When you are first diagnosed with a chronic illness, you don't expect boredom to sneak up on you so intensely – but it does. The things that that you like doing are not often feasible anymore, and you need ample rest. But doing something like watching TV will only entertain you for so long – you need MORE from your life, and certain hobbies and activities can give you that.
So, if you need a sign from the universe, here it is: STOP.
PUT. THAT. CONTROL. DOWN.
The best way to deal with boredom when you have a chronic illness is to practice hobbies or activities that allow for skill development while being less physically and emotionally strenuous.
Here's what I have tried and personally recommend.
25 Hobbies & Activities For People with a Chronic Illness
As I’m sure you’ve already realised – you can’t get rid of boredom by just keeping “busy”. It's possible to be extremely busy with a full-time job and still be bored out of your mind.
Motivation, inspiration and productivity and are all fundamentals of feeling fulfilled. And you can achieve this from home.
Do hair, makeup and nails – earn some $$$
If you are a classic girl's girl, then this is perfect because you have more time to practice things like hair, makeup, and nails or maybe even do a couple of short courses to build your skills.
Besides always looking gorgeous yourself, it's a great way to earn some extra money by helping out people in your neighbourhood. You can easily become the go-to person for proms, dances, birthdays and other smaller events for ladies who want to look good without spending a fortune.
Coach a kids sports team and feel so rewarded
Just because it might be harder to get up and play a sport yourself, it doesn't mean you need to be benched! Schools and children's leagues are always looking for good coaches to help grow their teams and make their sport fun.
So if you love kids and are passionate about a sport, this is one of the most rewarding things you can do, especially when you see how much of a difference you can make in the young lives around you.
Try your hand at investing without losing money
Before you clutch onto your wallet – relax. You don't need any money at all to give this activity a go. Today there are many apps and programmes that teach you proper investment trading in simulated environments that use real stock data.
Once you feel comfortable with these programmes, you can always raise the steaks and trade real money. This can be fun, especially when you make it a group activity and do it with friends or family.
Draw and paint – you don't need to be Picasso
Seriously, you don't have to be an artist! Drawing, painting or even colouring in is about finding peace in a creative activity.
If you're not keen to draw, then studies show colouring in is the best option. Here's why:
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Helps build your focus
- Enhances motor skills and coordination
- Relaxes your brain
- Takes attention away from yourself
Have a movie marathon (make an event of it)
I'm sure this is the standard go-to when your health has you feeling drained. But now and then, you can take it a step further and try to make an event of it.
Get some popcorn, chocolates and a massive cosy blanket. You can even do a multi-screen viewing with any of your friends who want to join in!
Have regular self-love days
Medication can have all sorts of effects on our skin, nails and hair. And although grooming may seem superficial – feeling good about yourself is not.
Once a week, you can extend bath time by doing a home facial, hair mask, painting your nails – whatever you like. It’s about going that extra mile to let yourself feel amazing.
And if you're looking for some inspiration, I've got some awesome self-love ideas in this article: Feeling Beautiful When You're Chronically Ill
Do some indoor gardening – outdoor stuff is exhausting
A big garden is exhausting to maintain when you don't feel well. All the bending, digging and chopping hurts my back just thinking about it! This is one of the reasons I'm an advocate for small, indoor gardens that need little work for a big reward.
Whether it’s with a set of herbs on your kitchen window ledge, a big pot of succulents or even a bonsai tree, plants need some attention from you, and in return, they’ll bring life to your home.
It's a nice way to adjust an energy-draining hobby into something chronic pain friendly.
Pick up a new skill and build a purpose
Think about how your chronic illness affects your life and what you wish you knew how to do to better it.
Maybe it's bettering your writing skills so you can start a blog? Or maybe you want to work on nutrition and diet to alleviate certain symptoms?
You may also have a skill you've always wanted to acquire – for example; I'm in the process of learning how to make a sourdough starter!
Time is on your side now – so follow your ambitions. The best thing about it is how easy it is to YouTube a "How to..." video and learn any skill you didn't have the day before.
Read – it doesn’t matter what
When your body needs to rest, but your mind is running in full force, reading is an activity that will be your saving grace, especially when you feel the need to escape your present moment.
Books, magazines, journals, newspapers, blogs – it doesn't matter as long as you're stimulated.
If you want to keep uniting with chronic illness sufferers alike and read some amazing stories, I highly recommend checking out The Mighty.
Do some yoga and meditation to strengthen your mind
There are many proven benefits to meditation and yoga, especially if you suffer from chronic pain. Just 30 minutes a session is all you need to calm down and recenter your energy.
Your state of mind needs to be right for this activity though. If you're really angry and frustrated – this might not be the right time. You might benefit from a more active hobby first.
Otherwise, here are some great suggestions if you want to try some poses that consider your chronic illness: What Yoga is Best for Chronic Pain
Get moving whenever you can - you don't need to train
When physical health allows it, try to move around a bit and get some slight aerobic activity going. The right amount of movement can give you a natural injection of energy and a clear mind. As a chronic illness sufferer, I know that a little bit of exercise does wonders for my brain fog.
This doesn't mean you need to hit up the gym, and down protein shakes all day. It's just about choosing the more active movement option when it's possible. Not only is it unnecessary, but it's unlikely to be good for you either.
Here are some examples you can try when you're feeling stronger:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park further away from an entrance to get some steps in.
- Set an alarm that makes you get up and stretch every hour.
- Go for a walk in the park when you need to unwind.
- Play with children.
Try online tutoring (and earn extra cash)
Not only does tutoring keep you busy and allow you to help others, but it gives you the opportunity to earn a little extra money. Between medical expenses and trying to work consistently – having a chronic illness isn't easy on the pocket.
If you're looking for a job but not sure what you could do – I breakdown lots of options for you in this article: The Best Jobs for People With a Chronic Illness
Start a dinner club – celebrate food and friends
I know how hard it is to maintain friendships when you have a chronic illness – and this is a great way to find something you can do together. Of course, it helps if you enjoy cooking and eating amazing food.
A fun hobby is to gather a handful of like-minded friends and organise a dinner club. Each person gets to host a dinner once a month, and you rotate through the group. You can have themes, dinner games or just relax with a drink and good conversation.
Yes, I know cooking can feel impossible sometimes. But there are ways around it. Here's what I suggest: 12 Energy-Saving Cooking Tips When You're Chronically Ill
Try your hand at puzzles and cognitive function games
For anyone with a chronic illness, you might have noticed that your cognitive functions slow down when you’re not feeling great?
Our brains go through a lot every day, and they get tired. So take the time to play games that stimulate your brain activity – improving your mental agility.
These don't have to be group games if you're not up to it – solo activities are perfect too.
Get an old school pen pal – yes, they still exist
If you’re part of any online community, especially a chronic illness one like Patients Like Me, you could take the opportunity to find a pen pal. You don’t need to share all your private information, but getting to know someone from another country can be exciting.
Whether you’re waiting for a new parcel to arrive in the mail or realise that you have a lot in common with this stranger – you’re creating a unique friendship.
I've found some amazing pen pals through my blogs that I will always cherish.
Do an online course and grow your qualifications
It's not always easy to do something mentally strenuous when you have a chronic illness – so if you're an A-type personality, please take it easy on yourself with this suggestion.
But there's nothing wrong with furthering your education and adding to your list of skills. Knowledge is power, and I'm a firm believer in this.
And there are many online academies and universities that can help you out. Some even offer a whole bunch of courses for free. Some of the most popular ones that I recommend are:
Make music playlists that feed your soul
We all need music that makes us feel good – and I'm sure you have some tracks that can give you the motivation you need when you're not feeling well.
Artists express their emotions in music, and with the amount of music out there, we can all find something to relate to.
So call it your "chronic illness playlist" if you like. As long as it has all your feel good tracks, that's the most important thing.
Trust me – you’ll thank yourself for doing this next time you need to take a road trip or decide to go for a long walk. Here are some of my favourite playlists for you to check out: 5 Chronic Pain Music Playlists Depending on Your Mood
Adopt a pet and grow your family
Before you run to the pet shop – stop. I'm not saying you should get a pet to keep you entertained. That is NOT an animal's function. This is a huge responsibility, but it also gives your life purpose.
So if you feel that you are physically and mentally strong enough to look after something else – a pet can give you such strong unconditional love.
Getting a pet isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. If you're seriously thinking about getting a pet, I would highly recommend reading this article first: How Pets Can Help with Chronic Pain
Embrace nature and get your feet in the grass
It’s not always easy depending on where you live, but if you can get out of your home and spend some time in the open – it will do your mental health a world of good.
As a daily activity, I love to get outside and take a walk around the neighbourhood if my legs are strong enough. I take full advantage of this in summer when the weather is gorgeous, and I can smell all the blossoming trees around me.
And yes – go barefoot in the grass if it's possible. I'm not saying this because I'm a hippy. It's genuinely proven to have health benefits for people today who are so disconnected from their environments.
Walking barefoot in the grass helps realign your posture, build body awareness, find physical balance, strengthen your lower back, and create better mechanics between your ankles, knees and hips.
It can also be a great "quiet time" that works as a form of meditation.
Give crocheting or sewing a go (make sentimental gifts)
If you’ve taken well to DIY activities, then I would give this a go. In the end, you can make gifts for friends or even sell items and make some extra money to keep your hobby funded.
Pinterest always gives you great suggestions, and you can have fun getting creative here.
I've always been a big fan of beading. So, I opted to put my knitting needles aside and make jewellery instead. This hobby got me through some of my darkest years. Plus, I managed to sell a lot of my pieces and raise some money for chronic pain research!
Learn to play a musical instrument you love
Music has been used as a form of therapy for many years. It's proven to help plants flourish, encourage healthy foetal development in pregnancies and even help people with chronic illnesses.
And this doesn't just have to include listening to music – you can play it as a hobby too!
Whether you want to play chopsticks on the piano or hot cross buns on the recorder – it doesn’t matter. Playing music is soothing, mentally stimulating, and so much fun if you enjoy what you’re doing.
More than that – it helps you find like-minded people who are also learning to play music so you can socialise and make new friends. (It even counts as a new skill to learn 😉
Get into journaling (or scrapbooking if you're creative)
Journaling is a very therapeutic way to express your thoughts and feelings about your chronic illness.
Not only is it good to get all your emotions out there, but it allows you to document your daily achievements, words of gratitude and experiences.
If you enjoy writing, this is a beautiful hobby that will help you lay the foundation for your story.
Make greeting cards to sell or gift
Here's another way to do a little creative therapy and earn some extra money too.
Birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries – you don’t need to spend money on a greeting card when you have the time to make something even more special at home.
It's not always easy to be there for your friends and family when you're not well, and this is an activity that will show them that you appreciate them very much.
Take a shot at photography (excuse the pun)
Here's another hobby you can try that doesn't have to be physically demanding of you when you're struggling to move around. Sometimes photography in your home can be the most creative and relatable.
The best thing is that these days you don’t even need a fancy camera – a smartphone works just fine. You can embark on some pretty awesome projects with this hobby.
You can also join an app called Foap, where all amateur photographers can upload a portfolio of pictures, sell their images and even enter cash competitions.
Buy a huge pot and make jam for everyone
Homemade jam is one of my favourite things to make and to receive as a gift. And I’ll bet you find it pretty awesome too. Again, it's low energy and easy to do when your body needs to keep calm.
(Just make sure your arms are feeling strong, so you can stir a big pot.)
And if you’ve never made jam before, don’t be discouraged. It’s really not that hard as long as you have the right ingredients. I would also buy some cute glass jars to store it in afterwards. Not only is this a fun hobby, but it’s a great gift to give when you’re tight on funds.
How to Approach Boredom When You Are Chronically Ill
Always keep an open mind
If you’re going to say no to every opportunity presented to you – then you’ll never give yourself the chance to learn more about yourself.
So unless you really can't do something because of physical limitations, then you should try it before making a snap judgement. You might find enjoyment in things you never knew were possible.
It’s no fun unless you’re doing something you enjoy
If you do not enjoy what you do, then you’ll never feel fulfilled or productive doing it.
So when you try something and it's not for you – move on! Don't waste your time forcing something that isn't right for you. There are so many activities out there, and one is bound to be what you need in your life right now.
Take advantage of what you’re good at
Whatever skills you have – they need to be honed in on. Whether you’re creative, analytical, logical, highly social, etc. Make sure you structure anything you try around your skills.
Taking up an activity or hobby is there to boost your morale and mental health, so work with what you've got and use it to build your self-confidence.
Don’t feel bad if you need to adapt an activity to your needs
If you enjoy doing something, but it needs a few adjustments to work for your health boundaries – who cares? Don’t be discouraged by the changes you need to make. Be inspired by your resourcefulness.
I don't know how many times I've tried to force myself to do yoga like an Olympic gymnast, and I've always ended up hurting myself. It took me a while to respect my body's limits and work with what I have, and I am still learning.
But what I do know is that when I do listen to my body – I flourish.
Start talking about what you’re doing and build a community
There’s nothing better than surrounding yourself with people who are passionate about the same thing as you. It’s motivating, engaging and it will encourage you to better yourself.
So join that social media forum, online platform, local community or club and find a way to be a part of something bigger than yourself. It's life changing.
11 Ways To Get Out of Your Boredom Rut
New activities are exciting to think about and try. But it’s a challenge to see anything new until it becomes a habit.
It’s not just about what your options are – it’s about your mindset getting into a task and having the mental strength to see it through.
I want to start off this section by giving you a mantra you should say to yourself every morning to help this process along:
The highest form of self-care is discipline.
We’ve looked at some cool things you can do to alleviate boredom. Now it’s time to look at the best habits you can adopt if you want a strong mindset.
Find a chronic illness-friendly routine
Something that often makes us forget the value of time is sitting at home with nothing to do – especially when you’re not well.
It’s easy to lose hours, days and weeks if you’re not careful. So setting some general time frames for activities is always a good thing.
Get out of bed every day – no matter what
If you're bedridden, then this doesn’t apply to you. Otherwise, I know this is hard, and I’m not saying you need to do it at a specific time. But, every morning, you need to get up to start your day.
Whether it’s to eat breakfast, go for a walk or just meditate on the bed – that first push out of bed keeps you mentally strong.
Take in fresh air and smile
Whether it’s opening a window, stepping outside your front door or even going for a walk – it’s important to get some natural light, Vitamin D and fresh air.
I know it might sound strange, but use this time to smile as well. You don't need to smile at anyone – smiling at yourself is good enough. So many studies show that smiling alleviates stress and pain, lowers blood pressure, boosts your immune system and really helps channel a mindset for success.
Talk to others (not just the people in your head)
I’m not saying it needs to be done in person, but it’s worth your while to keep in touch with friends and family regularly. Whether it’s a message, group chat or video call – it’s important to spread and receive a little love.
Eat the right foods – this doesn't eliminate treats
Whoever said the expression you are what you eat – was spot on. Some foods can help elevate your mood and give you energy, while others will make you tired and groggy.
Foods high in sugar and caffeine are always going to impact your brain fog and make it hard to focus on anything. But that doesn't mean you can't treat yourself.
One of my favourite treats has to be homemade peanut butter cups that I use all natural, sugar-free ingredients to make.
If this is something you want to know more about, I cover the basics of eating well in this article: Chronic Illness and Cold Weather – How to Survive Winter
Practice gratitude – even when you feel cheated
I know practising gratitude is a really tough one – and it’s not something you’ll be able to do all the time. You need time to be angry too, and that’s okay.
But when you feel more relaxed – maybe when you’re getting some fresh air – try to think of three things you’re grateful for at this time. You can even write it all down in a journal. It’s an awesome thing to page through when you’re feeling a bit low!
Make an achievements booklet (it's so rewarding)
If you’re already writing down what you’re grateful for, then you should definitely write down your achievements too.
Learn to acknowledge and celebrate what you have done – no matter how small. One day – I dedicated five full pages of writing to the fact that I wiggled my toes.
Set small goals for yourself and reward your achievements
In whatever you choose to do – try and set goals for yourself. Make them bite-size and manageable.
We often set these monstrous and intimidating goals for ourselves and forget that a million smaller goals need to be achieved before the big one can happen.
So if you want to do something huge – think about all the small things that need to go into it first. And celebrate each small step you take.
Plan a daily activity that you want to do
Again, this doesn’t need to be a big thing. Small steps are the most reliable ones. So if you want to make knitting in bed your activity for the day – that’s okay!
It just needs to be something you get to do that day and you can repeat it as many times as you need to feel comfortable.
Change the way you think about your home
There’s so much to love about being at home, and if you have to be there, then it’s worth appreciating it. So try to practice this little exercise.
Start by saying the words… “Home is where…” and then fill in the blanks.
For me, home is where:
- My bed is.
- My favourite snacks are.
- I can make tea whenever I want.
- No one judges me for not wearing pants.
- I can sit down anywhere when I need a break.
Make your living space special
No matter how small your space is, it needs to be a place you are proud of and a place you love. Some things you can do that go a long way include:
- Getting a new scented candle and holder.
- Sew up (or buy) some scatter pillows.
- Start a little garden.
- Hang up some new art.
- Frame your favourite snaps.
I share so many suggestions like this in our FREE 7 day programme. By signing up, you'll have full access to all seven courses, the activities, tips, tools and free medical binder that you can use to track your progress.
Does this sound good? Follow this link to enrol and get your life back from your chronic illness: 7- Days to Happiness Programme
Why Chronic Illness Sufferers Must Take Boredom Seriously
In essence, if you feel bored, it means that you don’t have an effective way to direct and use your energy. And without direction, it’s easy to feel like you lack a certain purpose.
Now what I’m about to say may sound like a load of rubbish – but I am 100% honest with you:
A lack of purpose can increase your risk of lifestyle disease and mortality rate. This is because purpose is a fundamental psychological need we need to fulfil.
Studies even show that having a purpose is more important in decreasing the risk of death than exercising regularly or cutting down on cigarettes and alcohol.
Crazy, right? But it’s proving to be true!
In an exclusive interview with NPR, Professor Alan Rozanski at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai says that:
"Just like people have basic physical needs, like to sleep and eat and drink, they have basic psychological needs,
“The need for meaning and purpose is No. 1. It's the deepest driver of well-being there is."
The effects of being chronically ill and bored at home
I know the long term effects seem daunting. But let's focus on the immediate effects of boredom and how to resolve them for now because they can really help prevent any long term effects from evolving.
Things like depression, anxiety, overeating or even substance abuse can all stem from being bored with your current lifestyle.
What’s interesting to know is that when you’re bored and your brain is underactive – it’s also more likely that you’ll make mistakes in whatever activity you do.
This is something that I could really relate to after my CRPS II diagnosis…
It was hard enough being wheelchair-bound, homebound and unable to work or study anymore. But making frivolous errors made it feel like I was being kicked when I was already down.
Things like forgetting food on the stove or the bathwater running, mixing up important dates, or even making spelling errors in my emails were regular issues I faced.
The bottom line was that beyond the brain fog and medication, my brain was also just so bored.
I’m going to give you a whole bunch of ways to fill up your time in a healthy way. Here's a really great read if you're struggling to organise your life because of brain fog: The 9 Best Ways to Clear Brain Fog When You're Chronically Ill
First, I want you to look at these symptoms of boredom and think about if any apply to you.
If you’re bored right now, you may also be feeling:
- Hopeless; or
- Sad and anxious.
And you may find changes in your lifestyle like:
- Difficulty getting to sleep or waking up;
- Weight fluctuations;
- Decrease in motivation or ability to cope with stress;
- Lack of patience; or
- Social isolation.
I know these symptoms can come from a range of issues – not just boredom. But what you can be sure about is that if you are bored and do feel any of these symptoms – things will improve once you’ve got something to keep you motivated.
How chronic illness and boredom lead to frustration
Boredom and frustration often work together to create a very vicious cycle.
When you’re bored, it’s easy to become frustrated. And when you’re frustrated, it leaves you too tense to feel inspired or motivated to get anything done or – so you become bored again.
Trust me, if you find yourself here, I understand the anxiety that comes with doing absolutely anything from making the bed, showering or eating a meal.
I know that the lines between physical illness and mental illness are often blurred for us. Sometimes you don’t want to shower or eat because your body just says “no!”
But there’s a difference between feeling fundamentally bored because of your chronic illness and feeling consistently unsatisfied, uninspired and drained.
In any case, you may want to monitor your mental health now and then.
One way you can check on yourself easily is by asking yourself: “If I didn’t have a chronic illness, would I….”
If you’ve mainly answered with “no’s”, then maybe it’s time to check on your mental health.
Please know that this is not a professional assessment. This is merely an additional daily step you can take just to help you get a bit more clarity on the matter.
How to manage your frustration with a chronic illness
- Always pay attention to what your body is telling you about its needs.
If you have a chronic illness – this is essential.
Quiet your mind and reflect on exactly how you’re feeling.
- Remember that not all activities need to be energy draining.
Things like knitting, colouring and reading are perfectly fine for anyone with a chronic illness as long as you're not putting strain on the parts of your body affected.
- Understand that any big task needs to be broken down into many mini-tasks first.
Don’t take on the whole elephant in one go – you have to eat it one bite at a time.
- Speak to a psychologist for professional and solicited advice.
As long as it’s someone you trust – it can be extremely comforting to break down the issues you face because of your chronic illness. A mental health professional can help you do this in a constructive environment.
- Take a pen and paper and write down your priorities in ranking order.
It will help you understand what needs your immediate attention and what can be put aside for another time. This will also help your feelings of overwhelm.
You might not get to everything on your list, but you can feel comfortable knowing the most important stuff is taken care of.
- Know your triggers and how to manage them.
There will be certain tasks, events, people and situations that can trigger your frustration or sadness when you're chronically ill. All you need to do is be aware of what they are so that you can avoid them or prepare for them better going forward.
- Think and plan for your week in advance.
For example, try and do a weekly shop where you plan your meals. It’s best to have a stocked fridge when you’re too tired to move than using the same amount of energy to buy one or two items at a time.
- When you need to say no – be proud and not guilty.
If you’re prioritising your needs correctly and listening to your body, then saying no is something you should do with confidence. It’s okay to take a step back and rest. This is something you need to back yourself up on.
If you're trying to manage your guilt better, here's a great article for you to read: Overcoming Guilt and Chronic Illness
- Don’t let your frustration build to a point where you give up.
This is the best time to grab your achievement and gratitude journal and page through all the things you have already accomplished. Never forget how far you’ve come since your diagnosis – you are a warrior.
I hope I have inspired you to be a busy bee within your own home.
I would love to see any hobbies or activities you’ve taken on, so please share your journey with me. And if you’ve made jam – well, you might just have your first customer right here 😉