(Formerly known as the Severe ME/CFS Bedbound Activity Masterlist!)
Living with chronic illnesses like ME/CFS, Long Covid, POTS, EDS or fibromyalgia is hard. Gold standard health recommendations like sunshine and exercise simply don’t apply to us. And most of the articles out there suggesting activities for bedbound people assume a higher level of functionality than we generally have. With that in mind, here is a masterlist of activities pitched at a level people with severe chronic illness can manage. Every activity on Part 1 of this list can be carried out while lying in bed motionless with your eyes closed, no audio required. Part 2 will consist of sensory activities, while Part 3 focuses on things you can do to pass the time on your device.
Thanks to the ME/CFS communities on Facebook and Telegram for contributing to this list. It wouldn’t be half as big and rich without you.
EYES CLOSED ACTIVITIES:
1. Make a list of everything you remember around one topic. Animals, plants, celebrities, countries, books, songs, movies, people called John, there are lots of options. If a random list is too easy, try making it alphabetical. That said, as with everything on this list, you shouldn’t strain too hard! This is about keeping your brain occupied, not about making it work.
2. Make lists of:
a. reasons you’re awesome
b. your accomplishments
c. good things about today.
d. beautiful things you’ve seen
e. things you feel grateful for
f. things you’d do if you were well
anything else that will make you feel good to acknowledge.
3. Turn the radio on in your head! Mentally sing along to your favourite songs. If you’re a fan of Broadway, you can even put on a concert by reenacting whole musicals!
4. Memorise something and recite it to yourself. I pick a poem that resonates with me and memorise a line or two a day. Other things you can memorise include quotations, lists of capital cities, digits in pi…anything you can practice reciting in your mind.
5. Tell yourself one of your favourite stories! Pick a book or movie or TV show you love and take yourself through it. Another option is to pick your favourite fandom and act out fanfic of yourself interacting with your favourite characters. Or try picking a story and writing a sequel or prequel!
6. Go to a special place in your head. I use a memory palace for this: normally a memory palace is based on places you know, instead I have a system of interconnected fantasy rooms I slowly move through, imagining myself interacting with each space in turn. There are lots of guides to creating a memory palace online, but don’t feel pressured to follow them too closely, as they’re specifically for memorisation purposes. What’s most important about building a memory palace for resting is that you feel happy to be in each room.
7. If memory palaces sound a bit much for you, why not just go on holidays? People I spoke to created all sorts of holiday spots to visit in their minds. If you’re more into planning than picturing, why not plan an imaginary vacation or road trip? Even better, pick a place in the past or future and go time travelling!
8. Go walking in your mind. Try to visualize each step of what a hike would look like. Not the landscape, as you might for #7. The actual steps. The crunch as each foot hits the ground. How it looks, how it sounds. Enjoy the virtual sensation of simply walking.
9. Relive precious memories. If you struggle to feel a connection to your memories, ask yourself questions like “what was the light like there”? or “what could I touch there?” or “what did that day sound like?” that bring you closer to the memory and give you a sense of sensory connection.
10. You knew this was coming, but: meditate. You can use a guided meditation if you want, but if you’re sensory sensitive it can be better to do self-guided in silence. You can do breathing exercises, body scan meditations where you acknowledge every sensation you’re feeling, or visualisations if they work for you. I’m also going to list “checking in with your emotions” here because that’s mindfulness and it’s really important for us to do.
Forms of meditation you can try:
a. Breathe in love, breathe out peace.
b. Count breaths to 10 and start over.
c. “Box breathing” (4 counts in, 4 counts hold, 4 counts out X 4 counts hold) or “4,7,8” (4 in, 7 hold, 8 out).
d. Try a classic body scan meditation like the one found here.
e. Go over each body part and make sure it’s relaxed. Relax the toes on one breath, on the next breath relax the feet, then ankles, calves, going all the way up the body.
f. Imagine the feeling of being in a warm bath,with the warmth sinking deep into your body. Or if you prefer, imagine the refreshing waters of a cool deep lake.
g. A technique from Dissolving Pain I like involves focusing on an area of pain, then slowly expanding your awareness until it fills the whole room. The pain never feels as bad when I’m focusing on lots of other things!
11. Play word or number games! You could try playing categories by listing different things going along the alphabet (for animals you might go A: Armadillo, B: Box turtle, etc.). You could also play number games like counting backwards from 400, or counting in multiples of 5 or 10.
Other word games you could try:
a. Try making anagrams from a word! Shorter words are better to avoid brain fog. You could also see how many anagrams you can create using a celebrity’s name.
b. Try to connect long sequences of words through overlapping letters.
c. Spell out a word, then put the letters in alphabetical order. Then reverse the order. You can also alphabetize the syllables of a word, or try dividing the word in half and splitting the letters into two alphabetical columns.
d. Play The Minister’s Cat! It’s a game that focuses on adjectives. You just describe the cat alphabetically, trying to find more and more unusual descriptions, eg: The minister’s cat is an amazing cat. The minister’s cat is an beautiful cat. The minister’s cat is a cantankerous cat. And so on!
12. Have imaginary conversations, either with loved ones or celebrities or characters you love. You can interview your heroes. Or invent an imaginary friend and have conversations with them!
13. Create an imaginary pet and look after it in your head.
14. Write songs or poems or stories. You don’t have to actually write them down, they’re just for your enjoyment. Develop your own soap opera and have your characters act out new scenes every time you rest!
15. If you’re an visual art kind of person, design things in your mind! Paintings, sculptures, furniture, houses. Put together outfits. Mentally redecorate your room. If you miss cooking, come up with recipes!
16. Mentally plan things you need to do to save yourself energy when you do them. You could reorganise your space, come up with solutions for problems, or work out how to execute a plan or design.
17. Practice a skill. A friend goes through Rubiks cube algorithms in her head; I tend to try remember Chinese characters or Tarot card meanings. Whatever your thing is, brush up on it in your mind.
18. Try some very gentle yoga. Your eyes are rolling and that’s fair, but I’m talking the kind that you can do lying down without moving. Google corpse pose yoga or yoga nidra. Gentle stretching can feel good too.
19. Play a video game like Tetris in your head.
20. Continue a dream you had that night or one that has particularly stuck with you. You can also learn to lucid dream! The Awoken app is great for this.
21. Plan in detail what you’d do if you won the lottery. You can imagine other “ideal situations” too, like your dream meal or party.
22. If you’re spiritual, consider praying. Even if you’re not, you can lie in bed and send love and healing from yourself to others in need.
Enjoyed this piece? Have a suggestion to add? Leave claps and comments below! Parts 2 and 3 of the list will be uploaded soon…