Resting 24/7: How to Stay Sane and Not Get Bored

What do you do when you have an illness that requires you to completely rest; both physically and mentally? And even worse, what do you do when you have to do this every single day?
It’s understandable why so many people who have to rest frequently become bored and frustrated, because resting 24/7 is not fun. But unfortunately, boredom and frustration often lead you to either worry or despair and uses valuable mental energy, or even worse, they make you get up and do things when you’re not well enough, causing you to overdo it, and often in the long run, causing major setbacks and relapses.
So how can we find a way in which rest doesn’t feel like a chore, like something we have to do in order to get better? Or at least, how do we make it interesting enough for us to keep our spirits and well-being up? Having spent the past 18 months housebound, needing to rest every single day, I have been slowly tackling this question.
Below I have listed all the things that have helped me to both stay entertained during my bedbound/housebound days as well as tips on dealing with the frustrations of resting all the time, including creating safe places in your mind to go to when times are tough. Depending on your energy levels and symptoms will depend on what will help you, so feel free to use any of the ideas and adapt them to suit your own needs. It’s important to experiment with different forms of still and quiet. We all need to find something that works for us.
(Note: This is quite a long post, so for those who suffer with fatigue you might want to read it in chunks. As it is all numbered it will be easy for you to find your place again as you can just make a note of what number you’ve reached for when you want to come back to it. I thought about cutting the post down but I didn’t want to cut out things I thought might be useful to some people so it all stayed!!)
  1. Visualisation – Visualisation is my favourite form of meditation. The concept is simple; you imagine yourself in a place of great beauty, whether this be in the ocean, on a beach, or in the countryside. It can be based loosely on a place you have actually visited or it may be totally imaginary. The most important thing about this place is that when you imagine yourself there you can feel safe, content, and at peace. Instead of just looking at this place in your mind’s eye, you need to really experience it with all your senses and actually feel you are really there. You can also invite a loved one or a pet to join you whenever you want. Wrap yourself deep inside your special place and feel happy knowing that your sanctuary is there waiting for you whenever you may choose to visit it.
There is an extremely powerful moment during the film “UNREST” (the award-winning documentary about M.E. by Jennifer Brea), when Jennifer asks a girl called Jessica who was in hospital for 4 years constantly with severe M.E., “When you were in that hospital and you couldn’t move or speak, how did you stay sane?”. Jessica goes on to reply saying she stayed sane by going to different places all over the world in her mind. She says she used to go to Australia, as she loved the water, and she would go scuba diving there. She’d jump into the water and have the freedom of her body moving, seeing all the multitude of different colours of fish which relaxes and calms you down. She describes the silence and how it becomes a more and more magical place. I think Jessica is the perfect example showing just how powerful visualisation can be. Although your body may be injured, your mind is still whole and can experience peace.
  1. Hygge – The definition of hygge is a quality of cosiness and comfortable atmosphere that promotes a feeling of contentment or well-being. To give you a brief idea of hygge, here is the hygge emergency kit “for those evenings when you are low on energy, have no plans, don’t feel like going out and are in the mood for some quality time alone”* (aka when you have to rest!):
  • Candles
  • Some good quality chocolate
  • Your favourite tea
  • Your favourite book
  • Your favourite film or boxset of your favourite series
  • A good pair of woollen socks
  • A selection of your favourite letters
  • A warm jumper
  • A notebook and pen
  • A nice blanket
  • Music
To put it into practise, I often reach a point in the day around 3pm when I become bored with my surroundings and the sofa/bed I lay on all day every day. When this happens, even when I can’t possible understand or believe it will help, I get a fluffy blanket, cup of tea, a piece of dark chocolate, my heat pad, light some candles, play some gentle music, and put on the fairy lights. Almost instantly the place where I sit all day, and more startling, my attitude towards this place, is transformed. It’s no longer a place I have to rest, it’s a place I want to rest. The cosiness of the scene completely draws me in and in that moment all I want to do is dive under the blanket and curl up. I honestly can’t say why these few small changes have such a drastic impact, but all I can say is they work, and they have helped me so much.
(*The quote and emergency kit list is from the book, “The Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking, where I first read about the concept of Hygge. To read more about it I would highly recommend this book.)
  1. Musicals – I love listening to musicals and I have found it is my favourite and most entertaining way to rest. Musicals for me combine two things I love – music and books. It creates a story through the words and lyrics and yet it still requires your imagination to see it play out, thus making it engaging and enjoyable whilst still being a form of rest. I especially love my “TV/Theatre” playlist on Spotify which is a mash up of all my favourite songs from different musicals or films. Some of my favourite albums include:
  • Hamilton – The entire musical is all sung/rapped, totalling of 46 songs, meaning you won’t miss out on any dialogue. It is undoubtedly my favourite album to listen to and I can honestly say it got me through my worst days.
  • Dear Evan Hansen
  • Book of Mormon
  • Moana
  • I also have a few selected songs from Matilda, Pitch Perfect, Mean Girls, Bring it On, SMASH, Dreamgirls, Les Miserables, The Bodyguard, and The Greatest Showman.
Although listening to musicals might not be considered “complete” rest by some people, I am much more inclined to lie down and rest for a significantly longer period of time if I do this than if I just lie in silence. In many ways, I find listening to musicals a lot more restful than silence because often silence can cause my thoughts to go at full speed meaning I start to use up mental energy, whereas musicals allow my mind to rest as well as my body.
  1. Music – When I discover new music or when a new album comes out by an artist or band I love, I am guaranteed to be kept entertained all day – I can lie down with my headphones on listening for hours and not get bored. Unfortunately, I don’t discover new music every day, otherwise I would find resting a lot easier! But by knowing this I try and seek out new music often and keep my IPod and Spotify up-to-date. Feel free to picture yourself singing the songs at Wembley, on stage, or dancing to them on Strictly! The important thing is to keep yourself entertained enough to allow your mind and body to rest.
 
  1. Headphones – When listening to musicals/music, I nearly always listen to them lying down with my headphones on to both optimise rest (by lying down flat) and entertainment (by using headphones). I find headphones really heightens the effect of the music, hence keeping me more entertained. Depending on your noise sensitivity will depend on if you are able to do this or not. Although I suffer from severe noise sensitivity, I often find that listening to music through my headphones is less challenging than listening to intrusive external sounds because I am in control of the volume and sound therefore I can adjust it accordingly to my body’s needs. It also means I can choose to play some nice calming music which my body can handle better rather than the unexpected clatter and loud bangs of external sounds.
  1. Daydreaming – When I’m too tired to listen to any music, or if I have a headache/migraine, or when I’m overcome with pain or fatigue, daydreaming is what gets me through these hard moments. The wonderful thing about daydreaming is that there are no limits to where your mind can go and what you can do. It doesn’t have to fit reality, it doesn’t have to follow any rules, nor do you need to share it with anyone. It is yours and yours alone. You can become a character in your favourite book, live in a castle with famous people, become a singer, or go to Hogwarts! You can bring in fictional characters, establish safe places to visit when you need, and create exciting storylines which unfold over days or weeks. Although some may argue daydreaming is avoiding reality or not living in the present moment, I think as long as your daydreams don’t interfere with reality, and you use them as a way to pass the hours of complete rest and not as a form of avoiding your feelings or the present situation, then I think it’s okay. In order for day dreaming not to interfere with reality, only do it during those hard times when you need complete rest and you have to shut your eyes.
  1. Set mini goals – One of the most frustrating things about rest is the fact you can often feel like your day is wasted and you’re not doing anything useful or purposeful. That is why setting very small goals or “to-do” lists each morning can help give you a sense of purpose and make you feel like you’ve achieved something. As you can sometimes wake up in the morning and feel awful for absolutely no reason, it might be an idea to avoid making goals in advance and do it each morning instead as you’ll have a much better idea of how you’re feeling that day and how much you’ll be able to do. Make sure that your “to-do” lists/goals are not set in stone; try to keep them very flexible, so if you didn’t do something today that was on the list as you didn’t feel up to it, just roll it onto the next day. No biggie. Furthermore, you need to make sure these “to-do” lists/goals are achievable. Remember your aim is to still rest, so set yourself things you already do daily, therefore they are achievable and won’t tire you out. For example, my goal might be to read to a certain page in a book, meditate, or on some days I set myself the goal “100% rest”, so then I still feel even though I’ve rested all day, I’ve achieved something as that was my goal. By setting goals for things I know I can do, it means I am left feeling satisfied at the end of each day and it also helps me avoid boredom. To read more about “8 Things to Remember When Setting Goals with a Chronic Illness”, click here.
  2. Hygiene – Although hygiene is not a form of rest, I definitely think there are times when we need it to feel restful. Showering takes a lot of energy, so it’s not surprising when a lot of people with M.E. go days or weeks without showering and never getting dressed. But there is also nothing worse than trying to rest when you feel unhygienic as you often find it hard to settle, which is why I’ve incorporated it into this post. The good thing is you don’t always need a shower to feel better, sometimes all you need to do is just clean your teeth, or face, or brush your hair and tie it back, or get into a clean change of clothes to help you feel cleaner therefore allowing yourself to feel more restful.
  3. Reading – Books have the incredible ability to allow your mind to wonder and travel off all across the world even when your body is stuck in one place.Unfortunately, reading for people with M.E. or other chronic illnesses is rare due to the debilitating brain fog symptoms, so I understand reading as a form of rest is something most people cannot do. If you are looking for easier reads though, contemporary and young adult are definitely the best genres for this, and I also find re-reading books the least challenging form of reading.
  4. Fresh air – The biggest reason I would encourage incorporating fresh air into resting is because it changes all your senses; consequently, helping you avoid boredom. I find lying in the garden or even on the front door step for a few minutes per day can make a massive difference. If this is too much for you and you can’t leave your bed, then just opening the window in your room and breathing in the fresh air can make the world of difference. If I’m bedbound, something I love doing if it’s not too bright is keeping a slither of my curtains open so I can see and hear the sounds from the world outside. There is something extremely comforting after you’ve been lying in bed all day to open the window slightly and breathe in the fresh air and hear the chorus of birds outside. It certainly helps me feel very peaceful on my bedbound days.
  5. Audiobooks – For some reason I really struggle to listen to audiobooks as I find it hard to process and pay attention to what the narrator is saying. However, I know a lot of people who can’t read but can listen to audiobooks and say how much of a life saver they are. Once again you can make it easier for yourself by listening to an audiobook of something you’ve already read. A favourite I know by many people is Stephan Fry’s narration of Harry Potter.
  6. Podcasts – Podcasts are similar to audiobooks, but they are generally chattier. I personally find them easier to follow because if you zone out for a while it’s okay as you can just tune back in when you’re ready and pick up the conversation again without worrying that you’ve missed anything. There are thousands of podcasts on Spotify, YouTube, and the internet you can listen to. Light hearted conversations and comedy podcasts are much easier to follow and will also make you laugh and feel good.
  7. Plan your day – You may think this is ironic as surely if you should be resting you shouldn’t plan anything! But I think this is one of the biggest mistakes people make. By not planning anything, it is then so easy to become bored, and this is often when people stop resting and get up and do things. We’re not talking about a schedule or a detailed plan, just a basic idea of what you’re going to do that day. For example, you could plan to listen to a certain album or podcast, or plan to make a hygge environment in the living room, or read a certain book etc…
  1. Small pleasures in life – At the end of each day, pick up a notepad and pen and write a list of all the small pleasures you experienced that day, for example…
“Beautiful sunset, candles, cup of tea, fluffy blanket, fairy lights, freshly baked banana bread, cuddle with dog, sunshine on face, clean hair, calming meditation, morning chat with mum, London Grammar, heat pad, dad making me dinner…”
The list will help remind you of all the positive things you’ve experienced that day. It will help you remember that life is good and there are still so many things you can enjoy even if you have to rest 24/7.
  1. Be kind to yourself – Resting 24/7 is hard and frustrating, and it is inevitable you will slip up occasionally and over do-it. But when this happens, don’t allow yourself to become a victim of self-criticism over the mistake. We’re all only human and therefore we will continue to keep making mistakes, the important thing is to forgive yourself immediately and learn from it. One of the key tools I have learnt for scenarios like this is to “Mindfully Respond Rather Than React”. The reason why it is so important to learn this is because when you react to situations, such as when you overdo it, you use up significantly more energy than if you mindfully respond, thus making this practise vital for rest and recovery. To read more on this post please click here.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post and you have found it helpful in some small way.
Metta, E xx

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8 thoughts on “Resting 24/7: How to Stay Sane and Not Get Bored”

  1. This is beautiful and so encouragingly written. Sadly for my daughter, with very severe ME, she is too ill to any of the things you have suggested. This makes the boredom of lying in bed 24 /7 unable to do anything at all so unbearable. Hopefully one day she’ll be well enough to get back to many of the things you’ve listed here that she previously enjoyed. Wishing you strength and healing Evie.

    1. Hi Rachel,

      Thank you so much for your beautiful comment. I’m so sorry to hear your daughter is so poorly, that really breaks my heart. Keep holding on to the hope that she’ll get there, because she will. I can’t imagine how tough it must be. Sending you both so much love, Evie xxxx

  2. I love the first picture of the blue sofa and pillows, lights, candles so beautiful and peaceful-looking, it persuaded me to read the entire article. Thank you for it all…but particularly that picture!

  3. Hi Evie, I loved reading this post, it’s definitely given me some inspiration as I sit here on the sofa board out of my mind whilst also in pain and absolutely exhausted. Sometimes I know I need to do the small things to feel better but I can’t bring myself to do them. I know I need to push through that resistance and be kinder to myself. You write so well xx

    1. Hi Kim, thanks for your lovely comment! I’m so glad you loved the post, I know that “board out of my mind whilst in pain and absolutely exhausted” feeling all too well. I hope the post can hopefully help you in some small way, I think self-compassion and being kind to ourselves is so so important and definitely one to practise. There’s a book called “Self-compassion” by Kristen Neff that made me finally understand how to practise self-compassion and it was truly life changing for me. I hope you have a lovely weekend, sending love and kindness. Evie xxx

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