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Home Life, Self-Care

39 Things to Do Instead of Watching TV When You Have a Chronic Illness

I know all too well how easy it is to become a professional couch potato when you have a chronic illness. And sometimes that is literally all you’re capable of doing. But other times we may be doing it out of habit, and it can get boring at times. Here are some other fun alternatives that don’t require too much physical exertion.

I have borrowed some of the ideas from a fantastic list put together by Michelle of Making Sense of Cents. While her post is great for most people, I decided to make a more doable list for us chronic illness warriors.


I don’t know about you, but I find many benefits in doing crafts. One it exercises my creativity. Second, I find it reduces stress, and lastly, it doesn’t matter how fast or slow I move I can still create something beautiful.

I love doing crafts, and I love even more that it’s something I can still do while I have brain fog. For me, my brain fog can severely affect the left side of my brain. It can take away almost all of my analytical thinking, makes me confused and can change my speech. I have found though, that my brain fog doesn’t hinder my ability to be creative.  I might still be moving and thinking slower, but when it comes to creativity, that’s okay. My go-to craft is cross stitch, but I’ve provided others below.

  1. Cross stitch. I have found some amazing patterns on Etsy.
  2. Embroidery
  3. Punch needle
  4. Rug Hooking
  5. Knitting
  6. Crochet
  7. Adult coloring – I have found adult coloring books both on Amazon and at the dollar store.
  8. Friendship bracelets
  9. Scrapbooking
  10. Sketching
  11. Painting
  12. Cake decorating
  13. Photography
  14. Create a photobook

Unplug with Games

Games can be a fun way to spend time. It can also give you an excuse to invite a friend or two over for a visit.

Here’s a list of a few games to get you started.

  1. Card games – Ranker has a great list of the most popular card games
  2. Yahtzee
  3. Scrabble
  4. Word cross
  5. Sudoku
  6. Word find
  7. Bananagrams

Work your Mind, Body, and Spirit

  1. Meditate – There are great free meditations on youtube. I also like the app 10% Happier (I’m still using the free version), and there are courses on Udemy.
  2. Start a gratitude journal. I started writing down what I was thankful for this fall, and it has helped me tremendously in trying to stay positive.
  3. Write a list of goals. Just because you’re chronically ill, it doesn’t mean you have to give up all your life goals. Yes, we may have to give up some, but we can also rework some of our goals to accommodate our chronic illness. We can always create new ones that we can achieve with a chronic illness.
  4. Do some stretches and/or a light workout even if it’s from your bed.
  5. Read a book.
  6. Make a playlist.
  7. Learn something new. I’ve taken a few courses from Udemy and have enjoyed them. Udemy has frequent sales, and during these times many of their courses are less than $20.

Connect with People

I don’t know about you, but being chronically ill can be very lonely sometimes. When I went into remission and reconnected with friends, I realized that most of my friends mostly stopped talking to me because they became busy with their own lives. Unfortunately, when you’re out of sight, you become out of mind with a lot of people. Does it suck? Yes, it does, but that doesn’t mean your old friends wouldn’t love to hear from you.

  1. Call, email, or text a friend or family member
  2. Handwrite a letter and send it through snail mail
  3. Respond to or post a question in your online support group

If you’re Having Nice Weather Get Outside

Sometimes spending time outside can really have a positive impact on how you’re feeling.

  1. Sit out on your front porch or back deck
  2. Have a picnic
  3. Watch the sunset
  4. Watch the sunrise
  5. Go for a short walk
  6. Go to a local outdoor concert
  7. Look at the stars
  8. Drive or ask someone to drive you to a state/national park. You may not be able to hike, but you can still take in the scenery and maybe stop at a lookout on the side of the road.

Take pictures wherever you go to capture memories of your adventure.

Do you have other activities that you like to do that I haven’t mentioned above? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
low energy activities | activities to do with a chronic illness | couch potato | bored of TV | things to do when you have a chronic illness

Sara at Managing Chronic

Sara at Managing Chronic

Sara has worked in corporate America for almost 15 years, and she's worked the last eight years with FND. Her FND comes with paroxysmal dystonia, chronic fatigue, brain fog, sensory overload, muscle pain, and more. She is currently a part-time career woman, a mom and a wife.

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  1. Avatar

    As someone with Hashimotos, celiac disease and chronic fatigue, this is a really great list! Thank you so much!!

    1. Sara at Managing Chronic

      Jen, you’re welcome! I’m glad you like the list. 🙂

  2. Avatar
    Patricia says:

    I’ve tolerated (not suffered!) from fibromyalgia, etc for 15 years. Hate when I have a day when I need to stay in bed but it just happens. Don’t fight it. Accept it! You WILL have better days. Crazy enough you have hit everything I have learned to do to fill my time. I write, yes—hand-write—letters to friends and I never cease to get a happy thank you as written correspondence is so “vintage”! It’s a great way to stay in touch and you can quit whenever you tire. You have done such a wonderful kindness to fellow tolerators. Thanks, sweet one!

    1. Sara at Managing Chronic

      Thank you! And I love that you say tolerated instead of suffered. I might steal that. 🙂

  3. Avatar
    Patricia says:

    Sorry, I looked at your list again and wanted to add sewing. There are so many things that are quick as easy to make that can help people in need. Again, it’s a great activity you can just stop whenever you tire.

    1. Sara at Managing Chronic

      Yes, that is another great activity! Thanks for mentioning it.

  4. Avatar

    Organizing your closet or going through clothes to donate. Slowly & pacing yourself. ☺️

    1. Sara at Managing Chronic

      I love it and it’s definitely an activity I should do. 🙂

      1. Avatar

        This is a nice list however I suffer from fibromyalgia, lupus, RA and they all effect my hands and the list everything in the list involves using ur hands

        1. Sara at Managing Chronic

          Thanks, April. Sorry to hear you have so much trouble with your hands. I tried to make the list as encompassing as possible since chronic illness affects everyone differently. There are some seated outdoor activities listed that don’t include using hands, and others have posted great suggestions in the comments, such as audiobooks.

    2. Avatar
      Elaine Brazil says:

      I did that a few weeks ago! It was SO gratifying & my closet looked amazing! Of course, I’ve been to visit my Mom since then & she always gives me a BUNCH of clothes…so now my closet is full again!

  5. Avatar
    M A Wilson says:

    I find it tremendously beneficial to my mood if I can do something to help others. I knit and crochet blankets, scarves and hats for homeless people and their dogs. When my hands function I make cheerful jewellery that I donate to a local charity shop.
    The other supporters are our dogs and cats,all rescues,and those we look after for friends, neoghbours, and people involved in hospital emergencies. We have a long garden and we play with toys indoors and out. They graciously consent to spend hours at a time cuddling with me on sofa or bed when I cannot move or have a low energy spell.

    1. Sara at Managing Chronic

      Those sound like wonderful activities. I do wish I could volunteer more but you’ve found a fantastic way to give back even if you can’t be very active. 🙂

  6. Avatar

    Great list! So glad I found your blog .

  7. Avatar
    Daniel says:

    Music. You mentioned “make a playlist” and “go to a local outdoor concert”, but strangely you didn’t mention “go to a concert”. I very much prefer indoor concerts. Outdoors is often too warm, too cold, too wet, etc.
    And then there’s playing an instrument, of course. I take tremendous joy in playing the piano and singing. Sure, I can’t always do it, as it does require a fair amount of energy, which I don’t always have. Or I might be in too much pain to play, but I play and sing whenever I can.

    1. Sara at Managing Chronic

      Daniel, I’m so glad you commented because going to a concert, playing an instrument, and singing are excellent activities. They also made me think of going to a musical or play. Thank you. 🙂

  8. Avatar

    I suffer from fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and pulmonary artery hypertension. There are days I literally can’t get out of bed. Thanks so much for this list as well as understanding. I also find that watching my grandchildren play is very soothing.

    1. Sara at Managing Chronic

      Serena, you’re welcome. I’m so glad you found the list helpful. I love that you find watching your grandchildren play to be soothing. My boys are finally at an age where they have started to play together, and I find it very heartwarming that they are becoming friends. 🙂

  9. Avatar
    Rebecca says:

    I have fibro, me/cfs, and a seizure disorder, and spend most of my life in my bed or recliner as a result. Your list is terrific! Many of my go-tos are on your list (cross stitching is awesome! I’ve been doing it since I was 21, which is more than three decades ago; I also read, paint, do loom-knitting, meditate, and do stretching exercises). I think of myself as a writer, though I have a hard time writing now, due to poor concentration. I can still write a couple of paragraphs in my journal whenever I feel like it, and I still write poems on occasion. I do a lot of art journaling, which is hugely enjoyable. I do a lot of crafts— I make most of the Christmas gifts I give each year, and I love learning new handicrafts. Pinterest is great for finding inspiration and tutorials. One of my favorite things to do is watch cats on 24-hour streaming programs on YouTube: Tiny Kittens is located in BC, Canada, and focuses on feral cats, and The Critter Room is hosted by Foster Dad John, who is located in Seattle, Washington, USA, and has one foster group at a time (usually a mama with kittens). There’s chatting for anyone who wants to participate, and both groups also have Facebook pages. I also do a lot of internet surfing, and I do jigsaw puzzles online (at

    1. Sara at Managing Chronic

      Hi Rebecca, Thank you so much! I love the list of all your activities! I love doing crafts too and have made some crafts with my little guys with the help of Pinterest. Pinterest does have some great ideas and I can get lost there in my searches. 🙂 I’ve never thought about the idea of art journaling. That is such a great idea! I will also be checking out these 24-hour streaming programs. I had no idea they existed. The Foster Dad John one sounds particularly fun. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  10. Avatar

    I am surviving Fibromyalgia for 20+ years. I say surviving instead of suffer because I have found ways to live with this illness. I agree with your lists. I have had to find ways to live with this condition. I would add putting together jigsaw puzzles. I use a puzzle maker on my desktop computer. No need to mess with pieces all over. Another way is online games. There are so many different kinds of games that there is something for anyone. I use BigFishGames. Not only are the games fun but they keep my mind active with the least amount of energy.
    I love to read cookbooks and discovering new recipes for the days I can’t cook. Love your site.

    1. Sara at Managing Chronic

      Hi LeeAnn, I love that you say surviving instead of suffering. I think I’m going to adopt that language as well. 🙂 Putting together jigsaw puzzles is an excellent activity. I’m personally not an online game player so I had no idea that you could even do jigsaw puzzles on the computer. How cool! Discovering new recipes is another great suggestion. Thank you!

  11. Avatar

    This is great list! I had Guillain-Barre Syndrome 3 years ago and still suffer with chronic pain and fatigue. I’ve never been a TV or film person over and above my usual soaps and I do like to be productive so I’ve had to find lots of new things to do. I work part time but on days off I really enjoy blogging, creating photo scrapbooks ( I regularly order prints off my phone to use) and as someone else mentioned sorting out your wardrobe has been a big one for me. I’ve been able to sell unwanted clothing and use the cash to help pay my bills. Not socialising as much means lots of clothing is now not needed.

    1. Sara at Managing Chronic

      Thanks so much Lisa! That’s great you’ve been able to sell your unwanted clothes for money. I feel a little overwhelmed when I think about that task. Lol. I checked out your blog and it’s great. Do you have an email list I could sign up for?

  12. Avatar

    Read or listen to a book. Audible isn’t the only audio book provider any more, and the new guys are giving them a run for their money. Walmart’s audio book club is only $10 per month for 1 credit that you can buy any audio book with. Audible is $14.95/month but if you also have Prime, you get a lot of other “extras” that make it hard to leave Audible/Amazon. Audible also just added a 2 books per month option for $22.95. So you basically can get any two audio book(s) for $11.50 each, monthly. No, I can’t afford Amazon Prime either, but Amazon kindly lets me use my Mom’s membership.

    Glad to find y’all.

    1. Sara at Managing Chronic

      Sherril thank you so much for the information on audio books. I had no idea, but it’s good information to know. 🙂

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