Sick & Tired - How To Cope With Chronic Illness When Rest Is Boring
Rest is a sublime experience. Until it’s something you’re forced to do.
Debilitating fatigue is a feature of many chronic illnesses. Migraine, ME, arthritis, EBV, Parkinson’s and now long-haul Covid.
And fatigue can be one of the most difficult symptoms to manage.
According to an article published in the Nature journal, fatigue is often reported by patients to be “one of the most burdensome and challenging aspects of their disease”.
Fatigue robs you of the energy you want to put into the projects you love. Chronic illness forces you into bedrest when you’d often rather be doing anything else.
In a nutshell? Rest can be boring.
So how do you cope when you’re sick & tired of resting?
We think there are some helpful reframes that might ease the frustration of needing so much rest.
How To Cope When Rest Is Boring
When dealing with chronic illness, rest can be a crucial part of managing symptoms and maintaining overall health.
However, not all rest is created equal. Simply lying in bed or watching TV may provide temporary relief. But it may not be truly restorative. In fact, it can even be boring or frustrating.
That’s because there’s a difference between rest and rejuvenation.
Rest vs Rejuvenation
Rest is the act of taking a break from physical or mental activity. Restful activities are quite passive and include:
- taking a nap
- listening to meditones®
- reading a book
- enjoying a warm bath
- listening to an audiobook or podcast
- watching TV
Rest can be beneficial for managing symptoms of chronic illness. But it may not be enough to fully restore energy and vitality. You also need rejuvenation.
Rejuvenation is the process of restoring energy and vitality. It often involves more active, intentional activities that promote relaxation and well-being.
Rejuvenating activities include:
- physical therapy such as yoga, Pilates or gentle stretching
- spending time in nature
- doing a puzzle
- playing a cosy game
- artistic or crafting hobbies like knitting, painting or drawing
Rejuvenation can help to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve overall well-being. These activities can help you to recover from the physical and emotional toll of chronic illness, and they may even help to reduce symptoms over time.
Changing Your Metrics Of Success
Chronic illness may limit your ability to participate in life as you’d like. Especially under capitalism.
We are all living in a system that values us for what we produce. Messages about hustling, productivity and economic success are the norm.
But when you can’t be as ‘productive’ as society expects? Life with a disability or chronic illness can be incredibly hard. And it’s important to grieve that.
It’s also important to recognise that “success” may look different for you. And that’s okay.
You can still create a deep & meaningful life. By defining your values and celebrating ordinary pleasures.
Embracing your own metrics of success can be a difficult process. But it’s an important step in finding peace with your reality.
Ultimately, it’s about finding the balance between what you can heal and what you need to accept.
No, You Are Not A Burden
In our culture of rugged individualism, it’s easy to think needing care makes you a burden.
But care is not a zero-sum game. Getting your needs met doesn’t mean that someone else goes without.
We all give and take care in different ways and at different times. This is the very definition of healthy interdependence.
“Yes, partners give us care related to our illness, and we receive that care gratefully. But we also give them care. We respect their personhood, encourage their growth, offer them space to be known and loved, and give them the gift of knowing and loving us.”
Is caring for plants a burden? Is caring for our pets a burden? Of course not. We care for these things because we love them and want to see them flourish. The same is true for humans.
We need each other. And needing care is not a moral failing. No matter how much ableism says so.
Letting go of the notion that you are a burden can help you:
- communicate honestly with loved ones about your needs & limitations
- give your caregivers a better understanding of how to support you
- receive the care & assistance you really need
- shift your mindset towards a more restorative one instead of feeling drained by guilt & shame
As much as rest can be a sublime experience, it can also be very boring.
Finding restful and rejuvenating activities you enjoy can alleviate boredom. Identifying your own metrics of a fulfilling life can help you make peace with your reality. Plus letting go of feeling like a burden is crucial.
Remember that managing a chronic illness is a journey. It’s okay to have setbacks along the way. It’s also important to be kind to yourself. Practice self-compassion, even on difficult days.
If you are struggling with managing your chronic illness, please reach out to a healthcare provider, support group, or mental health professional for help and guidance.
They can provide you with the resources and support you need to thrive. You don’t have to go through this alone.