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25 Ways to Pass the Time When Illness Is Keeping You in Bed

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Being stuck in bed with chronic pain or a chronic illness is no fun at all, but there are things you can do to keep yourself busy and to continue living your life to the fullest so you don’t shut down. Here are some of them…

1. Social media. It keeps me involved with the outside world. I can feel so disconnected in bed – it feels like everyone else’s lives keep going and I am stuck in my one place. Being able to see what is happening on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or news websites makes me feel like I am still out there in the world, sharing my life with my friends and seeing what they are doing. It’s a portal to a world I don’t feel part of a lot of the time now. Sometimes it can be sad because I see things I used to be able to do that I know I will never be able to do again, but it’s also therapeutic because I make peace with it mentally as I see it and think about it and accept it. But most of the time it’s my way of communicating with friends old and new, and it has really surprised me seeing which friends have reached out and shown me support on social media (and which ones haven’t!). I have made newer, closer friendships with people I never thought I would. It’s been very humbling. And I have had people reach out to me and share their story with me because they know what I have been through. They have asked me questions and for my advice on medical issues as they know of the hell I have been through. It’s made me feel great to be able to help them in their journey, because I know how much others helped me in my journey.

2. Writing my stories. I love to write. I will write stories, books for my kids, anything. But I think the lesson here is, no matter what you’re good at or what you love doing, keep doing it while you’re stuck in bed. Find a way. You must keep a light on in your soul, and you must keep that passion going and your flame burning. Even if you’re stuck in bed, don’t lose your identity or what makes you, you. It’s so easy to forget who you are or what your purpose is in life when you have to fight for your life every day, and just fighting through pain becomes your number one day job. Have a purpose; have something to look forward to that you can still do from your bed.

3. Coloring. My neighbor bought me an adult coloring book with a pack of colored pencils two years ago when I had my first major spine surgery. I absolutely loved it! My days in bed seem to last a lifetime and this was a way to take my mind off everything, focus, concentrate on my coloring and be in that exact moment where nothing else matters except coloring! It helped me mentally to focus on coloring within the lines, and it also ended up being something I had all the kids sitting on my bed doing with me. I still use it to calm myself and as a relaxing technique.

4. Watching funny movies/TV series. This is my absolutely my favorite thing to do when I might be a bit down or sad. Whether it’s Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell or Steve Carell, they will all have me laughing hard. Laughter is the best medicine! I also love to watch positive shows like Ellen or Dr. Phil where I can also learn new things. I love relationship shows, dating shows, marriage shows and a lot of binge-worthy dramas! It’s easy to watch a whole season in one day, and if I was working and living a busy lifestyle I would never get to do that. That makes me feel special and realize that this life of being stuck in bed can sometimes actually be a privilege others would kill for!

5. I invite friends over for coffee. They make me laugh and will sit on my bed, ask me how I am, tell me all about their days and what’s going on outside my bedroom walls. It’s always nice to see my good friends – a little sad that it has to be in this situation, as we used to live life to the fullest together, always out and about any time of the day – but now they need to visit me in bed to see me. However, it always cheers me up and I love them even more for making the effort to visit me.

6. My golden Labrador. He loves to lay next to me on my bed and he rolls around and lays his head on my legs and shows me so much love. Dogs are just such great therapy for anyone. He calms me, he is so nice to pat, he makes me laugh and makes me love him so much more. I talk to him and he looks at me like he listens and understands every word, then he rolls over upside down on his back with his legs in the air and waits for me to rub his belly. He is a great time-waster!

7. Set goals for the future. I played sports for my country when I was younger and setting goals was something we did on a regular basis. I still do this every year. But I find that when I am stuck in bed, setting goals for the next three months, six months, and 12 months really helps me look to the future in a positive way. I can then set a plan of how I will achieve those goals, and that gives me something to work on every day, instead of feeling like I have nothing to do that day.

8. Do online courses from my bed. I have recently enrolled in three small online courses. I have chosen courses that I am interested in so I enjoy doing them and it’s not a boring chore. I have also chosen online courses that don’t have an end date so I can do them whenever I have the time and I am not pressured into finishing the course by a certain date. As we all know, pain or issues can strike us down at any time and you need to pick courses that are flexible to your needs. I can’t work right now, or any time in the near future, so a good way of still growing and improving my educational development is to complete some online courses which I can do from my bed, when it suits me. There are some great courses online and you can also do international courses which give you diplomas and more.

9. Read other people’s stories of what they are going through. I can feel very alone going through this journey, so it really helps me to Google my condition, educate myself on it and learn the best ways to recover. I have also found websites and forums where I have been able to connect with others going through the same thing and we can swap stories and both learn more about the process and how we deal with it all. I love hearing other people’s stories of what they have gone through – it inspires me, it makes me sad, I cry tears of happiness, I can relate and it makes me feel like I’m not alone. There are plenty of people out there who go through a similar thing to me every day, and knowing that really does help.

10. One thing I love to do is shop! So being stuck in bed, it’s how I treat myself. Whether it’s doing the food shopping online to have it delivered by Coles or Woolworths, or seeing something on special that is cheap and buying it for myself or for a family member for their birthday, it’s fun. And fun is something you have very little of when you’re in bed and can’t leave your house all the time. Do things that give you a high. Do things that excite you and make you smile and feel good.

11. I sleep a lot and nap a lot to pass time. I remember how busy and exhausted I used to be all the time and how all I wanted was to lay in bed all day and sleep and watch TV! Well now I have that chance. I’m “living the dream,” so why not? But seriously, getting well again requires your body to be working all the time, even laying in bed, so you must rest, sleep and nap whenever possible to help give your body the energy it needs to get you back on your feet. Pain takes it out of you; rest and keep your body well-rested.

12. Personal upkeep. I shave my legs laying down in my bed (with a towel under me!) because I can’t bend over. I paint my fingernails a different color every few days (I can’t reach my toenails though!) and I put makeup on (or try new makeup looks because hey, you can’t go outside so no one is going to see it if you fail and make yourself look hideous!). I tweeze my eyebrows, I wax anything I can reach or that shows, I curl my lashes, straighten my hair, wear perfume to smell great – looking good makes you feel good, and it’s a huge mood booster. It’s really important for your mental health – I find that if I look good and smell good, I will feel good.

13. Get a hairdresser to visit your home, dye your hair, wash it out in the shower and give you a haircut. Keep up with your personal grooming – don’t let that slide!

14. Wear red lipstick! Even if I am staying in bed for the whole day I still get made up and put red lipstick on (on my good days!). The mental health benefit of wearing red lipstick is that it makes me feel feminine and like I’m ready to go out on the town!

15. Have movie nights with your spouse. Put a blanket down on the bed, get take-out and have a bed picnic! Get your partner to put the kids to bed, light candles, turn the lights out, snuggle, watch a movie together, get close, spend quality time together. When I am sick in bed like this for so long, we have to work around my crazy sleep patterns, we have to work around our five kids, we have to work around my husband’s long work hours…and all of this means I hardly see my husband. So when we do see each other, we both want it to be quality time together. This could mean turning off the TV, putting our phones down and being tuned into each other and living in the moment.

16. Catch up with your spouse. We make it a rule that when my husband gets home from work every day, he sits next to me on the bed and we spend five or 10 minutes catching up on the day. I spend all day lying in bed by myself, then my mum drops the kids home after school and they spend time sitting on my bed chatting to me and doing their homework on my bed. I crave time with my husband all day and can’t wait for him to get home, but when he gets home he may be stressed from work and want his own time to relax. However, we make sure the five or 10 minutes of time together happens when he gets home. This way I get my husband fix that I have been waiting all day for and we get to spend precious minutes together, which makes us both feel better and reconnects our relationship for the day.

17. I come up with new jobs that the kids can do around the house.

18. I make up a menu board for the weekend which the kids can use as a reference. It sits on the dining table and they absolutely love seeing what meals they have planned for the weekend!

19. I plan out the week’s family meals and work out how best we can save money on our shopping list.

20. I pay bills online. While my husband is hard at work during the day, I get these things done via online banking so he doesn’t have to worry about it.

21. I pick simple fresh, healthy meals which are easy to cook so I don’t have to be on my feet for long. One pan dinners, slow cooker meals, making sure there is plenty of fruit out for the kids to help themselves to and plenty of healthy snacks in the kitchen for everyone. I plan easy meals, give my two oldest kids the recipes and they make dinner together for the whole family. We use the dishwasher too which helps a lot.

22. Maintain my bedroom. Being stuck in a bedroom for months on end is depressing enough as is, so I will do little things like lighting candles and putting them on my bench tops, keeping the room clean and vacuumed, using nice smelling plug-in scents, putting some flowers in there, keeping my bed sheets washed and clean (I am the one who spends 24 hours a day in them!) and keeping a small bin in my bedroom to keep rubbish off my bedside table. One thing I always make sure I have is a bottle of water next to my bed, as I never know when I will be struck down in a horrible world of pain next and will need to grab water and down my pain meds as quickly as possible. Next to the bed is also a good spot to  keep moisturizer, mints, lip balm, bandages and medications, chargers or whatever you need to make your life easier.

23. Prepare for future surgeries. When I knew I was going to have to spend three months in bed after my next major surgery, I had time to prepare. I organized for a new fan above our bed with a light in it and a remote control. I keep the remote control next to my bed and I can control the lights and fan laying down, without having to get up and move in pain to change it. This has been a huge help.

24. Schedule home delivery or maintenance. Shopping, foods, household items and take-out are worth their weight in gold when you are stuck in bed and can’t move. Hire a cleaner for those weeks you are in bed (even if it’s just fortnightly or monthly) as it will make you feel so much better mentally. Hire a gardener to mow your lawns and a pool guy to maintain your pool. Rely on those services to help you so you don’t get stressed with what you can’t do. Or if you can’t afford to hire people, ask your friends or family to chip in and help do it for you to help you.

25. Read a lot of self-help books. Just because you are stuck in bed doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep growing personally. I love Dr. Phil. I watch his show and love reading his books, but I will read anything that involves self-help. It improves my mindset, especially when it’s heading into a negative or depressed state. It reminds me to stay on track with my thoughts mentally, to stay positive and it distracts me from going into negative thoughts or worrying about my future and what it holds.

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Thinkstock photo via jacoblund.

Originally published: March 31, 2017
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