The transition from a once healthy life to the one with chronic illness is a challenge, to put it mildly. Activities and hobbies that we once enjoyed and thrived at may no longer fit into our lives and so we seek new ones. A new hobby, a new activity that may help pass the time; help switch off from the world outside our window, or indeed the chaos inside our own bodies. Of course, our abilities, much like our illnesses are not always linear, and so I think many of the hobbies and activities listed here are ones that we are able to pick up and put down when able and that is what is of most importance. I know from my own experience there are things I can do some days and not others, some years and not others, it really does depend on my body at that time. Therefore I hope there is something here for all. Something to help pass the time, to help switch off.
For those who are joining who are perhaps not part of the chronic illness community but have found their life completely slowed down and affected by the current going’s on in the world. Welcome. If there’s one thing that we, as chronic illness fighters have got used to, it’s a life in lockdown, so we have become quite good a ‘spending time’ (while hating it and longing for change), adjusting, changing our activities and hobbies to fit our new normal. Hopefully, this post may inspire some hobbies that may bring comfort during this strange time of lockdown and isolation worldwide.
Shall we make it all about me for a second? Joking, Kind of, but it’s nice to share, isn’t it! My hobbies and actives swiftly changed upon becoming sick. Dancing and physical activity went straight away, for obvious reasons. There’s an awful transition period where you feel a great loss of self when you can no longer do the things that make up such a huge part of you and your life. As well as physical activity I also had to forgo playing piano, which I loved. Over the years I have been able to pick it back up again however at present it’s not something I’m able to manage. Hopefully, one day because my goodness, I miss it!
I love to crochet! My Mum first taught me how to knit when I became poorly. However, I soon developed tendonitis in both wrists. After this, she taught me to crochet and while I found it more challenging to learn, in comparison to knitting, it is definitely less weight bearing as you’re not holding the weight of the creation on both needles at all times, just a loop on a hook. I love that with crochet I can still be creative. Being creative is such a big part of me, so it’s nice to be able to create many different projects, see them come together and gift items I make. It gives me a sense of purpose. I have to lie down for the majority of the day and night, so in short spurts, I sit upright supported by support cushions, with a pillow under my arms to support them. I wear wrist supports from my OT and use hooks that have cushioning for my joints!
I also adore doing makeup. It is what I have training in and I miss painting people’s faces so much! So when able, I love creating different makeup looks, it makes me feel a little like my old self again (even if I do feel worse for it later) and gives a wonderful sense of escapism.
Where able (if I have the knowledge) I’ve popped further information and links for each category.
Lorna writes “Ok so I don’t think it can really class as a hobby but I have these two daft games on my phone – homescapes and Tuscany hotel and it’s basically like a matching game like candy crush but then you earn stars to renovate buildings. I got myself some blue light glasses and I have a V-shaped pillow to prop my arms up on and I just play those games for about 20 mins when I need to just switch my brain off. I find it really soothing.” @creamcrackeredblog
Charlotte also finds phone games helpful “I’ve got a few app games that I find help me switch off and relax sumikko gurashi farm and sumikko gurashi – puzzling way.” @lottie2785
sumikko gurashi (Apple)
Sarah writes “I’ve been really getting into digital drawing 🥰 although it hurts my neck/spine after a bit, it’s a nice distraction and helps me get out of my head for a bit and gives me something to feel proud of…I use procreate! Started off small, worked my way up to cartoon portraits and I’m slowly finding my own style.” @sincerlyautoimmune
Alice is also exploring digital art “My newest hobby is drawing on the iPad! Much less pressure as you can press ‘undo’ if you make a mistake! Love zoning out and creating art!” @chronicallyaliceella
Soph writes “I love making cards using iris folding – great to focus on something and create something for someone else!” @cupofteawithme
Ellen writes “Drawing, painting, watercoloring helps me switch off. And if I’m not able to do anything I think about what to create next.” @mycolourfulsquares
Jacqueline writes “I love playing with alcohol inks as they are great for making abstract art, very lightweight gear, and it’s hard to make something bad with them so even people with low level talent like me can make beautiful things! I paint ceramic pots for my plants, plain ceramic tiles for coaster sets for gifts, and paint on photo paper (the backside, not the glossy side) and then cut them up to fit on blank greeting cards for homemade one of a kind cards for folks.” @queennorm
Painting By Numbers
Cassie writes “I love painting by numbers – I find that I can just sit with a heat mat and let my mind become distracted by the complex of painting by numbers. It helps relax me and takes my mind off the pain for a short while.” @theendogames
Shannon “I do adult coloring books 🎨🖌️👩🎨daily with fun markers and gel pens.” @chronicpainhacker
Charlotte writes “I have a few hobbies, I also crochet which I did do before and is something that I can after. I’ve also just started to sew felt dolls from kits recently.
I’ve got a few app games that I find help me switch off and relax sumikko gurashi farm and sumikko gurashi – puzzling way.
Everything is something that I can pick up and put down depending on how I am doing.” @lottie2785
Maisie is also a crochet fan “Hi, I’ve just seen you post asking about hobbies, so I thought I’d share mine. I’m 23 and was diagnosed with ME at 16 so have been living with this illness for a long time now. I’ve lost a lot to this illness I used to be really active and loved sports, I can’t do those things anymore. I taught myself to crochet it has really kept me sane this passed year especially with the lockdowns. I wish I had tried to learn years ago. I’ve found it’s a easy activity I can do with very little physical strain and I love seeing the finished product at the end. Sometimes it can be hard as my mind can often go foggy and it get difficult to concentrate on a pattern. So I have to take a break let my eyes and mind rest before staring again. Being able to do this makes me feel like my time spent resting isn’t just waisted. It’s really helped my mental health in that respect.” @maisie_empsal23
Clover Amour Soft Touch Hook 4mm (Indivudal)
Clover Amour Soft Touch Hook (individual)
Great Youtube playlist for learning crochet basics Bella Coco
Michebe likes to sew: “I sew a lot, I have a computerised machine so I can use it without the foot pedal as the foot pedal = pain. I also play video games on my pc and Nintendo switch, and puzzle games on my phone. I wish I could sew more but my body has low limits these days but I find I can play on the switch when my body hurts in bed.” @michebemason
Lisa writes “I’ve started ‘reading’ comic books/graphic novels, because the images are easier to follow than big chunks of text…Anything by Jiro Taniguchi, like the summit of the gods. Or on the off chance you can read french – Le chat du rabbin’ series is my absolute fave!” @lsbckwll
Furari – Jiro Taniguchi Available here
Jill writes “When able , I am working on making a quilt by hand, very slow going though as can only do it in short spurts. Also mindfulness colouring is good for calming the mind.” @jiffyfish
Jacqueline “I also have really gotten into houseplants. Before, I was never home enough, but now they’re just my speed. I enjoy watching them grow and thrive. It’s hopeful and it helps to have greenery indoors. 🪴” @queennorm
Åsa writes “Growing sprouts like alfalfa is super fun and hardly any effort. Just water once a day and after a couple of days, you have fresh sprouts. You can buy kits online.” @asa.vik
Scrapbooking And Anime
“My creative hobbies are crochet and scrapbooking. I can do them in bed and it’s something you can take your time on. For relaxation, I watch ASMR videos – so soothing. And my nerdy hobbies are watching anime and reading manga. I got into them late (at age 33, I’m now 35) but they saved me from a dark depression. I love getting lost in the stories and the characters feel like friends. We go on many adventures together!” @gentlespoonielife
Anna writes “I play the piano! It focuses the nervous energy in my fingers and my brain and calms me down. It’s also something I and good at and something I can still do from my healthy days 😁.” @annaebrownwriter
Listening To Music
For those who can, I know that listening to music can be relaxing and therapeutic. You can create you own playlist or follow others on both YouTube and Spotify.
Comedy Clips And Reddit Reading
“I guess my main thing atm is totally disconnecting by watching short comedy clips on youtube (if well enough) or reading reddit posts.” @sick.haiku
Audiobooks And AMSR
These are two that I often see mentioned so they deserve highlighting. I know that many of us struggle (sadly) with reading books. Some are able to listen to audiobooks and find Audible a fantastic source for this.
Also popular is AMSR which some people find relaxing.
Embroidery is also a craft I see floating around on the gram and is something I’d like to turn my hand too! It seems quite gentle and mindful.
While I tend to reach for my crochet hook over my knitting needles that doesn’t mean I haven’t enjoyed knitting. It really is therapeutic and a great way to switch off from a busy mind and create something.
For anyone who suffers from joint issues, I would recommend ergonomic or bamboo needles. (The bamboo needles also don’t make the knitting needle ‘click-click’ noise, so if you’re particularly noise sensitive you’ll appreciate that!)
Can we call meditation a hobby? It’s something my Dysautonomia physio tells me I should be doing every day, so I’m calling it a hobby! Meditation has a calming affect on the nervous system, helping to switch the autonomic nervous system from the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight, where cortisol is produced with an increase in heart rate) to the parasympathetic nervous system (where these symptoms are reduced).
You can access meditation via many apps, including Youtube, Headspace, Calm.
My family and I have the family plan for Headspace which certainly makes it more affordable.
Jigsaw puzzles aren’t just for kids. This is another hobby I see a lot of online! Apparently completing jigsaw’s is good for building spatial reasoning and logic skills. They can be a relaxing activity too.
You can obviously build physical jigsaws, however there are now apps which allow you to complete puzzles on devices too.
Keep In Touch
I hope this has been a helpful little gathering of gentle hobbies and activities and it has perhaps given you some ideas of something you might like to try. I know it’s very difficult when we are so poorly and have such little energy, to partake in, well anything, so choosing the hobby that is right for you, at this period in your health journey is most important. I know that audiobooks and AMSR are out of the question for me with my noise sensitives for example but they may be perfect for someone else. It’s also important that they are all things that we can pick up when able, put down when needed-stress free. Always. Find what transports you, what can take you away and help you switch off. Even more so right now. I hope there is something here that can do that for you.
If you have any further suggestions, please do share them below, I’d love to hear!
“There is comfort, even among strangers, when people find something they are equally passionate about.”
― Joyce Rachelle
If you’re interested in more, why not check out What I’m Grateful For As 2020 Comes To An End