This post was originally publish on March 13, 2018 and updated on October 8, 2019.
In the beginning of your illness you may have been just trying to survive each day, while simultaneously trying to tackle as much as possible to keep life normal. Eventually you reached a point where acceptance settled in, specifically an acceptance that pacing is absolutely vital to feeling as well as possible with chronic illness, most especially Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (MECFS). For many of us pacing includes a large portion of our day either in bed or on the couch. For instance, I probably spend approximately 23+ hours in bed on the average day. At some point you’ve likely watched all the TV you could imagine, as well as done enough research on your illness to obtain a specialty medical degree. It’s at that point you start reaching outside of what you know to keep yourself sane. For many of us this idle time is also spent in a fog, so finding mellow, quiet, easier tasks is essential. The following list includes a variety of tasks, but if you have any more I’d love to hear about them in the comments below:
- Books and Podcasts – Yes, I’m stating the obvious. But did you know in the US you can check out eBooks and audio books through your library online? My library has a great selection of free resources, including magazines, research materials, news materials, classes, genealogy information, foreign languages and legal information. Pretty cool, huh?
- Spring clean your computer or phone – Have you stopped to think about your computer or phone lately? Are things a little cluttered or difficult to locate? No time like the present to clean things up a little. For those of us who cannot clean as we once did, it’s kind of nice to feel that sense of accomplishment that comes after cleaning, even if it’s simply your computer or phone apps.
- Actual hand-written letters – A lost art. Who doesn’t love to receive a letter amongst the bills and junk mail? What a lovely surprise for the recipient. And you know what they say it’s better to give than to receive. Share the love!
- Paint, color, or draw – You don’t need a bunch of fancy supplies to pick up a pencil and draw some sketches. Coloring could be as simple as a coloring book and some crayons. Painting might require a few more supplies but you can order them all online and they really can be very affordable. Art therapy has been a big part of my chronic illness life and I highly recommend it. Crochet got to be a little expensive for me, but watercolor on the other hand is more affordable. The paints seem to last forever, paper isn’t too expensive and everything can be easily ordered on Amazon. You don’t have to be talented. You aren’t showing your work at the Guggenheim! You’re just having fun, being creative, being silly, learning, maybe even learning to laugh at/with yourself.😊
- Card making – Again, you can buy supplies online and the sky’s the limit here. There are so many different techniques and YouTube will gladly guide you through about a billion of them. I have watercolor cardstock and use it here and there for sending cards. It’s fun and personalized. And again, who doesn’t love receiving a card?
- Jewelry making – Not one I’ve done but looks fun and so beautiful. Jewelry is something you could sell online so this could pay for itself, as could many other crafts. A lot of chronic illness people have really cool Etsy stores that they run from their beds.
- Yoga – If you are thinking ya right?! I was too when I first fell ill. I had been doing yoga daily right up to the day before I fell ill, and it didn’t take long for me to miss it terribly. Let me share a little secret with you that I learned on IG by following this lovely lady, you can do yoga in bed AND you don’t have to do the whole routine. You can do a few stretches or maybe only one and that still counts. So, all you over-achievers out there, myself included, can breathe a big sigh of relief and stretch a little.😉 Namaste 🧘🏻♀️
- Choose a sport that interests you and watch it online – Have you ever watched golf? It’s quiet and there’s not a lot of movement, but it’s also fun to watch! The announcers whisper, which is so lovely when you have CFS and there’s no running, so the panning is pretty steady. I read that the ideal way to take up watching a sport is to study all the rules so you really know what’s going on during the game. This could actually be fun if watching sports is your thing.
- Play games – This could be done on your phone, your computer, your game console, or even with a deck of cards. Not only is the stimulation good for your brain but it’s good to interact with others and feel that sense of completion when you win. Sounds silly I know but I watched a documentary about a group of nuns who were studied against the general public. Several of the nun’s brain scans showed advanced dementia but they showed no outward signs. Researchers contributed it to their daily play of scrabble and interaction. The researchers said the brain learns new pathways and uses those to carry information. So, if you are feeling like games are child’s play, maybe they are, but they are also exercising your brain which will serve you for the rest of your life.
- College online – We live in a day and age where you could take almost any class online. How cool is that!? Someday I hope I’m able to go back to school to be a certified licensed marriage and family therapist and I’m glad to know that when I’m able, I could potentially choose to do this online.
- Learn a new skill or language – Have you checked out tutorials on YouTube? I’m pretty sure anything you would like to learn the basics of can be found online for free. I used YouTube to teach myself how to crochet (well to follow along with basic beginner videos…I never actually retained a whole lot) and it was pretty fun!
- Crochet or knit – These two crafts seem pretty common in the chronic illness community, but I thought I’d list them just in case. Most supplies you’ll need can be ordered online. The necessary materials will be included at the beginning of the videos or patterns so before you order make sure you check out the instructions (learned this the hard way). For those of you with MECFS or brain fog, make sure and pick up some stitch markers (small devices used to track or hold your place as these crafts are dependent on stitch counts). These will save you a lot of time in the long run!
- Write – The possibilities are endless here. You could write poetry, a story, a comic, a blog, really anything, you could literally write anything. If you haven’t tried this one you may be surprised at what comes pouring out of you once you put the pen to paper or fingertips to the keys. Give it a shot! It can be incredibly therapeutic.
- Journal – Journaling is a pretty popular hobby amongst the chronic illness coumminity. Some people chart their illnesses, others use it as a diary and others talk about bullet journaling. I’m not going to pretend I know what that is, I don’t. BUT I hear it’s super cool, so if you’re into journaling check it out!
- Funny videos – If you’re having a particularly rough day, look up funny videos. Seriously, you’ll thank me. Smiling actually tricks your brain into thinking you’re happy. Mind you, some people have quirky senses of humor so this may go better for you if you give google a little direction. Instead of Funny videos, maybe Funny ‘puppy’ videos.
- Create a social media account for a hobby or interest – For instance, if there’s something in particular you’re able to photograph frequently like a pet or flowers or even pretty pictures you find online, start an IG account specifically for that and connect with others who have the same interest. Using hashtags and searching hashtags to connect is very helpful. For instance, if you are posting a cat, look up #cat and then look and see what other hashtags people are using. You can then follow those people and use the same hashtags to increase your followers
(my son taught me this because I’m about a 1,000 years old 😉 ). You never know, you may find yourself amongst a group of really cool like-minded people from around the world.
- Music – Create a few playlists. Maybe motivational or cheer-me-up lists. Once you’ve completed your lists head over to number 18.
- Sing – Sing? Yes, sing! Everyone loves to sing, right? Maybe you want to wait until everyone has stepped out and then put on your favorite song and let it rip. You might not have the energy to sing loudly, or maybe even finish the song, or maybe you just want to hum, but give it try, you might be pleasantly surprised. Studies show it’s actually curative.
- Origami – I don’t know about you but I find this art beautiful! I’ve never tried it, unless the folded-paper game from elementary school counts😁, but I have to imagine it’d be fun, challenging and you could order all the supplies online.
- Genealogy – The cool thing about genealogy research is that there is a wide amount of information to be found online for free these days, and it applies to your particular family. My son and I did DNA tests for fun and I decided to try out the ‘Tree’ section on the app. Luckily for me a distant relative created an enormous data base up one side of my family tree so I had an awesome jumping off point. You may be thinking…boring, but it’s actually been fun. If you do it via Ancestry.com the little green leaf hints they add as you go along become fun to pursue! Ancestry does charge for more in-depth info but I’ve been able to find as much as I need so far for free. I only work on it for a few moments at a time or my mind turns into mush, but it’s been a fun distraction during moments when I need to forget I’m sick. I’ve gotten back as far as the 1,600’s on some lines and learned my lines lead primarily to the British isles with lesser amounts to Switzerland and other places in Europe, and not to Germany and Italy as I’d been told my whole life. A couple of the neatest aspects of tracing your geneology are that it’s an ongoing project, since the people have long since gone, there’s no rush, and in the end you end up with something personal to you, that you could potentially pass down.
If you have any activities you’d like to share in the comments, go ahead! I know there are about a million other things people do to not only feel a part of a society outside their homes, but also to feel like they are participating in their own lives. It’s about finding your thing. Everyone has a thing. I would like to add one more activity for those moments when you cannot move, when your breathing feels like entirely too much energy but you need to escape that headspace. It’s during that time when I count my blessings. I silently sift through all the goodness in my life, from the softness of my pillow, to the roof over my head, and folks, it helps.
So as I said, everyone has a thing, mine is watercoloring purely for the fun of it; here are a few more from the past week. Update: Since this is a repost of a previous blog, I’m also adding my most current watercolors from the last week (I’m following along with Inktober for October so that’s why they all have ink outlines).