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4 Ways to Boost Morale During a Hospital Stay

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I have had Crohn’s disease for around 15 years, and in 2014 I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Needless to say, I have spent a fair amount of time in and out of hospitals. Being in hospitals or being bedridden becomes very boring, very quickly. Below are some things that helped me during hospital stays and can hopefully give you ideas on how to make a stressful time slightly less so.

1. Contraband Snacks

Hospital food is awful. I am not entirely sure who would create such an awful menu, but the only day I was ever excited by hospital food was Sunday, also known as bacon day. The day when two strips of bacon were added to the dry toast, creamed wheat and one boiled egg. Friends and family would always ask if there was anything I needed, and I took this up in the form of contraband snacks. Obviously, I was unwell, so I didn’t go too crazy, but fruit punch and dill pickle rice crisps were my salvation. Every once in a while, I would also ask for fresh fruit, making sure it was well-washed beforehand. It got to the point where I would dream about roasted veggies or any food that wasn’t mushy or brown.

2. Netflix and Chill (the slightly less fun version)

When I got sick in 2014, my friends chipped in and bought me an iPad (other electronic devices are also available). If you don’t own one, try and borrow from a friend or family member if possible. I had an awful attention span, but found that short episodes of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” were exactly what my drugged-up brain could handle. I also got slightly addicted to YouTube. Shout out to danisnotonfire and AmazingPhil for keeping me entertained and being way more awkward human beings than me. It made me feel a bit more connected when I was overwhelmed or stressing out over things out of my control. Even now, if I am having an off day, I will throw on one of these videos to calm me down, and remind myself of how far I’ve come in the last two years.

3. Hospital Bingo

This one was inspired by a friend who had read “Super Better” by Jane McGonigal, which espouses the method of turning daily tasks into achievements. Create a little challenge sheet for yourself, and try and accomplish as many tasks as possible. It can be hard to motivate yourself to continue with self-care when you are in the hospital, and I would use this method to trick my competitive side into taking over. A few examples of ones I would use are: do five laps of the ward, visit the cafeteria, call/Skype someone for a chat (this would force me to reach out, even on bad days), etc. Try and give yourself a few easy victories and at least one challenging task.

4. Find Some Creative Output

For me, it was writing in a journal. I would switch between personal entries, embarrassingly angsty poems and silly stories. I have also tried coloring books, Sudoku, puzzles, crosswords, etc. Just find something that is a positive distraction with low physical stress. If none of those work for you, audiobooks can also be a great low effort option for days when you just need rest. I found it helpful to engage my mind and focus on something more than just being sick.

Hospital stays and days in bed are an inevitable part of most illnesses/conditions. It can be easy to fall into a rut and bad headspace when you are ill and unable to participate fully in life. From personal experience, I have found that keeping myself engaged and challenged, no matter how small the task, has helped my recovery and helped me to stay connected when it feels like I am alone in my illness. Who knows – if I have to stay in the hospital again I may just release my book of angst-filled poetry. Or not.

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Thinkstock photo via shironosov.

Originally published: March 2, 2017
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