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4 Ways People With Chronic Illness Can Rest Without Feeling Lazy

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I was exhausted. Drained of my last reserves. But I still couldn’t rest.

I was leaving in the morning for a trip to Maryland to see my family and there was still too much left to do. It was already 8 p.m. I hadn’t even started to pack.

My stress levels were high and I was afraid my Meniere’s disease symptoms would flare up during the trip. My tinnitus was blaring much louder than usual… a bad sign.

I wasn’t able to relax until the plane was in the air.

Fast-forward five days and I’m back from what actually ended up being a wonderful trip. I had a great time and got to spend some quality time with my family.

I also feel like my batteries are finally recharged, which is kind of strange because it wasn’t really a relaxing trip in the truest sense of the word. We walked a lot, went out to eat several times, and even went hiking one morning. I pushed myself too hard on more than one occasion and it took a delicate balancing act to keep myself feeling well enough to have a good time.

But disconnecting from my daily routine and responsibilities worked wonders on my stress levels. I really enjoyed myself and was mentally present the entire time.

And it got me thinking. When I’m having a bad day, it’s always so hard to just let myself rest. I always feel so lazy and useless, even when I know deep down it’s what I need to feel better.

But there are times when I am able to fully disengage and not feel an ounce of laziness. I never feel guilty about resting when I’m on a trip or vacation.

As I flew home, it dawned on me that the best way to rest and not feel lazy just might be to practice the principals of a good vacation.

There’s a reason people love to travel: It feels amazing to disconnect from your regularly scheduled life for a short while and go on an adventure.

Obviously, laying in bed and watching Netflix when your chronic illness has made you too sick to do anything else is no vacation. But when you look closely at the essence of travel, there are important takeaways that just might help you get the rest you need.

Ultimately, adopting a vacation mindset boils down to four key elements: a change in routine, disconnecting from your responsibilities, having something to look forward to, and self-pampering.

1. Change something.

I believe the first step in cultivating a vacation mindset is to change something in my environment.

I’ve found that it’s always so much easier to relax when I’m in a situation that feels like I’m supposed to be relaxing. We normally feel this on trips, but I can recreate the feeling whenever you need to rest. All I have to do is deviate a little bit from my routine.

It can be as simple as spending time in a different part of the house. For example, if you normally lay in bed when you don’t feel well, lay on the couch instead, or vice versa. Take a few minutes to create a relaxing space that is different from your normal routine. Going outside can help too. 

If possible, you can even make arrangements to stay with a close friend or relative, or at a hotel if affordable. A complete change in scenery can bring on a vacation mindset much faster. 

2. Disengage from responsibility.

Before I left for my trip, I had a lot of loose ends to tie up. I wanted to get as much of my work and responsibilities taken care of as possible so I wouldn’t have to worry about them while I was gone.

I wasn’t able to get to everything. But I was able to get to most of the things that mattered, and I had at least addressed everything else, closing every one of my open tasks, one way or another.

When I have unfinished tasks and unaddressed problems looming over me the whole time, I constantly find myself struggling to relax.

To be clear, I don’t think you have to finish everything for this to work. But I think you do need to address each item on your to-do list. If any of your tasks or responsibilities will only take a couple of minutes to finish, I recommend getting them out of the way whenever possible. For everything else, notify any relevant people that you aren’t feeling well and will be taking time off to rest.

Once I’ve addressed all of my responsibilities, I’m able to get the rest I need without second-guessing how I’m spending my time.

3. Have something to look forward to.

When I have a vacation planned out, the excitement and anticipation can be as enjoyable as the trip itself. It gives me something to look forward to, enhancing the days leading up to it. It makes the whole experience that much more special.

I know that there is nothing special or exciting about being too sick to do anything else, but this principal can make bad days more bearable.

I found the best way to do this is to have something I really enjoy ready to go at all times. Maybe it’s a great TV show that I’ve been waiting to watch, or a new movie or documentary. Maybe it’s an exciting new book or audio book. The more excited I am to see, watch, read or hear it, the better off I will be when it’s time to rest.

Purposefully enjoying something I have been waiting for is so much easier to do, without feeling lazy, than mindlessly watching TV, or something similar.

4. Pamper yourself.

Most people like to have a good time on vacation and will indulge in the things that make them feel good. Whether that means staying at a nice hotel, getting a massage, eating an extra dessert, or drinking a margarita or two, everyone likes to pamper themselves when they travel.

We can apply this same thinking to our most difficult days. I may not be able to control the fact that I’m too sick to do anything other than rest, but surrounding that non-choice are a thousand other choices that I can make. On our worst days, we can choose to prioritize self care over everything else.

I’ll give a few examples: Drink more water. Get extra sleep, and if you feel tired, take a nap. Feeling hungry? Have a snack, or if you feel so inclined, some comfort food. Enjoy a nice hot shower or a bath.

Also remember that there are things that you can choose to do to feel better. You can meditate or practice gratitude, or engage with intellectually stimulating content, like a documentary. You can also occupy yourself with a relaxing hobby like painting or knitting.

I may feel terrible, but I can have a more enjoyable and relaxing day if I take the time to pamper myself more than I normally would.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Resting is not laziness, it’s medicine, and it doesn’t have to taste bitter going down.

When you live with a chronic illness, there will always be difficult days. It’s a part of the deal and when they happen, it can be difficult to just let yourself rest without feeling lazy or guilty.

But I think this subtle shift in perspective changes the game altogether. Resting becomes something you’ve planned for, a chance to let go of responsibilities and enjoy specific shows or movies you’ve been waiting to see. An opportunity to pamper yourself in a way that you normally may not have time for.

Resting doesn’t have to be difficult or a struggle, but rather something positive, and a chance to heal yourself at the deepest levels.

Follow this journey on Mind Over Meniere’s.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s the hardest thing you deal with as someone with a chronic illness, and how do you face this? What advice and words of support would you offer someone facing the same thing? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: May 4, 2016
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