Resting sounds so balanced and zen – until it’s something you have to do. When you live with chronic illness, the key to managing your precious energy is alternating activities with plenty of relaxation. Not to mention that thanks to the unpredictability of chronic illness, symptoms can flare up at any time, forcing you to stop and take a break.
At first, binge-watching your favorite series all day long feels fun. But when you’re stuck in bed a lot of the time, while you’d rather be doing something else, resting becomes dreadful, mind-numbingly boring and lonely.
So when you’re having another undesired rest day, is there anything you can do to make the most of your situation? In general, there are 3 strategies you can apply:
- Focus on deep restoration and replenishing. By doing simple things that support your health, you may reduce your symptoms – or even the number of future rest days.
- Have a better time. Who doesn’t want to feel more comforted and entertained when you’re sick?
- Living your best life while being housebound. Of course this is not what you signed up for. But your illness doesn’t have to stop you from doing tiny things that are meaningful to you.
Obviously, what works for you depends a lot on your personal situation. Do you need to rest after doing something fun, or because you’re exhausted from folding laundry? Are you feeling really sick too? Do you live alone or do you have partners, kids or pets that require your attention?
Not all tips will work for everyone, but here’s a list of 47 ideas of how you can make the most of rest days.
This blog post contains some affiliate links to resources you may find useful, at no extra costs to you. All opinions are my own.
Health-Boosting Rituals for Rest Days
Taking care of your health can be an all-consuming chore when you’re chronically ill. No wonder you feel like burying your head under the covers and just forget about everything sometimes. That’s perfectly normal and ok. But on days that you do feel like supporting your health, there are simple things you can do to nourish your body and mind while you’re resting up.
01. Lying in bed isn’t necessarily the same as real rest. Instead of twisting your neck in weird angles to catch a glimpse of Homeland, you could also try more restorative poses. Savasana and child’s pose help you let go of tension in your body and deeply relax. Putting your legs up against the wall for a few minutes is also a restorative variation to your usual ‘curled up in bed’ position.
02. Cozy up with hot and healing drink. If you’re too tired to treat yourself to a superfood latte, simply adding a slice of lemon or ginger to your tea will boost your beverage.
03. Gently circle your wrist, shoulders and ankles to keep your blood flowing if you’re stuck in a horizontal position most of the day.
04. Take a deep breath. Not only does deep belly breathing bring more oxygen to each and every cell in your body, it also lowers your blood pressure, releases muscle tension and boosts your circulation.
05. Want to eat something healthy that doesn’t require all your energy to make? Try a recovery-boosting meal like a simple smoothie bowl, overnight oats or quick soups.
“Rest is not the absence of activity, but the presence of peace.” – Jo Saxton
06. Nap. Sounds obvious right? But sometimes you become so washed-out and listed from hanging around the house, that you ‘forget’ to actually get some extra sleep instead of dragging yourself through the day.
07. Turn your tub time into a health-boosting ritual by adding natural ingredients like Epsom salt, herbs and essential oils to your bath.
08. Calm your mind with a relaxing visualization. Can you vividly picture walking on the beach, with the wind in your air, salt on your lips and sand between your toes? If you find it difficult to visualize calming scenes, download the Flowly app for a journey through different Virtual Realities designed for relaxation.
09. Sip bone broth to support your digestion, fight inflammation and strengthen your bones. Plus, it’s the ultimate sick-day comfort food! You can easily make bone broth in your slowcooker or buy a good-quality broth in stores.
10. Could you use a little self love? Do a loving-kindness meditation and give yourself some well-deserved compassion.
11. Let the light in. Natural daylight is one of the most powerful ways to fine-tune your internal clock. So even – or especially – if you’re staying in bed, open the curtains in the morning to signal to your body is daytime.
12. Give yourself a soothing massage. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated, a simple foot rub or stroking your aching legs feels nice. You could use a self-massage tool to reach hard-to-get to spots like your neck and shoulders.
13. Put a bottle of (flavored) water by your bedside. Over 60 percent of your body is made out of water, so hydrating yourself is vital.
14. Stretch in bed. Simply reaching your arms over your head and flexing your toes regularly improves your mobility, pain levels and circulation. Bonus points doing a supine twist or a reclining bound angle pose.
15. Create your own relaxing pillow spray from essential oils and lightly mist your linens. You can learn all about which essential oils you could use for better sleep, more energy or to calm anxiety in this comprehensive guide.
16. Bring the outdoors indoors. Did you know that looking at natural elements doesn’t just look pretty, but supports your recovery too? So brighten up your room with flowers and air-purifying plants, or grow aromatic herbs in your window box.
17. Pick a meaningful mantra and repeat it to yourself, in your mind or aloud. It’s easy to get sucked into negative thinking patterns when you feel miserable all day long. So combat that with a comforting mantra like ‘I am enough‘ or ‘This too shall pass.’
18. Browse your cookbooks or favourite food blogs for easy but healthy meals. With a Crockpot, foil packets and sheet pan dinners you can take effortless cooking to the next level.
19. Make a Happy List. Which simple pleasures, like drinking your cappuccino in the sun or reading a magazine, never fail to put a smile on your face? Make a conscious effort to do these things more often, especially on rest days. If you often struggle with flare-ups, you could also consider creating your own coping box for support.
20. Come up with one healthy habit that would significantly improve your life. Small changes – from creating a bedtime ritual to eating vegetables with every meal – can add up to big results. For a step-by-step guide on how to rebuild your health after illness, check out ‘How to Create Your Own Action Plan for Recovery’.
Having a Better Time While Resting Up
It may be hard to imagine for healthy people, but playing video games and refreshing your social media feed again gets boring after a while. Time to beat the boredom! Take a look at these ideas to entertain your mind while your body rests:
21. Sometimes, simply rephrasing a boring day in bed into a ‘slumber party for one’ does the trick. Put on your favorite romcom, grab some popcorn and pamper yourself with a facial.
22. Listen to audiobooks and get lost in thrilling adventures and against-all-odds love stories.
23. Build your own fantasy football team and join an online competition.
24. Challenge yourself to a 1000pieces jigsaw puzzle or a recreate the Eiffel Tower with a 3D puzzle. Yes, it requires a lot of focus, but hey, it also kills a lot of time.
25. Play Wordfeud with your friends – or other bored spoonies!
“The happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.” – Unknown
26. Feeling lonely? Call your mom or ask a friend to come round for a short chat. If that’s too taxing, reach out to an online community with likeminded people.
27. Practice hand lettering. Are you drooling over the beautifully hand lettered quotes and stationary on Pinterest? Put your pen to paper and break out your cursive skills. This Creative Home Projects Bundle will teach you how!
28. Learn a cool card trick. Like Roald Dahl said, a little magic can take you a long way.
29. Did you know that the music you loved listening to during your teens and early twenties formed the strongest emotional reactions in your brain? Dust off your old albums for a good listen and a trip down memory lane.
30. Become a documentary buff. If you feel like you’ve watched every binge-worthy show out there, try a non-fiction film. There’s an interesting documentary about almost any topic imaginable, from ‘Making a Murderer’ and bio pics to the breath-taking ‘Our Planet’.
31. Upload your most loved pictures to a digital photo frame. That way you have something uplifting to look at on tough days.
32. Colouring just for kids? Think again. Get your crayons ready for some soothing creativity with colouring books for adults. You can also take your art therapy to the next level with these 64 creative projects.
33. Make a string of peanuts, hang it in your garden and watch the birds eat.
35. Find something that makes you laugh: a YouTube-video, hilarious joke or a comedy show.
36. Grown tired of the couch? On a warm day, make popsicles and relax in a hammock instead.
For more inspiration to beat the boredom, download the free Bored and Sick Guide with 130 fun things to do at home when you’re (chronically) ill.
Living Your Best Life Despite Your Illness
Ok, so this is definitely not what you had signed up. You’d much rather be hanging out with your friends, traveling the world or achieving your goals. These things are hard to do when you’re stuck at home, but who says you can’t do tiny activities that warm your heart and excite your soul?
Here are some ideas to learn new skills, have adventures and work on self-growth from the comfort of your own home.
37. Learn a new language. Even if it’s just one word a day. There are plenty of apps you can download to help you get fluent in French, Spanish or Mandarin. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll be able to put those phrases into practice!
38. Find ways to support causes close to your heart. For inspiration, take a look at these random acts of kindness anyone can do to spread a little love.
39. Spice things up with a mini adventure. Camp out in your own backyard, order takeout from an exotic cuisine or play an escape room puzzle.
40. Go on a virtual museum tour. So many cultural institutes like the Louvre, Guggenheim and British Museum are opening the digital doors to their collections. Admire the world’s greatest treasures from the comfort of your own bed – and the best thing: no waiting in lines!
41. Take an online course. Those boring rest days are a perfect opportunity to learn how to draw better or master your home improvement skills. The worldwide web is filled with resources to learn new skills, so check out educational materials that match your interests.
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Green
42. Research your family history. Trace your family tree on genealogy websites or record fascinating life stories from living relatives.
43. Start a reading challenge. Pick 10 classics you’ve always wanted to read, 6 stories starring in countries you’d love to visit someday or 7 books all from different genres.
44. Learn how to meditate. Have you ever noticed that so many successful people name meditation as one of their daily habits with a big impact on their health of happiness? Science agrees with them, so why not give it a try and start reaping these amazing benefits too?
45. Soak up the lessons and insights from spiritual readings, the world’s greatest philosophers and self-growth podcasts. During tough times, we often feel the need to learn to understand ourselves and the world around us on a deeper level.
46. Turn your wounds into wisdom. Living with chronic illness alters your world, but not all for the bad. What have you learned from your difficulties that positively impacted your life?
47. Get a Future Listography journal and make lists of all the cool things you hope to do one day.
How do you make the most of rest days when you’re chronically ill? Share our best tips in the comments!
If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also like:
- 28 Fun Things to Do When You’re Bored and Sick at Home
- Recovery-Boosting Recipes: 25 Meals That Support Your Healing Process
- Why Entertaining Yourself When You’re Sick Isn’t a Luxury
Thank you for including this post in your weekly round-up Claire! And for supporting other health bloggers by sharing their work. https://painpalsblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/7404/
Great post and information - I have shared a link on my regular feature Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You! Claire (PainPalsBlog) x
Thank you soo much may God bless you in many ways ☺
I'm sorry, the blog post is a few years old so the giveaway has been closed for a while now. Perhaps you can use some of the tips above to create a care package: puzzles or magazine, (free) samples of body care products if your dad is still in the hospital, a gift card for iTunes? I also like the Gifts in A Tin from DIYMommy: https://thediymommy.com/a-gift-in-a-tin-christmas-baking-kit-gift/ (Scroll down for an overview) or an edible gift like the five bean soup IF he's medically allowed to eat that of course!: https://thehealthsessions.com/healthy-edible-gifts/ Hope your father feels better soon!
I was going to leave a comment for the give away... For my dad cuz he had his gull bladder taken out a fue hrs ago but congrats... Is there a cheep way i can make something for him?
Being careful with what you eat might be a good idea if you're feeling sick or have stomach aches. Luckily, there are still plenty of things listed you can do to entertain yourself :-) Feel better soon!
When I am I'll myum doesn't let me eat so some wouldn't work 😢🍕
Hi Darci, thank you for your message. Unfortunately the guide is not available yet as a hardcover and a paperback. If that changes in the near future, I will let you know. Warm regards, Jennifer
I would like to buy this book in hard cover or paperback instead of e-book for a friend
Super useful habits Nat! I also need to mentally unwind before bedtime or I'll be laying awake all night with thoughts racing through my mind.
A few things that help me ( I suffer from insomnia) is by not taking my phone to bed with me, i finish checking emails, social media etc in the living room and go to bed to switch off. Something else I do is turn on my essential oils diffuser an hour before bed so the room is scent with a relaxing mist of essential oils such as lavender, or vetiver which is like a sedative and incredible for helping me unwind. Another thing that work well when i can't switch my brain off is to write a quick list of everything i think i need to be dealing with now and highlighting only the ones that need to be taken care of the next day. Helps me not to feel so overwhelmed and in turn helps me fall asleep easier.
I'm touched by your kind words Darla, thank you. It's perfectly normal that you're resentful and feel sorry for yourself. You've had a lot to deal with. Not just experiencing horrible symptoms on a daily basis, but also having to adjust the plans you had for your future and your sense of identity. To me, positivity in the face of adversity is not about having an irrealistic rose-colored view of life. But I do believe that trying to find the good in little things each day can help make the bad ones more bearable. It's a challenge, but your insightful comment tells me that you're up for it ;-) Let me know if there's anything I can do to help. Good luck, be gentle with yourself and take care Darla!
Dr.Jen the Zen one, first off you rock! Since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 4 years ago and 2 years ago double pneumonia that left me with heart failure with 28% left undamaged it has seriously limited my mobility energy patience and unfortunately my positive attitude. 52 years on this planet, I lived a happy-go-lucky , look on the bright side, things will be better tomorrow, or crack a silly joke and get over it type of life. Now for the first time in my life I find myself having to work at being positive. Anger and resentment and even the dreaded " poor little me" mindset is trying to set up permanent residence. And tonight I find your blog and it gives me hope I just want to say "Thank you" Darla