When you tell a healthy person that you’re bedbound, a common reaction is, “I bet you’re really up-to-date on TV and movies!” And I did spend a lot of time early in my illness catching up on the years’ worth of programming I had missed while I was busy establishing my career. However, it turns out there is a limit to how long you can binge watch shows before you feel like turning the TV off permanently.
Fortunately, there are a lot of other interesting and fun things you can do to occupy your time without leaving your bed. I’ve been mostly bedbound for about 9 months now due to ME/CFS, POTS, and EDS, and housebound for more than a year and a half. Surprisingly, I very seldomly experience boredom. My entertainment options are limited more by my fatigue than by what’s accessible to me from my bed. Here are a few ideas to help you stave off boredom, whether you’re bedbound for a few days or many years.
I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember, so it was frustrating when my illness caused cognitive impairment that made it very difficult to comprehend written text. But then I discovered audiobooks. I found out that my local library has thousands of audiobooks available to download, and I immediately began devouring book after book. Exploring new worlds and making new friends in my favorite characters helped me feel less lonely and depressed. Even now, a year and a half later, this remains my primary form of entertainment to stave off boredom.
The library is a great place to start if you’ve never tried audiobooks before, but there are many other resources too. You can get an Audible subscription, buy audiobooks on iTunes or the Kindle store, or download public domain books narrated by volunteers for free at Librivox.
Recently, while I was at the back door to let my dog outside, something in the night sky grabbed my attention. There was a very bright orange dot next to the moon. Guessing that it might be Mars, I pulled out my phone to look it up. The website EarthSky confirmed that I had indeed spotted our neighboring planet, and if I turned around and looked to the southwest, I should be able to see Venus and Jupiter too. And sure enough, there they were!
I’ve always appreciated a beautiful full moon and twinkling stars, but I never put much effort into actually identifying and learning about them. Since that chance sighting of Mars, though, I have a newfound interest in what’s happening in the sky, and it’s amazing how much you can see through your bedroom window.
If you don’t have easy access to a window, the app Sky Guide has you covered – simply tilt your mobile device toward your ceiling and it provides an interactive view of what’s in the sky above you right now. (Available for iOS.)
3. Watch wildlife and nature out your window
You don’t have to live in a forest to appreciate nature from your bed. As a suburbanite, I’m not likely to see many coyotes or bears in my backyard, but there is plenty of activity out there to keep me from boredom. Hummingbirds zoom in and out of the yard, rabbits leave footprints in the snow as they dart from one shrub to another, and goldfinches hang upside down from sunflower heads to get to the seeds.
If nature won’t come to your window, though, there are still ways to appreciate it. To encourage visitors, try setting up birdfeeders near your window. Or why not go on a virtual nature hike on YouTube? There are even online groups that cater to nature lovers who can’t get into the great outdoors due to illness or injury.
4. Nurture something living
I know, you’re probably thinking, “Isn’t this supposed to be for people who are bedbound? I can’t take care of a pet!” And you’re right, many pets do take a lot of time, attention, and energy to care for. But some require very little maintenance and are inexpensive. Consider getting a pet goldfish, hermit crab, gecko, small bird, mouse or hamster, or a praying mantis or other insect. This may require a little help from a caregiver to clean their cage regularly, so be sure to do your research before buying a new critter.
You can also treat a plant as a pet, taking care to water it and feed it just the right amount, trimming away dead leaves, and yes, even talking to it. Building a terrarium can offer hours of entertainment and keep boredom at bay as you carefully select and place the different plants and decorate it with pretty rocks, gnomes, or tiny fairy houses.
Being responsible for the wellbeing of a living thing can provide companionship, entertainment, and make you feel important and useful during a time when you’re not able to care for all of your own needs.
5. Express yourself
Laying in bed for an extended period gives you time to reflect. It makes you more aware of your surroundings, and of what’s going on inside you. You may start to feel like your thoughts, feelings, wishes, fears, and questions about life are getting bottled up, so why not give them an outlet?
The options for expressing yourself are almost endless. Do you like writing? Try keeping a journal, starting a blog, or writing poetry or even a novel. If photography is more your thing, you may enjoy capturing mundane things around you in new ways and from different perspectives. Or if you prefer to make videos, you could make a documentary about your life in bed, interview a friend or family member, or make your own YouTube channel. You can turn your feelings and experiences into artwork by drawing, painting, or sculpting with air dry clay. Let your creative juices flow!
6. Learn something new
Have you ever wanted to learn how to knit, speak Spanish, or play an instrument, but could never find the time for it? Well, now’s your chance!
YouTube has no end of videos explaining how to do just about anything you could imagine, and there are thousands of TED Talks that cover fascinating topics you’ve probably never even thought of before. (If that sounds daunting, you might want to start with “The Most Popular Talks of All Time”. On Craftsy, you can watch step-by-step guides on sewing, quilting, embroidery, and many other types of crafts. And what could be more satisfying than taking a college class without having to worry about exams? Check out free online courses that can be found on sites such as Coursera, Udemy, and edX.
Now you can amaze your friends with all your diverse knowledge!
7. Train your brain
Another great way to keep your mind sharp and ease boredom is by playing puzzles. Do a crossword or word search, solve a few sudoku grids, or break out a deck of cards for some solitaire. There are also tons of brain training games available online, such as Lumosity or Elevate.
Remember, though, that mental exertion can be just as taxing as physical exertion for many Chargies, so be sure to give your brain frequent rests.
After I made the difficult decision to stop working, I felt like I had very little to contribute to the world. I wasn’t making any money to support myself, I couldn’t leave my house, and I was too fatigued to even have visitors. I was just sort of existing.
But then an opportunity arose to volunteer my time in a way that worked with my limited energy levels. A local church had recently started an online ministry, and after I had been attending for a while, the pastor asked if I would like to serve as an online chat host during the services. I accepted, and immediately felt a sense of belonging and purpose. Now, over a year later, I still love logging in to the service from the comfort of my bed every Sunday morning. I feel like I’m contributing to something that matters, and I’ve made a lot of new friends.
Most places that need volunteers are thrilled when someone offers even a couple hours of their time here and there, and they’ll often find a way for you to help that works for you. To find a volunteering opportunity that’s right for you, ask around at your favorite nonprofit organizations or advocacy groups for chronic illnesses, or check out Volunteer Match.
9. Go on a virtual vacation
You may not be able to leave your bed, but you can still plan your dream vacation. Just pick your destination and off you go! Think about what time of year to go; a warm sunny beach in February while snow piles up at my house sounds good to me! Research the sights you want to see while you’re there, and which restaurants can’t be missed. Use Google Earth to explore the world in 3D. Watch travel videos about your destination, and use your library’s online catalogue to check out books about the local customs and culture.
The best part is that planning a trip is completely free, so go crazy and pick the fanciest suite at that 5-star hotel!
10. Pamper yourself
Chances are, if you’re bedbound, you’re probably not taking a lot of bubbles baths, and going to the salon is definitely out of the question. But there are still ways to make yourself feel pampered without leaving your bed.
Shop online for new super cozy pajamas and socks, or splurge on some high thread count bed linens and a fuzzy blanket. To create your own spa experience, ask a friend or caregiver to bring you a basin of warm water with Epsom salts mixed in so you can soak your hands and feet. Follow that up with a pumice stone, ultra-moisturizing lotion, and some nail polish to make the mani-pedi complete. Then give yourself a luxurious facial with warm towels, a soothing facial mask, and nourishing serum and moisturizer.
Little self-care treats like these often go by the wayside when you have major health concerns, but you may be surprised by how much a few minutes of TLC can help you feel relaxed and comforted.
Have you tried any of these activities? What other things do you like to do when leaving your bed is not an option?
About the Author:
Molly Rice is an instructional designer, college instructor, and former pharmacy technician who is currently bedbound and unable to work due to chronic illness. She is active in her church’s online ministry and several chronic illness support groups. She enjoys listening to audiobooks, sitting outside on sunny days, and cuddling with her dogs. Molly has ME/CFS, POTS, and EDS.