Tips For Adulthood: Five “Comfort Activities” When You’re Sick

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I spent most of last week in bed, shaking off a flu.

I really fight against being ill. On some fundamental level, I don’t want to accept that my defenses are down and that I can’t accomplish what I normally do in a day. So I spend a lot of time feeling frustrated when I’m sick, which is, of course, not only pointless but counter-productive.

But then I read this great post over on Daily Plate of Crazy about how Big Little Wolf woke up one day feeling really lousy and decided that even though it meant tossing out her “interminable checklist,” she accepted that she was ill and had a really nice day in, reading magazines and watching chick flicks.

And that made me realize that if you re-frame it, being sick can actually be a nice excuse to relax and engage “comfort activities” that you might not allow yourself during your normal routine. And I vowed that the next time I’m ill, I’m going to approach it with a whole new outlook. Here are five things to do when you’re sick:

1. Play Board Games. I’m a huge fan of board games. And, once again this year, I have used Hanukkah as an excuse to replenish our supply. (This year’s additions include Backgammon, Risk and Battleship.) The drawback (and advantage) of board games like these is that they can take several hours to play. And so you really need to clear an entire afternoon or evening, which can be tough to manage during “normal times.” But when you’re sick, you’ve got nothing better to do. So assuming you can actually sit up, playing a board game is an excellent way to spend a sick day.

2. Watch Old Movies. I’m not sure why, exactly, but watching old movies is another great comfort activity when you’re not feeling your best. In theory, any film should do, right? But there’s something particularly soothing about old movies. My daughter’s school is performing Oliver! for the Christmas play this year so we happened to have a copy of the film lying around last weekend. And so all four of us snuggled up in our bed and watched Oliver! as a family. Lovely.

3. Drink Tea. I don’t drink much tea these days. I’m more of an espresso-brewing gal. But when I’m sick, I take a hiatus from coffee and drink only tea. And I *always* enjoy that. There’s nothing that screams relaxation quite as much as a large mug of tea. Preferably with sugar and milk. Yum.

4.Take a nap. This has got to be the classic comfort activity that I routinely deny myself during my “normal life.” Despite all the research showing that taking a 30 minute nap every afternoon is really conducive to productivity, I never, ever nap unless I’m feeling ill. But when I’m sick, I allow myself this luxury and boy, is it worth it every time.

5. Read a guilty pleasure. This will vary from person to person. I don’t read women’s magazines so that’s never going to be a comfort activity for me. But I did find my eye straying to the pile of “to be read” books by my bedside table – you know, the ones that you really want to read but always feel you *should* be reading something else? So after, like, I don’t know…8 years?, I finally picked up Michael Lewis’ Liar’s Poker and plunged in. Just like that. So glad I did.

OK, so you know where I’m going with this, right? If these things are all so fantastic, then why don’t I incorporate them into my regular routine?

I’m working on it, folks. Really I am.


For those who are interested, here’s my latest piece in Politics Daily on the woman in Iran sentenced to death by stoning.

Image: Nightime tea pot by racineur via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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89 Responses to Tips For Adulthood: Five “Comfort Activities” When You’re Sick

  1. Thank you for suggesting board games as a great way to spend the day! I’m on a bit of a one-woman crusade to keep board games relevant with modern families — and not just because I happen to design them! ;0)

  2. Linda says:

    Read The Big Short by Michael Lewis. It explains the mortgage meltdown very simply & understandably. It’s not bad to read books that are enjoyable.

  3. Great list. I personally prefer strawberry Fanta soda when I’m sick (and only when I’m sick…bizarre, I know…) and egg flower soup. 😉

    Hope you’re feeling better!

  4. Totally agree! Mine include playing and evening Scrabble game with my husband (hey, if I’m sick, he usually gives in), watching 80’s movies, and reading a great book. Great post!

  5. educlaytion says:

    Old movies, tea, and nap! You just described last week for me. I took in Roman Holiday (1953) for the first time. Audrey Hepburn made her breakthrough performance in that film, mostly because Gregory Peck demanded that she get the role because he knew she’d be a star. Congrats on FP. I’m going to make some tea.

  6. runtobefit says:

    I think we all get frustrated when we’re sick because we don’t feel like ourselves. I would love to say that next time I am sick I will take it in stride and enjoy it, but the fact of the matter is…I would be sick. How is being sick ever enjoyable? 🙂 But, yes yes…you’re right…you at least have to find some comfort in it because it will make you feel better a whole lot sooner! The best advice is to use those comfort activities even when you’re not sick.

  7. humanitarikim says:

    My favorite thing to do when I am sick is watch movies on the couch with my big fuzzy blanket!

  8. markp427 says:

    Board games are a fantastic idea, but then you need somebody else home (and most likely sick, or soon to be sick) playing them with you. It’s tough playing Scrabble by yourself. The good thing is, you always win. The bad thing is, you also always lose.

  9. enjoibeing says:

    thats funny because i was going to guess a few of these before i read and i got 3 of them right off of your list. my favorite has to be watching an old movie. i got a nice collection of old comedies and action flicks that i like to gravitate to when im sick. nice post!

  10. […] colleenanderson wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptA […]

  11. rtcrita says:

    Don’t forget “staying in your P.J.’s ALL DAY!” I love snuggling in my P.J.’s and soft, fuzzy robe and a pair of white scrunchy socks when I feel yucky. I push the robe up around my neck and chin and ears and just lounge on the couch with the remote in one hand (Yes, old movies are the best. Funny Girl would be a nice long one that would entertain me and keep my mind off of my illness.), Kleenix stuffed in my pockets, and a T.V. tray with tea, crackers, chocolate (as long as it’s not the flu I’m dealing with)and some slightly cool bottled water. If I fake it even worse, my kids might make me some ramen noodles with a chicken flavored bouillon cube in it! Oh, and some 7-up or Sprite–just like mom use to give me. Ahhh….your making me want to be lazy today and treat myself to a “sick day!”

  12. If you are at home alone board games can be a bit of a problem. My favorite is a wooden puzzle game called TANGRAM. I can spend hours with it and also use it as a great tool for finding creative solutions (my coaching an counseling clients love it!)

    All the best from Austria.

  13. I totally agree with drinking tea when I’m sick. I’m not much of a tea drinker myself, but whenever I’m sick it seems to be the best remedy (especially with a little bit of lemon and honey). One odd thing I love to do when I’m really sick is workout. For some reason I feel completely energized while working out, no matter how sick I am. All in all, good read.

  14. I so enjoyed your easy style of writing. Reading of love board games, and mentioning “Battleship,” reminds me of the time I brought an electronic version of Battleship, and played it with my wife. My wife beat the pants off me about twelve times in a row, in playing the game. In disgust, I put it away, and never played again. Tip…if you are real good at a board game, let the other player “win, once in a while.”

  15. I love, love, love your list. I have been sick this week and took a 3 hour nap with my youngest. He stayed down for another hour. Wonderful! Congrats on getting freshly pressed.

  16. Janis says:

    Knitting and crochet. Seriously. Best way to waste time and still come out with something useful that was ever invented. Handcrafts do with spare time what a coffee can does with spare change — saves up the dribs and drabs until you end up with something concrete at the end.

  17. CrystalSpins says:

    I read my guilty pleasure books for 15 minutes before bed every night. It helps me fall asleep and I don’t feel too guilty about it because it’s just part of my ritual for getting to sleep.

    Although I have been known to stay up all night telling myself, “Just one more chapter.” But I’m a responsible adult — I only do that on the weekends.


  18. I also hate being sick, but you just gave me some great ideas to maybe even want to play being “fake” sick for a day or two.

    Thanks for sharing.



  19. Costa says:

    Haha, awesome list.

    I will definitely agree w/watching old movies, but I’ll add old TV to that. When I’m sick, watching A BIT OF FRY & LAURIE on DVD is my go-to thing.

  20. amycmartin says:

    Love this list! It definitely speaks to my needs when I don’t feel great.

    I really like your blog, too. I am new to the blogging thing, and this is a great example!

    Amy Martin

  21. pawpoint says:

    Like the post, a great list! Unfortunately whenever I get sick, I really get sick and I dont find myself watching old movies, drinking tea, instead I find myself shivering in bed and throwing up into a bucket. Thanks for the post!

  22. tiallarising says:

    Last winter between November and March, I was sick 6 times…and let me tell you, I came up wtih some really good ideas of what to do! Of course, after the 4th or so sickness, I was awful exhausted, so some things weren’t quite possible, but it also gives you a lot of time to think and re-evaluate your normal activities. Congrats on Freshly Pressed! 🙂


  23. Lakia Gordon says:

    I really like to watch old movies when I’m sick. Some of my favorites of all times Lil Abner (I know its super old lol), Gidget (the first one, not when she goes to Rome, etc.) and If a Man Answers… siggggh.

  24. bookjunkie says:

    I am so guilty…I even do some of these when I am not sick

  25. Brooke says:

    I watch old movies and take naps almost every Sunday. Some call it laziness. I call it my road map to sanity.

  26. When I’m sick I eat Pastina, drink Classic Coke and sleep all day. It’s my comfort behavior.

  27. mysoulforsale says:

    Congratulations on being freshly pressed!

    I think that these are great examples of things to do from time to time as part of your regular self-care. Who knows? Maybe taking that nap or watching that movie with your kids will actually prevent you from getting sick?

    Thanks for the great reminder that we need to take care of ourselves!

  28. I always love feeling a bit off in winter because it gives me a good excuse to eat soup, watch 40’s movies and read trashy mags!

  29. ryoko861 says:

    Last year when I had a reeeeally bad cold, I was craving……get this…..jello. And not the cold, solidified treat, the just-made-and-it’s-still-warm form. I don’t know why, there was something about it that my body craved. The sweet warmth that tea couldn’t provide? The syrupy, warm consistency that soothed my stomach? I couldn’t tell ya but it made me happy and relaxed. Weird, huh?

  30. […] Tips For Adulthood: Five “Comfort Activities” When You’re Sick Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood. […]

  31. shenanitims says:

    Nothing about lounging in a hot bathtub? You can practically do all the other activities from there! Read, nap, drink tea, all possible, and more enjoyable, when in a bath.

  32. Patricia says:

    I do all the things on your list–except board games–when I am not sick. When I am sick I just cocoon in bed and sleep for hours.

  33. Sonal says:

    Absolutely agree 🙂 falling sick is just your body telling you that it’s time to indulge in yourself for a change. loved the list you have here… my personal favorites are drinking hot tea and watching old movies 🙂

  34. Great post – congrats on being freshly pressed!

    I think we all hate being sick for the same reasons, it throws us off our game plan.

    Your suggestions are terrific. Remember to carry your favourite pillow to wherever you are watching the old movies. 🙂

  35. Thanks for the “great reasons to get sick” post! The only thing I would add is some cinnamon toast with the tea!
    Congrats on your FP status!

  36. I never wanted to be sick before! I like your list – as I type I’m in a onesie, with some folders and work in front of me. I would love to be able to make a cupa and watch a movie… *cough* Is this the flu coming on? Oh my…. 😉

  37. A truly magical list, and one I wholeheartedly endorse. The one difference is that while you seem to do these things only when you’re ill, I try to do them all the time. Of course, when I’m actually feeling sick I can’t completely enjoy myself, so (however hard I may try to fight it) I simply give up and do something productive.

    Not often, though. Not often.

  38. Minka says:

    Boardgames are great! Sometimes I feel like we get so busy and forget the easy pleasures in life like a board game, or a book. We have become so dependent on technology we have forgot the simple things in life. Even sitting in front of a fire…aaaah… nothing like it!

  39. Rachel says:

    Thanks for the suggestions! I hadn’t really thought about playing board games when I’m sick – I usually just stick with napping, watching movies, and drinking lots of tea!

  40. Deanna says:

    My new favorite board game for when I’m sick is Boggle – great for wordsmiths tired of Scrabble.

  41. erhu says:

    thanks for the very wonderful post! great things to do when your sick but i’d rather do nos. 2-5 except no. 1 i just don’t play boardgames that much 🙂

  42. Playing board games while ill? I never have that kind of energy. My Illness M.O. is to sleep it off. I find that I recover much quicker by staying in bed and letting my body fight the germs while sleeping. If that doesn’t work, then a viewing of “You’ve Got Mail” always makes me feel better.
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. 🙂 -Jen

  43. codywords says:

    You should try playing Settlers of Catan. It’s also a slightly strategic board game, and it’s becoming very popular! 🙂

  44. makingup3000 says:

    Because we are too busy to fit these in our regular routine. I knew where you were going with this. haha.
    But sometimes it’s good to call out sick when you aren’t sick to do these things. I think we call it a “personal health day”,
    Great list.
    #2. Thank you Netflix for instant streaming.
    #3. I love tea in the winter….it warms me up.
    #5. I like to read before I go to bed. It makes me tired.
    There……I guess I do do a couple in my regular routine.

  45. Laura C says:

    In my case, tea always soothes an upset stomach or calms me when Im overwhelmed with stress. Board games are always relaxing too!

  46. Oh my… Risk? I haven’t thought about that in a WHILE! And yes, I’m sneezing today, so I’m cuddled up with some tea and naked juice. Mmmmmmm

    Congrats on the Fresh Press – what a wild ride, eh? I got one yesterday, and it was wonderfully bizarre indeed.

    You are officially “Fed” and “Followed”


  47. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! I love your list and find myself doing the same things when I’m sick. I pretty much always watch You’ve Got Mail. I drink tons of tea (but I tend to do that anyway). I read something totally easy, like Harry Potter, or I buy a magazine that I’ve always been interested in but never picked up. And now that I live in Armenia, my newest sick trick is visiting neighbors. They’re concern for me is heartwarming; their directions to put on more socks or sweaters makes me feel like I’ve got someone watching out for me since my own loved ones aren’t around. So, a good visit to the neighbors is always good medicine.

  48. mrtaurus says:

    I’m SO ill today. I am going to do all of these.

  49. Hello Delia,

    I like your blog! I especially enjoyed reading this post. While I’m not very good with board games, I like the idea of curling up with a good book!
    You sound like a very nice and easy person, that’s good….

  50. Great post! I love being sick for all these reasons. I just curl up in bed with a few streaming movies on Netflix and a romance novel. In this society our lives are so hectic that all comfort activities become guilty pleasures.

  51. batikmania says:

    Good idea, but I can only do the tea party, since I still have to work, preparing my students report books at this end of school term. Gosh… I just realize that there are soooo many things to do to end this school term. I need more energy…!
    Congrats to you, for being published on freshly pressed. 😉

  52. […] Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood. I spent most of last week in bed, shaking off a flu. I really fight against being ill. On some fundamental level, I don't want to accept that my defenses are down and that I can't accomplish what I normally do in a day. So I spend a lot of time feeling frustrated when I'm sick, which is, of course, not only pointless but counter-productive. But then I read this great post over on Daily Plate of Crazy ab … Read More […]

  53. Daryl Boylan says:

    Wow! What a response! As to your final question, why not indeed?

  54. Great suggestions! We should all take a moment to relax and unwind, even when we aren’t sick.

    Board games is a fantastic idea — my husband and I break out the Scrabble board every now and then, and it makes for a perfect night in no matter the season or weather.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    Drive on,
    – M.

  55. Emily Jane says:

    I’m sending this to my poor sick husband stuck at home today!

  56. Judy says:

    Wow, who knew everyone had so much to say about comfort activities when sick!? I think this shows we are all overworked and over stressed.

  57. Cecilia says:

    I actually love that level of sickness – where you’re down enough to not be able to “work” (do what you normally do) but not so sick that you can actually still handle a board game or book. The downside is when it’s school vacation and you have kids at home and/or if you have deadlines….anyway, isn’t it sad how we have to wait until we’re sick before we can try to do something relaxing…

  58. I really enjoy the Benylin commercials. Unlike all the others which show people having a cold, taking the medication, and then rushing off to work or mountain climbing, these ads show people taking the medication and then staying home — still sick, but able to enjoy the time off. The tag line, “Take a Benylin Day,” is brilliant. They even have a web site with puzzles, soduko, videos, music, and various home remedies.


  59. rft3 says:

    I’ve always found myself watching ‘Price Is Right’ when sick. However, like you said, board games (and even cards) are always fun – you sunk my battleship!

  60. simon says:

    nice blog.. 🙂

  61. These are great tips. I’m a little sick right now ;( I’ve already watched several old movies and i’ve drank a lot of green tea, very relaxing.

  62. vbrekkidd80 says:

    I think one or two that were missed was color in a coloring book – jumno pad cause I can truly never get enough of those color by numbers or the picture puzzles that tewll you where to draw a specific frame of photo anmd to be surprised by my drawing skills or lack therof.

    One other thing that I think is a simple pleasure is just to write a letter. Sure maybe your mind may not be in the best place but to even write out your thoughts or share some comfortign thoughts with a friend is great. I know even after emails have overtaken now texts…it’s just great to open up your mailbox and not find a bill but a letter of pages that someone has taken out of their day to write to you. It’ll warm your heart and keep your spirits lifted. A simple thought that will make anyone feel better!

    I really like the premise of the blog because truly I get annoyed when adults, moreso young 20’s that message me that they’re bored and have nothing to do. Sadly enough I’m not an electronic game system, but I will listen to them on a phone call or even skype if necessary. In the end good post!

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