Watercolor moth with text overlay: Making Time to Relax: Crucial for Chronic Illness Self-Care

Making Time to Relax: Crucial for Chronic Illness Self-Care

Our son came to visit last week. He doesn’t live close by, so although we talk at least once a week, we only get to see him a couple of times a year. We had a great week together, and I was sorry to see him go. While he was here, we did some painting together. As some of you may know, I’ve been trying to learn to watercolor, and I thought he might enjoy it. He’s much more artistic than I am, so I knew he’d do well with it. While we were painting, he remarked that it was relaxing. As I agreed with him on that point, it reminded me of how important it is to set aside time for relaxation.

With chronic illness, a lot of our rest is “enforced” rest – we rest because we’re in too much pain or too exhausted to do anything else. Although we’re not doing anything, it’s almost a sure bet that we’re not really relaxed. Our bodies may be still, but our minds certainly aren’t.

With many chronic illnesses, stress can cause flares, worsen our symptoms, and generally make us miserable. Finding ways to relax and relieve that stress is a crucial part of our self-care plans.

With #chronic #illness, #stress can...make us miserable. Finding ways to relax and relieve that stress is a crucial part of our self-care plans. Click To Tweet

If we want to truly relax, we have to make time for it. It’s easy to get bogged down in the busyness of everyday life and not set aside time to take care of ourselves.

There are lots of ways to quiet our minds and calm ourselves, but what one person finds relaxing, another may find excruciating (fishing comes to mind….). So how do we figure out what works for us? One word — experiment! Sometimes we just have to try different things to figure out what suits us best.

Here are just a few activities many find relaxing:

For people who enjoy quieter, more solitary activities:

Meditation – As we discussed in Could Mindfulness Meditation Improve Wellness, many people experience great benefits from meditating.

Arts and Crafts – Knitting, crocheting, ceramics, jewelry making, painting, making pottery, drawing, adult coloring….. The possibilities are endless.

Reading – Reading a good book can allow us to escape to another world, experience adventures, or learn something new.

Writing – Many people find the process of writing therapeutic.

Enjoying a nice cup of tea or coffee – Sometimes just taking the time to sit quietly and savor a nice warm drink can help us relax and have a calming effect on us.

Walking or biking a favorite trail – Although this may be a little more active than some of the other “quiet” pursuits, being out in nature can rejuvenate us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

For people who enjoy more active and/or social pursuits:

Working out – For people who enjoy exercise, a good workout can leave you feeling relaxed. Of course, we’ve all heard of the endorphins released when we exercise, which can help us feel better overall.

Going out with friends – Sometimes going out with friends is just what the doctor ordered. Although going out can be difficult for some of us, we can still spend time with friends – just do a “girls’ (or guys’) night in” instead of going out.

Walking or biking with a group – For people who enjoy being with others, this can be a great way to relax and socialize at the same time.

Taking Classes – There are all sorts of learning opportunities these days; gardening classes, cooking classes, art classes…. You name it, you probably can find a class for it. Many Community Centers offer classes of all kinds at little to no cost.

Relaxation looks different for every person, but it’s a critical part of our Self-Care Plan. Each of us needs to find what helps us unwind and let our minds take a break for a while. Even more important is actually making time to participate in those activities.

What helps you relax? Do you actually set aside time for relaxation? Please share!




    1. Thanks so much Wendi! Netflix really is a gift for those of us who spend a lot of time at home, isn’t it? I love to read, but I have so much trouble with my eyes these days that I end up watching TV or movies instead. Hope you’re doing well sweet friend. Blessings to you!

      1. 🙂 yes……….I am so thankful we can afford Netflix! I also love reading but when I am ill my eyes don’t work well enough to read. Thanks again for another helpful post!

  1. Wonderful post. Writing is therapeutic for me especially if my feet and legs are elevated some. Most often I cannot wear shoes past noon and forced rest is so commonplace that it is barely noticed. Thank you for the information. g

    1. Thank you so much G! I’m glad you find writing therapeutic. It’s good to have something that helps us really relax. I hope you’re doing well my friend, and that you got some rain from the tropical storm. We got a good little bit. It didn’t get us out of drought conditions, but it sure helped. Blessings to you!

  2. This is a truly wonderful post, Terri! Stress is a killer, especially if chronic pain is involved. It never ceases to amaze me how much my pain levels sky rocket if I’ve been upset emotionally about something going on. Or simply haven’t been getting enough down time/rest, as you’ve so brilliantly written.

    I love that you got a chance to visit with your son and enjoyed the stay. That’s wonderful. Painting is an incredibly relaxing hobby to have. My husband loves it. I tend to be more the writer. I am however intrigued by the paint by numbers kits and have thought about trying those 🙂 Have you ever tried them?

    Wishing you a wonderful day. Thank you for all you do. 🧡

    1. Thank you so much Holly! Stress really does affect us in almost every area of wellness, and it can throw us for a loop if we don’t keep it in check.

      I’m glad you and your husband both have activities you enjoy.

      I haven’t ever tried the paint-by-numbers, but I know quite a few people who really enjoy doing them. My friend Caz at Invisibly Me (www.invisiblyme.com) was doing a paint-by-numbers giveaway recently. I’m not sure if it’s still open or not, but you may want to pop by her blog and check it out. If you could win that, it would be a great way to try it, wouldn’t it?

      Thanks also for following – I look forward to getting to know you!

      1. Caz is wonderful, isn’t she? She’s a sweetheart who is deeply encouraging to so many people. I noticed she had the giveaway as well. I’m sure whoever wins is going to love it 🙂

        I look forward to getting to know you as well. Thank you for being such a light in a world where love is much needed! All my best to you!

      2. You’re so right about Caz, and I have a feeling you’re one of those fabulously supportive people as well. I’m glad to know you’ve already “met” her. I appreciate your kind words so much! Blessings to you!

    1. Thanks for sharing V.J.! I’m starting to really love working with watercolor. Though I’m improving I still wouldn’t say I’m good at it yet, but I guess it doesn’t matter as long as I enjoy it. 😊 I hope to get to the point where I can make beautiful art like you do. Sending hugs your way sweet friend!

  3. Plenty of great suggestions there Terri, and I agree about experimenting to find what works best. I have a variety of things from writing, playing online scrabble, a road trip or just taking a cup of tea out to our car and noticing the beauty of nature around us!

  4. A lot of people think nothing gets accomplished when time is made to rest. On the contrary, so much gets accomplished because you take the time to rest. Resting in itself is an accomplishment. I really identified with the solitary suggestions and use them daily.

    1. Thanks for sharing Kristie! I agree 100% that we’re able to accomplish much more when we take the time to rest and recuperate. Not resting when we need to has such a negative impact on our health. Blessings to you!

  5. This has come at the perfect time because I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately with so many things to do and not taking the time to rest and relax as I should. Of course, being busy means we pay for it afterwords with that ‘enforced rest’. I was thinking just earlier this morning how long it’s been since I’ve been to the park and how I’d like to take some photos on a sunnier day of the changing autumnal leaves. I’ll have to schedule some proper downtime in to shut off. But there are still too many things to do & I’m already so behind. It’s like being caught in a loop! Knowing that rest is imperative, but putting it into action without feeling guilty or panicked about not getting things done, are two different things. Great thoughts on ways to relax! I find getting out in nature can be very refreshing and grounding, and snuggling up with a mug of hot chocolate & a good book is another of my top choices. I hope you find plenty of time to rest and relax this week too, Terri  ♥ xx

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Caz! I’m sorry you’re feeling so overwhelmed lately. Unfortunately, that’s an easy state to get into when you’re super-busy. I doing the Tame Your Time course with Ruth Soukup, and one thing she teaches is that you just have to accept at some point that you can do it all. Some things will just not get done, and that’s okay. She recommends prioritizing your to-do’s into Must -Do’s, Should-Do’s and Would-Like-To-Do’s. Because stress has such an impact on my fibromyalgia, I’ve decided that making an “appointment” with myself for some relaxation is a Must-Do for me. Even if it’s just a few minutes to do some deep breathing or read a couple of chapters in a good book, just making it a priority has helped me. Of course, I realize I’m probably not as busy as lots of other people, so it’s probably easier for me, but I tend to “find” work for myself sometimes.😁 I hope you get a chance to get out and get some photos while the leaves are still changing. Sending love and hugs your way sweet friend!

  6. Caz (www.invisiblyme.com) says it so well. This summer has gone on and on without an occasional let-up or rainy day. It’s telling on my MS fatigue. Combined with a joyful but busy month, planned rest became forced rest. I got farther and farther behind. When we take time for rest or personal pleasure, things do go better, indeed.

    1. I’m sorry to hear your summer has been so hot and dry George. I’m sure that can’t be good for your MS. Staying busy is fun sometimes, but it can definitely take a toll on us. I hope you’re able to set aside some time for planned relaxation soon my friend. My best to you and Sandy! Blessings to you both!

      1. Nice! We’ve only been on one cruise so far, but we loved it so much we definitely plan to go on more of them. When we lived in Tampa we used to watch the ships leaving the bay from our back porch. I’m glad you were able to enjoy a getaway!

  7. While I have plenty of interests that allow me to relax, taking time to relax is really challenging. When you’ve already spent several days “resting” because you didn’ t have any choice, it’s hard to feel like you can afford to spend any time relaxing when you are feeling better.

    1. Thanks for sharing Kit! I know exactly what you mean. It seems when we feel okay we have this idea that we absolutely have to be productive, especially if we’ve already had to rest for awhile. It really is hard to turn that off, but I’m learning to make stress reduction (which includes relaxation) a priority. Blessings to you sweet friend!

      1. Your articles are great reminders of what really matters. When I got up this morning, I thought to myself that my top priority is to take good care of myself. Thank you for helping me get my priorities straight!

  8. As always Terri, your posts are timely to the things happening in my life. For me, I like working out because it just totally clears my head and I just let go of a lot of stress. Yes it’s working out and exerting energy but I find that my mind and body are almost in sync and in a relaxed sort of state. Thanks for always posting such helpful information!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Mark! Working out can be so therapeutic, can’t it? I’m glad you’ve found something that works so well for you in reducing stress. I really appreciate your kind words, dear friend! Blessings to you!

  9. Such great tips and ideas to build in more relaxation, Terri. This is the hardest part of my self care to keep up with. I get so focused and driven and there are times I can’t keep myself from working sun up to sun down. Some nights, I even work through the evening with one eye on a TV show. It’s just where my business is at right now (start up phase). I find though, that even just taking five minutes to do some breathing exercises or another mindfullness exercise helps so much to keep the stress down. I am trying harder to build in more pleasure, like learning the Ukulele and reading something purely for pleasure at least a few hours every week. But you’re right. If we don’t take breaks for ourselves, our bodies will force us into one. I’m living that reality hard today after a very strenuous week of work, medical appointments and family obligations! Xx

    1. Thank you so much Michelle! It IS hard to set aside that relaxation time, isn’t it? I’m glad you find those breathing and mindfulness exercises helpful for reducing stress. Playing the ukulele sounds like a fun thing to learn. You’ll have to do a video of you playing it for us one day. I’m sorry to hear your body has forced you into a break, but hopefully, that will be just what you need to be re-energized for the upcoming week. Sending hugs your way!

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