One of the most difficult things people with disabilities deal with can be when we must remain in our beds. Despite what some people may think, it’s really not fun to stay in bed all day – namely because of the reasons why we are stuck in bed in the first place. Pressure sores, vertigo so bad we cannot stand, crushing fatigue, severe pain, and more. It’s hard to enjoy your bed when you are tied to it by suffering and illness. It’s hard to enjoy your “free time” when you can see sunshine outside and hear the noises of the world going on around you.
In a society where many of us are always busy (or claim to be), having to enter a space to allow our bodies to heal, to pull ourselves out of the rush of everyday life and become still can make us feel lazy, useless, and even guilty. Or maybe we feel that we don’t have that much going on in the first place and having to get into bed feels like a further slump. On top of those feelings, you have all the hours of the day to ruminate on them with hardly any distractions. You may try watching TV or movies, or maybe play video games, but sometimes these things may not be enough to lift you up, and you may tire of them after a while.
For me, TV, movies, social media and even video games feel like passive consumption. All I’m doing is laying there, consuming information. Not that consuming information is bad in itself – it’s bad when that’s all our brains are doing, and it can be especially rough on our self-esteem after a while when we’re in bed. Below are some ideas to help activate your brain and to help you feel like you have some agency in your life, without ever leaving the bedroom.
Audiobooks and dramatizations are a great way to occupy your mind. They are especially good when you have issues with hand mobility, wrist pain, are too fatigued to move, have a vision impairment, or have vertigo. You can get free trials of audiobook subscriptions, but I’m choosing not to include those here because I know that when I’m not feeling my best I can be forgetful and having the added stress of a huge accidental charge when a trial period expires is not something I need when I’m recuperating. Here are some ways to get audios for free.
LibriVox.org is a repository of free audiobooks. All the stories are public domain, so they are quite old (which, of course, isn’t a bad thing). The readings are done by volunteers, not professionals, so the quality may vary. This also means that you yourself can try your hand at doing audiobook recordings.
BBC Sound has a collection of dramatizations done by UK actors that cover classics like Macbeth and more contemporary pieces such as Dr. Who. Hop on over to their main page for music, podcast episodes, and more.
Learn Out Loud carries over 4,000 educational audiobooks for you to wander through. If you’ve wanted to take an online class but have been concerned about doing assignments and making deadlines, this may be a good option for you to broaden your mind.
If you’re a sci-fi fan, such as I am, and are looking for something shorter to listen to, MINDWEBS may be perfect for you. Each of Mind Web’s audio stories clock in at around 30 minutes.
Zooniverse is like crowdsourcing for research projects. It’s a great way to contribute something from home. There’s no commitment required. You can participate for as long or as short of a time as you like — be it weeks, hours, or even a few minutes (as long as the project is still available).
You can pick projects that work best with your energy levels. Some projects are more energy-intensive, such as transcription of historical documents – one of my favorite things to do on Zooniverse. With transcription you’ll be doing a good amount of typing, which takes hand/wrist movement and energy. You may also need to participate in project-specific communities that the website provides, because handwriting on the documents can sometimes be hard to decipher and you might want someone’s opinion on whether you’re looking at an S or a G. You also need to be able to focus on the context of the document because this can help you decipher words. Transcription takes a bit of physical energy, a bit of social energy, and a bit of brain energy.
Perhaps you’re looking for something a little lighter? Zooniverse provides opportunities for that. For example, as of this writing there is a project open where you can help improve an AI program that does captioning of famous artworks for blind and low-vision people (helping others with disabilities, what a bonus!). This involves viewing the artworks, reading the AI-generated captions, then deciding if the captions are “good” or “bad” (there’s a very short tutorial in the beginning that defines these terms for you).
If you’re only up for pointing and clicking, you can still participating in projects. There are usually a good amount of projects that work like this, such as going through pictures and spotting wildlife; helping to find hidden black holes; or picking out dolphin chatter from other oceanic noises. One of the cooler point-and-click projects I participated in had us viewing satellite images and identifying possible midden (trash) piles, burial mounds, and roads that were used hundreds of years ago. For someone with an interest in archaeology, it was right up my alley.
I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of all that’s offered at Google Arts and Culture. So far, I’ve explored famous paintings; examined museum pieces from the Bronze Era (fantastic detail); and submitted a picture of my service dog to see if he has a fine art doppelganger (he does, sort of). The site offers up different museums for perusal, which basically works like Google street view. There are games such as visual crosswords, where you guess the classifications of art works instead of words; “What came first?”, a chronological game about culture; and “Puzzle Party,” where you can connect with others online to solve jigsaw puzzles of famous artworks (or go solo). I could easily see myself spending hours getting lost in the maze of activities on this site.
The Met’s Open Access Artworks section has over 375,000 images of their paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and more. The pictures are high-resolution, and the detail upon zoom-in is impressive. I’m guessing that you can see even more detail in these images than you might be able to in person, since in person you’d be required to keep a certain distance. On other parts of the main site, you can learn about art and culture timelines and the process of caring for the pieces, among other topics.
“Exercise” is probably not high up on the list of words you want to read right now. I understand. And like exercise, motivation is also on the bottom rungs when you’re in bed. However, I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t include it. Being on bed rest can be rough on the body: you lose muscle tone, your risk of getting blood clots increases, you gain weight more easily. It’s important to try and exercise in the ways that you’re able to – in ways that don’t hurt too much in the moment or the next day.
A good way to work out is to get some exercise bands such as these, which are stretchy bands that can be used in many ways. They often come in variety packs that have bands with different levels of resistance.
If you’re looking for something you can use immediately, you could try using soup cans as weights, or smaller pet food cans, if you have grip strength. Cans are often already in your kitchen, so that makes them an incredibly cheap/free option.
It’s best to try and move your body if you can. It can be so tempting to fall into a depressive, slow state when you can’t get out of bed; using your body however you can may help alleviate that sluggish feeling that starts to seep into both body and mind.
Make Music For Free
Download some free music production software – a good one for beginners is LMMS, which stands for Linux Multimedia Studio (works on Windows and Mac, too). LMMS is one of many digital audio workstations, or DAWs.
Programs like these have a learning curve. Rather than try and figure it out for yourself, it may be best to search Youtube and watch some of the beginning tutorials first. It might be a little complicated, but that means you have more options than a simpler music app: more effects, more samples, more sounds to create. Once you start to get the hang of things it can be hard to stop! Other similar free DAWs include Cakewalk and Waveform.
Scribble puts a unique musical concept to work — with no tutorials required. It allows you to create a melody with a simple drawing. Point and click your mouse above the keyboard, and a small, colored circle appears. Drag the circle somewhere and let go. Scribble then proceeds to play a note that corresponds to whatever key is marked, and the loudness of it depends on how quickly you moved the circle. Pick a different key and draw another circle. It’s one of those things that’s much more fun to do than to explain, trust me.
Add Texture is another one that’s all ready to go. It’s primarily used to add ambiance and, well, texture to songs and soundtracks, giving them a richer, fuller feel. But it sure is fun just to play with the sounds they offer – and they offer a lot. If you want a new palette of sounds, simply hit the blue shuffle button at the top and you’ll get six new ones to play with. If you hit a mix that you really like, you have the option to save the unique URL near the bottom so you can come back to it.
Long periods of bed rest may be the perfect time to start doing meditation. Being stuck in bed can be stressful, depressing and anxiety-producing, not to mention uncomfortable and painful; meditation has been shown to help reduce all of these things.
I have always preferred guided meditations. My brain tends to jump around a lot and hearing someone speak helps to keep me on track, pulling me back into the moment. There are many online to choose from, including ones for pain, stress-relief, and depression.
Visualization meditations can be quite relaxing and even fun. Do you want to walk through a forest, swim the oceans, or explore a cave? Perhaps you’d rather visit a tranquil village, or maybe drift off through the cosmos. I’ve even found one that takes you to an elven city from World of Warcraft. Or what if you created a visualization for others? Is there a town or palace from a video game you know by heart that you could take people through? There are many, many forest walkthroughs – what’s something unique you could contribute?
Having to spend days, weeks, or months in bed can be hard on our bodies and our minds. With the many ways our society has become digitized, fortunately the world has expanded for those of us who might not have the ability to get around in the same ways as our fellow humans – or to get out at all. In addition to moving your body as much as you can, I encourage you to explore the inner space of your mind and your soul by taking advantage of the wilderness of literature, music, art, and science that’s available to you right here on your screen, right at this very moment.