Convalescence ~ keeping stimulated and finding things to do

It can be so dull being stuck at home or otherwise limited in what one can do!  There are lots of things I'd love to do but simply can't manage, either because I'm not up to it, or because of the cost.  I'm sure many others in similar situations feel the same way.  I've had to find other ways to making my time enjoyable, worthwhile or creative.  Sometimes I have to settle for simply being practical, which isn't necessarily what I want but is worthwhile in its own way.  It's very important for our sense of well-being to keep occupied with whatever it is that gives our lives meaning and pleasure.

I share here some of the ways I've worked out of how to stay active enough to keep things interesting.  Please excuse this repeated reference to my own experience - I don't wish to speak for others. 

Social outings: I always try to accept invitations.  I keep them manageable by saying that I'd love to come, but would like to confirm that I'm able to do so nearer the time to be sure that it's going to be possible.  I also say that it will probably be for a fairly brief time and check that that is going to fit in.  That way, when I begin to conk out I can quietly excuse myself without awkwardness.

I do drive a car and in the past have got into complications with being expected to help others with transport.  I've learnt to say that I can help with transport one way, if the person wanting a lift can manage to get themselves the other way.  Taking responsibility for both is too much, and besides, it should be a schedule that suits me, not the other way around.  

Reading and libraries: Reading can be a great way of taking time out.  I have a collection of favourite books which I read and re-read.

The local library is also good.  I've never been much good at choosing books from the shelves though, and it can be worth asking one of the staff for help or recommendations.  They often have handy lists of authors who write similar sorts of novels, which can be useful if we've read all the novels we like by a particular author.

Taking pot luck from a shelf of books that are waiting to be put away narrows the possibilities and can make choosing easier.  In any case if you are fortunate enough to have a free library service provided by your local council it won't be costing anything to try something different to usual.

Some people enjoy book discussion groups.  Librarians may know of local ones or even run their own.    

Music: As I've said elsewhere the range of music I was able to listen to when I was most unwell was very limited, but I've gradually been able to take in and enjoy more.  I enjoy the music talent shows on television and then go away to YouTube to look up the musicians as well as the original artists which has expanded my horizons considerably.

The local library also has CDs available for loan for a small charge and this can be a good way of trying out new things as well as enjoying the old.   

Television and movies: When I was most unwell, I couldn't watch television at all - it was too much to take in, far too violent, and left me exhausted.  However, since I've been sufficiently better I've found it good value, not for many programmes but for some.

If you can afford a DVD player this can be a really good way of seeing films that are worthwhile for fresh input and entertainment.  I've reviewed ones I've found enjoyable on my Rushleigh site "The Movies and Television Chronicle".  A DVD recorder can be an added bonus if you are fortunate enough to be able to afford one.  Then you can watch what you want when you feel like it.

In New Zealand we have Freeview, which for the cost of installation gives satellite access to a wider range of channels.  No doubt other countries have their own schemes.  I find this very worthwhile.  The Sky network is also available but I've never bothered with it as I'm not interested in sport and it does require a subscription payment.  I can see why lots of people have it though, especially those who can't get out and about.    

Internet broadband and good telephone deals: We have come to find these essential.  Since we are at home a lot being able to keep easily in touch with others and with what's going on in the world is more important than it would be otherwise.  We don't go out for meals or entertainment so these costs are relatively minimal and fill an important need.

General domesticity: Since being off work I've learnt much more about various household tasks and practised applying them: preserving fruit, making jam, growing vegetables and other plants, doing up old furniture, and sewing.  I've talked about some of these activities in  my Rushleigh site "The At Home Chronicle".  At one point I spent quite a lot of time supervising the neighbours little girls and helping them with art work and making dolls clothes.  I was surprised I enjoyed doing so.  

Sometimes unexpected impulses spur us to do things which can turn out to be really valuable: Rather surprisingly one of the first things I took up after I got sick was teaching myself to touch-type.  It was an inspired impulse which I've been grateful for ever since as it's made writing using the computer keyboard relatively stress free!  In years gone by I'd tried unsuccessfully to learn not just once, but three times.  This time I sat down with an old electric typewriter and a nearly prehistoric tuition guide and plugged away at it by myself.  I'm hopeless with any kind of repetition exercises which in this case made me falter well before I was able to type the requisite number of lines of simple finger exercises, so when I started to reach saturation point I'd simply stop for a time or go on to the next exercise.  Then I graduated to doing laboriously careful copy-typing of any text that would lie flat on the table next to me and practised with that - very slowly at first.  But I got better at it and now I hardly think about it at all.  Since then I've become a keen writer and this enables me to think about what I want to say without having to consider what my fingers are doing.  I highly recommend it.

Getting to know the neighbours has been helpful in reducing isolation and in providing a sense of belonging.  When I was working I didn't have much time for this although I always made a point of exchanging names and being on greeting terms.  Now that I'm home a lot this has become much more important.  I often wish we lived in a quieter setting with more space around us, but have to say that living at fairly close quarters has been rewarding and reassuring.  When I look out the window I can see who's home or gone to work, what the neighbourhood pets are up to, and many other things.  Working in the garden often brings me into conversation with a number of the neighbours mostly just in casual greetings but often for a chat as well.  From time to time we help each other and I value and enjoy all of that.

Even when we are severely restricted it may be possible to find new interests, new perspectives and new ways of doing things which can be unexpected: A place we lived in some years ago had a small stream running along one boundary.  On the other side of it there was a secluded bank which was the responsibility of the local council.  It was a neglected area and I could see how pretty it could be.  I ended up gradually weeding it out and developing it into a minor woodland area with a path running through it.  No one asked me to do it or gave me permission.  I just did it, and then talked to the council about it later to see if they could take away the rubbish.  They were very happy with what I had done, which had not cost anyone a cent, only the time and care that I'd put into it.  I found it deeply satisfying.  At the time I could hardly cope with people at all, but I could cope with the plants and potter there in my own time, largely undisturbed.

The photographs included in this chronicle date from that time and place.  That setting inspired me to once more take up a keen interest in photography which I'd had from an early age.  I took hundreds of photographs of that setting which were all from from within a radius of perhaps a couple of hundred yards and not from the park-like setting which is how they appear!    

In retrospect I can see that the time when I was so incapacitated and steeped in suffering was also richly creative.  You may well find that when you look back on difficulties experienced at various times, that good things did come of them.  They may even be times of transformation.  

Carl Jung, the great psychiatrist, experienced a breakdown after his split with his colleague and mentor, Sigmund Freud.  He was at that time in mid-life.  He  re-discovered a childhood pleasure of building little model houses, castles and such-like which he described as a turning point.  He none-the-less remarked: 
...but I gave in only after endless resistance and with a sense of resignation.  For it was a painfully humiliating experience to realize that there was nothing to be done except play childish games. 
(page 45-46 of "Carl Jung: wounded healer of the soul" by Claire Dunne.  I have reviewed this book in a separate article in this chronicle) 

Noticing energy shifts can be useful: In her excellent book, "The joy of burnout", Dina Glouberman makes the valuable point that noticing when our energy picks up can provide important clues as to what's going to be worth pursuing.  If we don't have much energy generally, this is makes a lot of sense.  If we patiently follow these leads they can help us gradually find new direction in our lives.  And if it's something that causes your energy to pick up then it's likely that you're enjoying yourself, which is great!  I mention Dina's book in greater detail in a separate article in this chronicle.

Other possibilities I haven't mentioned are clubs, night classes, artwork and handicrafts, and very likely you will think of others.  All these are good and need not be costly.  If you're not sure what's available in your area again the local library may be a source of good information, or your local Citizen's Advice Bureau, or the Internet.  

In the next article I will share some ideas about other things that may be helpful in establishing new foundations and a modicum of self-esteem.

Book store links for interested readers:
"Carl Jung: wounded healer of the soul" by Claire Dunne

"The Joy of Burnout" by Dina Glouberman

"The Joy of Burnout: How the End of the World Can be a New Beginning"

This is the final article of Part 4. To go to Part 5 click this link:
Part 5 ~

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