or lessen their impact.
I just know that going to the gym would floor me for a week, but a slow walk around the park, or around the supermarket - that’s a lot more manageable.
I also know that using a lot of mental or emotional energy can drain me too, so I try to plan out my week accordingly.
Find safe and supportive online spaces
It’s very easy to get stuck in a loop of comparing yourself to others, especially when it seems like they’re living their best lives on social media.
For a while, I was quite bitter, because it seemed like my friends were having a great time. They were well while I was stuck inside, sick and unable to join them in what they were getting up to.
I’ve found some online groups, which has been really helpful for me to share my frustrations, learn from others, and also meet people who are going through the same thing.
Be honest about how you’re coping
When I first realised I had long Covid, I found it really difficult to talk about. I tried to put on a brave face, smile, and pretend like everything was back to normal. I was putting pressure on myself to seem “OK”, which I actually think made me more unwell.
But a few months in, I decided to be more honest about how I was doing. It’s been such a relief to just present things as they are, and to lift that burden off of myself.
In being honest about my health and where I’m at, I’ve had some really hurtful comments from people who either don’t care or they don’t really understand. Things like: ‘you can’t still be sick after this long’, ‘I had Covid and I was fine’, and ‘cheer up, other people have it much worse!’
I’m so thankful for the friends who listened, who empathise, who are still with me as I’m going through this.
I want to prioritise these friendships and treasure the people who love me - not for what I do or for how much I can achieve - but for who I am.
If you’re living with a chronic illness, I would encourage you to do the same - find those good friends and keep them close.
And if you know someone who’s going through something like this, maybe you could be that friend.