(No, it’s not what you’re thinking.) I am currently recovering from a sinus infection- and taking the first antibiotics I’ve had to take in over four years.

I used to be the queen of sinus infections, colds, bronchitis, I even got pneumonia twice in elementary school. Sure, I had a bad immune system as a kid, but even as an adult, I couldn’t get through the winter without going to the doctor several times. What changed?

Four years ago, I got the worst sinus infection I had ever had. I had been diagnosed with chronic Eustachian tube dysfunction about a year prior to this infection, and without going into too much detail, the stuff in my head just… wasn’t going anywhere. Anyway, after a month of trying different antibiotics and having that ugly word, “surgery” looming over my head, a combination of an obscure antibiotic and several other medications eventually worked.

There were many lessons that I could have garnered from this experience. What it led me to, personally, was the resolve to rest at the first sign of illness. As I told myself, had a medical excuse. My boss, who had witnessed the whole sinus infection saga, understood. But more importantly, I started to wonder, why aren’t we ALL encouraged to stay home every time we’re sick? Why don’t we ALL have a medical excuse for taking care of our bodies? Why did it take a more serious diagnosis before I felt comfortable staying home?

Each and every one of us ALWAYS deserves to treat our bodies well. First off, our bodies are often the best medicine. I realized firsthand that this was true when I started listening to mine, feeding it the right stuff, and resting to let it do what it was supposed to do: heal me. And wouldn’t you know, that almost always works really well? Not to mention it can save a lot of money in doctor’s bills.

Then there’s the fact that we can be more productive if we let ourselves rest. Rather than missing a full week of work because our slight head cold turned into something more serious, we can just miss a day or two, then come back revitalized.

And finally, we won’t infect others if we stay at home. That means more productivity in the long-term, instead of having an illness spread from one person to the other. Not to mention, less people getting serious infections means less people taking antibiotics, which means less antibiotic resistance.

I’m not blaming the work force, or those who are ill, and I’m certainly not blaming doctors (bless them, they tried to tell me this for years.) I think we simply have a culture nowadays that doesn’t know how to slow down and let our bodies work their own magic. All too often, sick days are discouraged, if not openly in the workplace, then within our culture as a whole. There’s a certain “brave aura” to working steadfastly through an illness, but when that illness is a minor infection, it just strikes me as a little silly.

Moms have it especially hard. Working mothers have to split their sick days between themselves and their children. Stay-at-home moms don’t get sick days, period.

We also live in a culture that focuses on sickness, not wellness. Insurance won’t even cover most appointments and procedures without a diagnosis, which means that we have by necessity stopped looking at our bodies as a whole, beautiful, interconnected system, a system that was made to heal itself in many ways, if treated correctly. Instead we look at parts and pieces and point fingers at causes which are so often secondary and temporary. I had a doctor just last year stretch the truth a bit on a test that I needed for very valid reasons, just to ensure that it was covered.

What all of this boils down to is that we as a culture have very little incentive to respect the natural healing functions our bodies provide. But we need to. Being kind to our bodies and letting them do their thing isn’t just necessary; it is rewarding and amazing to experience and oh so beautiful. Now I’ll admit, it’s not a cure-all (that darn tube in my ear still isn’t working right- more on that later), but if you are the “just work through it” type, or if you are working in a culture that is, I challenge you to be brave the next time you come down with an illness and stand up for your own health. Give your body the rest, fluids, and nutrients it needs to function optimally. And on that note, I’m going to get some rest.