The Importance of Play When You’re Chronically Ill

I know what you’re thinking.  “Play?  Seriously?  I can’t take time to play – my moments of energy need to be spent on cleaning the house, my job, etc.  Play just doesn’t make it on the to-do list.”

The Importance of

Self-care is vitally important to our health.  Most of us will agree to that.  But we limit “self-care” to be taking our meds, eating healthy, etc.  But play doesn’t make it on our self-care agenda.  We live in a society that views exhaustion as a well earned badge worn by productive people.  Play is often seen as a waste of time.

What if I told you play could improve your health?

In his book Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg Mckeown writes this….

Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, has studied what are called the play histories of some six thousand individuals and has concluded that play has the power to significantly improve everything from personal health to relationships to education to organizations’ ability to innovate. “Play,” he says, “leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity.” As he succinctly puts it, “Nothing fires up the brain like play.

He also shares how Columbus was playing when he realized the earth was round.  Newton was playing when he discovered gravity. Watson and Crick found the DNA double helix while playing.  Einstein thought of experiments as examples of allowing yourself time to play.

What if play revealed a way you can ease your pain, or simply allowed your stress hormones to take a breather and give you an over-all calming feeling?

Play is essential! 

No one can function at full throttle constantly.  Everyone needs some down time.

You may feel that you have to endure too much down time already – time spent in bed, on the couch and just plain on our butts!  Our illness seems to provide us with plenty of down time, doesn’t it?  I don’t know about you, but the time I have to spend on the side lines of life due to my illness sure aren’t enjoyable times for me.

I’m not simply talking about down time.  I’m talking about PLAY.  The kind of activity that gives your body time to de-stress.  Time spent on something you enjoy that helps to rejuvenate your body and mind.

So where do you even begin? 

It’s hard to come up with ideas while you’re stuck in the recliner waiting for your meds to kick in and offer some relief.  I get that.  Really, I do.  But let’s try to see if play could give us a bit of relief as well.

Start here.

What did you do when you were a kid?  Did you like to write stories?  Try starting a blog.  Let me know if you do, I’d love to read it!

Did you like to color or paint? Try something artistic. MIchael Hyatt’s wife Gail always said she wasn’t a very artistic person.  One night she went with a group of friends to a painting class and got hooked.  Now she paints and even sells her paintings online.  You can find them here on her pinterest board.  Still think painting is beyond your abilities?  Adult color books are all the rage now.  Why not pick up one of those!

Did you enjoy music? Try taking piano lessons.  You’re never too old to learn a new skill.

Try a craft of some sort.  If you loved to scrapbook but can’t seem to find the energy anymore to get everything out and put back away, jump over to Shutterfly and make a photo book. Go to the craft store and pick up a craft kit to make Christmas ornaments.

Put a puzzle together!  Try anything that would give you some pleasure and allow your brain to focus on something fun and enjoyable.

Pick a card or board game to play with your family.  We’re actually on a Euchre kick right now!  Just a couple hands and laughter is all I need.

I’d love to hear what you do for play.  Let me know in the comments below!





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12 thoughts on “The Importance of Play When You’re Chronically Ill

  1. Kim, I am enjoying your posts! I write(well I can’t always use my hands due to the RSD Pain, but I use Dragonspeak). I do have a blog called
    Creating Through the Pain at

    • Hi Kathleen! So glad you’ve stopped by. I know someone else who uses Dragonspeak too. I’ll have to check out your blog!

  2. My play is unconventional. I chaperone my son’s HS band at the football games. Afterwards, several of the chaperones and kids go out for a bite and a few beers. The kids all sit together and the moms all sit together. We have a great time socializing and solving the problems of the world…or at least our little corner of it as it relates to HS activities. It’s great non-stressful adult time!

    • That’s great! Unconventional play is still play and I think you’re doing something incredible by investing in the kids!

  3. I have found it to be extremely valuable to have play time–after the fact! It’s another area that doesn’t come naturally to me. My life story has been more of a red and black one than a light blue, vivid green or sunny yellow. One thing I do is surround myself with loads of yellow and smiley faces. Plus I have dabbled a bit with creative endeavors. I am thinking about writing light-hearted poetry for a change. Everything has been so dark and heavy but necessary for the road of recovery. I’m still way too intense. That does need to change and time for play will help me transition.

    • It will help a lot Julie! My husband has been my biggest encourager to take time and energy for myself and for play time. I hope you find more light blue, vivid green and sunny yellow days! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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  5. I couldn’t agree more with the concept of “play” being an important part of treatment for chronic disease. I have 2 types of “Play ” I engage in. Any silly activity which gets me laughing really helps with pain so I am now a Laugher (you laugh more easily the more you do it!) and also pretty silly at times. But this REALLY decreases my pain level. I look for humor everywhere. I also engage in an activity (cardmaking) that is creative and that I’m passionate about. I find I can develop an intense focus when I’m engaging in cardmaking and the pain recedes. Hope this helps somebody else with CFS/ME or with chronic pain of another cause.

    • Alice, laughter has been proven to help speed up the healing process in patients. I know it has a tremendous effect on us! So glad you’re making it a big part of your life. I have a few hobbies that I engage in as well, that I’m able to focus and lose track of my pain. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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  7. Kim,
    I love this. I’ve just come across your blog after joining the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. I am an admin of a Chronic Illness forum & I’ve just shared your post with my group.

    Blogging for me is allowing me to indulge in my passion of writing now that my chronic disease has sidelined me from an active life.

    I am also a Christian & I love the title of your blog. So glad I found your site.

    God bless