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6 Tips to Survive Being Stuck in Bed With Chronic Illness


You may be stuck in bed for a time, often or for what feels like forever. You may have a whirlwind of frustrations given all the activities you currently can’t do. I know because I’m stuck in bed at the moment and I have them too.

Friends who think a bad cold is the end of the world are very confused when I tell them I had a good/productive/busy day in bed. In fact, one or two have had a serious “talk” with me about denial. I don’t deny that my current situation is definitely rubbish. Yet, I have developed a solid survival strategy I wanted to share with you here.

So, to anyone else dealing with being stuck in bed right now, this is my guide to having a good day anyway; to my able-bodied friends — here’s how.

1. A “to-do” that’s perfect for you.  

Focus on what you can do according to your limitations today, that way you are setting yourself up to feel accomplished. Prioritize scheduling hydration, nutrition and a tasty treat. I need to supplement with protein, so when I have a chocolate flavored smoothie that’s all 3 in 1, right?

To mirror an average day outside of bed, you need to include work, rest and play on your to-do list. On my list today is completing an online course and a freelance writing piece. By the evening, cozying up with a film or vegetating on social media will feel earned.

2. Time to feel all the feelings.     

Acknowledging your feelings is helpful, and more often than not you are going to have to do this on your own. Setting some limits is important to avoid getting sucked into a vortex of negativity. For this one, I’m a strong believer in getting it all out on a page. Expressing your feelings on paper, then folding them away in a drawer is like finally expelling a taunting sneeze. Try a diary entry, a raging letter you never sent or writing bad poetry like me. Then give yourself a hug. Did you know hugging yourself releases oxytocin and reduces cortisol? These effects can make you feel softer and calmer.

3. Your mind is a palace.   

Include in your to-do list activities that nurture your mind. What is the one thing you can do without moving at all? Meditation — the answer to almost every problem and never wasted time. There are so many ways to achieve this one, so why not take some time finding out what works for you. I’m currently experimenting with some Om meditation on top of my daily staple, the Headspace app.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed and have a good day in bed, you will have to learn to compartmentalize. This is a strategy I use to protect my other projects from endless health admin. Instead, I file it in a room in my mind palace and go there only when necessary, like before an appointment. Then, I shut the door to that room and pick something else from my list.

4. Guard your mind palace.   

Be mindful to apply the same rules to virtual chatter that you would to real life. A jostling crowd stands around your bed, panicking, catastrophizing and telling you the awful things that happened to them. Sounds stressful, doesn’t it? In a sense, this is what is happening when you spend all day reading these types of comments on the internet.

The Mighty curates a space to support and empower where other places on the internet may not. So be mindful what you spend your time reading on the internet.

5. District, distract, distract! 

Having trouble with compartmentalizing or feeling overwhelmed today? Try distracting yourself with something you enjoy. I’ve gone old-school and actually use the phone icon on my phone. I’d rather that than friends come to me for ‘an audience with Carla.’ My computer with its window to the world sits on my lap. The two books I’m reading, my collage materials, my kindle, newspapers, are all fanned out on my duvet.

If you love learning like me, online courses and podcasts are your friend. I welcome you to join the “Church of Wittertainment.” (This will make sense when you listen to Kermode and Mayo’s BBC film review podcast.) So now you can combine podcasting with being a film buff- multiple distractions!

6. Micro-gratitude.   

I admit I’ve been late getting on the gratitude bandwagon. Put off by its potential for triteness while worrying my gratitude list wouldn’t be grand enough. But the science is overwhelming; you can’t be both grateful and irritated at the same time.

So, I adopted what I call ‘micro-gratitude.’ Before sleep, I count on my fingers 10 small things that I am grateful for from that day only. It was hard at first, but it is coming quicker as my mind learns to register things that I’m grateful for as they happen. And I’m sure I sleep better for it.

If what you manage today is keeping hydrated and seeking support on The Mighty, then write that down and tick it off. You have accomplished something!

Photo credit: tommaso79/Getty Images