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Things to Do While Recovering from Knee Surgery (Because It Can be Boring)
In the first part of this series, I shared all the must haves for pain management and recovery after your knee surgery.
In this second part, I will share things to do while recovering from knee surgery (or any surgery!) to beat boredom. The pain and lack of mobility is frustrating, and limits your access to things you can do to pass the time. Minutes pass by like hours. ‘Recovered’ seems a lifetime away.
This post is also a great resource for anyone who’s bed bound, stuck at home for whatever reason, feeling restless, anxious or bored. Or if you simply want to gain some inspiration for your next crafty project or gift ideas, or simply love to scroll through pretty things to see!“This post is also a great resource for anyone who’s bed bound, #stuckathome, feeling #anxious, #bored or who simply wants to gain some #inspiration. #ChronicLife” Click To Tweet
P.s. If you have any additional good suggestions on things to do while recovering from knee surgery, leave a comment and I’ll add it in and credit you! 🙂
Disclaimer: Knee injuries and surgeries, or any surgery for that matter, varies widely from person to person. Your age, lifestyle, weight, circumstances, medications, comorbidities, allergies and other issues can impact your recovery timeline, as well as the tools and methods required. They should be adapted for YOU.
This article, and the resources or suggestions provided within, are based on MY own personal experiences with a spontaneous bilateral patellar tendon rupture, as a person with many chronic illnesses. They are meant for educational purposes and not to be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your own medical provider before trying anything out.
This post also contains affiliate links. It will cost you nothing to click on them. I will get a small referral fee from purchases you make, which helps with the maintenance of this blog (approx. $100/month). Thank you!
Items with a star ⭐ next to them are resources I’ve personally tried and would recommend!
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1. My Doctor’s #1 Prescription: Films & TV Series
TV is probably the go-to distraction for many of us, whether we’re sick or healthy. It’s great for decompression from work, or if you need a bit of a break from the reality of life.
Now is the time to immerse yourself nonstop in TV series and films. In fact, it was what my surgeon prescribed for things to do while recovering from knee surgery!
Benefits of Watching Movies
Reminder: Not all TV programmes are mindless, although you can watch as much reality TV as you like right now. Films can be transformative experiences, and teach you many things.
You learn to appreciate cinematography, expand your imagination and perspectives, gain inspiration from narratives, acquire knowledge about history, explore the future, understand societal and world issues, and so much more.
Some Suggestions on What to Watch
Popular online subscriptions include: Netflix, HBO Go and Disney Plus. Your TV company will also have various subscription packs on offer. If you’re into sports, there are also many sports streaming services out there.
I’d recommend Mubi if you’re into art, foreign and/or award-winning films. Since the pandemic, some local cinemas may have online subscriptions or pay-per-view as well. In Singapore, there’s Projector Plus with a selection of excellent films for rent.
There’s also a wide array of stuff on YouTube, from inspirational TED talks to makeup tutorials, science videos and hilarious compilations. Who doesn’t like to see a giant pimple popping? (Not for the faint of heart!)
2. Podcasts – If You Find TV Too Stimulating
If you find TV too stimulating, you can try listening to podcasts instead. They’re also great for when you’re in too much pain, and can only lie there and stare at the ceiling. There are many different genres that can serve to inspire, distract or learn new things from.
Podcasts and YouTube videos tend to be a better format than TV if you’d like to spend this time learning more about entrepreneurship, web design and development, blogging, making passive income, and topics such as these. There are also educational podcasts on health and wellness, nutrition, history, society, and many other interesting stories and facts.
No idea what to listen to? Esquire has a list of “92 Best Podcasts You Can Listen to in 2023”, and Timeout has also compiled “The 50 best podcasts to listen to in 2022”.
Listen to Free Podcasts:
3. Music – Explore the New & Enjoy the Good Old
I needed to keep my legs straight for 6 weeks while recovering from knee surgery. That’s a lot of downtime, and also when you start to overthink, or become increasingly frustrated. But trust in the healing process, and do stuff to beat boredom in the meantime.“I needed to keep my legs straight for 6 weeks while #recovering from #kneesurgery..It’s when you start to overthink, or become increasingly #frustrated. But trust in the #healingprocess & do stuff to beat #boredom. #ChronicPain” Click To Tweet
That includes closing your eyes, resting, and listening to music. Music has been a comforting companion, and helped me to cope with the emotional aspect of things.
Angry music represented and highlighted how I felt on the inside. Soothing music helped to calm me down or go to sleep. Melancholic music felt relatable and human. Music is powerful; it tugs at your heartstrings, and can pound an inspirational rhythm into your head. You can simply listen to soothing sounds of nature as well.
I like Spotify‘s song recommendations, and have discovered a ton of new songs with ‘Enhance’ mode turned on. It also resurfaced some old songs that I like, which was nice.
Tidy Your Endless Playlists
If you’re like me, you add a new playlist for every new artist you like, ‘just in case you forget who they are’. I also add songs to my current playlist via Shazam, which I discover on the go. My current list becomes… not very current. I don’t even recognise half of the artists in them anymore. My Archived playlist is even worse.
Now’s the time to clean up your playlists, so you don’t need to keep hitting ‘skip’. When you’re up and about again, you can switch between playlists for better listening pleasure as well.
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4. Work on Personal Hobbies – It Can be Fulfilling
If there are hobbies that you like doing and that can be done from bed, now’s the time to obsess over them! Knitting, jewellery making and sketching are some common ones I see on my social media feeds, from people with chronic illness and disabilities who need to spend a lot of time on bed rest. Some of them also sell their creations for a bit of income – so support them if you spot them around!
I had planned to start a podcast before my knee injury, and decided that I could still do that whilst bed bound. So I finished setting up the website, because I actually find that process fun. I started interviewing people from bed, with pillows as an enticing backdrop.
The podcast is still ongoing by the way, if you ever want to be interviewed too! It’s called Sick Lessons, where people share life lessons they’ve learned from being chronically ill or disabled.
Apart from that, I signed up for online vocal lessons, and restarted my French classes on iTalki. What I like about these platforms is the wide selection of tutors, and the freedom to pick someone who’s teaching style suits me. These activities kept my calendar more or less filled up, so that time seemed to go by a wee bit faster.
5. Productive Things to Do While Recovering from Knee Surgery – Self-Education
If you’ve always wanted to get certified in a new skill set or upgrade an existing one, now is the perfect opportunity to do so. There are many online courses available these days, many of which are free as well.
Perhaps you’ve wondered about becoming a blogger, but don’t know where to start. Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to try your hand at photo editing or coding, but never found the time. Or maybe you always wanted to study Literature or Physics, but went down a more ‘practical’ career path instead. Well, now you have plenty of time to dive in.
Where to Find the Best Free Courses Online
If you do a search for ‘open courses’ online, you will find that many universities offer free education. This includes prestigious universities like Harvard and MIT. Open University has a full catalogue of useful courses, and Open Culture has a compiled list of ‘1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities’ as well.
They have free courses in business, data analysis, finance, healthcare, history, literature, mathematics, politics and law, programming, psychology….. and the list goes on!
LinkedIn now has their own learning platform as well. These courses are more focused on social media, time management, critical thinking, design, leadership, SEO, and other more tech or business-related topics. Very practical, and knowledge you can definitely use as we navigate a world that’s increasingly digital in nature.
6. Read All the Books – For Inspiration, Fun & Motivation
I’ve also been reading and buying more books, which honestly I don’t need because it ends up in the neverending yet-to-be-read pile. Sounds familiar?
Different genres can take your mind to different places. Fantasy and sci-fi can take you to new worlds. Novels, memoirs and fiction can generate empathy, hope, and bring perspective and meaning back to your life.
Non-fiction books are great to learn new things from, and stimulate the brain. Maybe even help you to doze off – thinking is hard work, after all!
Book Resources I Found Useful While Recovering from Knee Surgery:
Magazines are Counted as Reading, Too!
Magazines are more visual, and there are many excellent ones on the market these days. From biking to hiking, gardening, arts and crafts, food, animals, poetry, architecture, lifestyle, animals, literature and so much more.
I like to read magazines on culture and travel in particular, as they show me things in a way that books can’t quite do. Magazines can make for a more relaxing read, as there is no real chronological order to follow. The visuals can be inspirational as well, especially when it comes to nature.
You can also always check out the best sellers on Amazon to discover new reads, and what people have found most interesting.
Some of my favourite magazine publications:
- The Passenger: A cultural magazine that focuses on one country for each issue, and covers its politics, history, people, food, and other cultural facts and tidbits.
- Delayed Gratification: Which takes pride in its ‘slow journalism’ stance. They report on world events months later, which gives you the full scoop and broader picture of what’s truly going on. Their infographics are also impressive, and they have compiled a book full of them.
- Apartamento: It’s a nice blend of living spaces, architecture, art and culture. Less about houses as is, and more about the people who inhabit them, their lifestyle, and philosophies.
- Lucky Peach: Sadly, this magazine is no longer in publication. But you can check out the review I wrote for its final issue here, just to know what I mean by magazines being educational and beautiful, too!
⭐️ Recommended Magazines:
So read, and read whatever you like. At the end of the day, it should be educational or enjoyable. Make it a routine, so it’s something you can look forward to at a specific time of day. Even a few times a day, if you like!
Listen to Audiobooks
Audiobooks are becoming more popular. People like that they can ‘read’ a book as they go about their busy lives. It’s also great for those of us who are too fatigued, or in too much pain to hold a physical book.
Ditch the idea that books must be read with only your eyes. It’s the content that matters, after all. So read with your ears, too! Audiobooks can be played from almost any digital device; all you need to do is download the app of whichever platform you sign up for.
Popular audiobook platforms:
- Amazon Audible. Amazon, as you know, sells millions of books online. Their audiobook selection is huge as well, and covers just about all genres. You can sign up for a 30-day free trial, and take your time to see if audiobooks are a good fit for you.
- Rakuten Kobo. There are also many categories of audiobooks available on Kobo. They too, have a 30-day free trial, and you get your first audiobook for free!
- Audiobooks.com. Their 30-day free trial includes three free audiobooks – so that’s a win! They have two paid models under their Audiobook Clubs. You can use your monthly credits to choose and purchase one of over 350,000 audiobooks. Or join one of their eight Audiobook clubs for 30 days of unlimited listening.
- Google Play & Apple Stores. Whether you’re more of a Google or Apple person, they too sell audiobooks which you can purchase, download and listen to.
- Libro.fm. Another audiobook platform with over 275,000 audiobooks. They also support local bookstores, where they split the profits with them.
Free Audiobook Resources:
- Libby by Overdrive. If you have a library membership, you can do a search to see if it’s registered with Overdrive. If so, then you can borrow audiobooks, e-books and digital magazines for free! Libby is the newer library reading app by Overdrive, and can be downloaded on your digital devices or Kindle.
- Open Culture also has a compiled an excellent list of 1,000 free audiobooks here.
Reading Devices: Why I Love My Kindle
I rotate from my Kindle to magazines to paperbacks. I love my Kindle as it takes pressure and weight off my hands and fingers, especially when they’re aching. And when a book is a thousand pages, that means a lot. I managed to finish reading “Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman“, thanks to my Kindle!
I also like my Kindle as it’s built for the sole purpose of reading. Whilst you can read on your phone or tablet, the blue light isn’t so good for your eyes, especially if you’re trying to sleep at night. The built-in backlight of the Kindle is suitable for reading in the dark without further stimulation. The e-ink is glare-free as well.
There is also a ‘Kindle Unlimited’ subscription, with over 3 million e-books and digital magazines to choose from and read. You don’t need a Kindle to access this. All you need is to download their app onto your existing phone, tablet or desktop. You can try out their 30-day free trial here first.
Other Reading Devices
If you don’t like Kindles, some alternatives are Kobo or Nook by Barnes and Noble. You can borrow books from your local library via Kobo, and it has OneDrive and other integrations as well. Nook has a GlowLight illumination for evenly dispersed lighting.
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7. Engage Yourself with Crafts
There are many crafty things to do while recovering from knee surgery in bed. They range from easy to complex, and levelling up is always a good feeling.
I personally don’t enjoy it, but colouring can help to relax our brains by refocusing our attention. I know many people with chronic pain who colour as a form of distraction, whilst they’re stuck in bed. There are many styles of colouring books to choose from, from the hippie to cute or even profane.
Colouring Book Styles:
Paint By Numbers
For some people, colouring can feel tedious due to pain and stiffness in their wrists and fingers. Paint by Numbers is another alternative to colour pencils, as brushes are lighter.
You’re presented with a set of acrylic paints and brushes, and paint them into designated spots on the canvas. The end results can be delightful, and you can frame it up after as well.
Examples of Paint by Numbers:
Diamond Painting / Crystal Art
Diamond painting is something of a mix between cross-stitching and paint by numbers. Instead of paint, you glue rhinestones onto a pre-designed canvas.
It can be easier than Paint by Numbers, as you don’t have to blend paint colours and such. The final piece is a sparkly mosaic, with a more 3-dimensional look. You can learn more about it on the official Paint with Diamonds website here.
Examples of Diamond Painting / Crystal Art:
Build a Lego Set
Legos aren’t just for kids. They have sets catered for adults that can be de-stressing, fun to build, and make for nice display pieces after. If you want something challenging, Toy Hunters has a list of “10 Hardest Lego Sets to Build”. I’m sure they’ll engage you in hours of concentrated fun.
Check out how intricate and gorgeous these Lego sets look, or browse all their building sets for adults here:
Types of Lego Sets for Adults:
Origami – The Traditional Art of Paper Folding
Origami is most associated with the Japanese. And if you think that folding paper sounds useless, origami has inspired architecture and design. There’s even computational origami, and origami space engineering for potential NASA solutions. So don’t underestimate the art and science of paper folding!
MIT Open Courseware has a course on “Geometric Folding Algorithms: Linkages, Origami, Polyhedra”, should you be interested.
So, what can you fold with some paper? From cute boxes to plants, insects, patterns, animals and more. And not just a generic looking bird or fish; they can look pretty specific such as a peacock vs a penguin, a panther vs a leopard, and even mixed floral bouquets!
The wonderful thing about origami is that it’s suitable for all levels, as they range from easy to complex. The papers also come in a myriad of fun colours, which are sure to brighten your day.
Some Books to Get You Started with Origami:
Types of Origami Papers (Bursting with Colours & Patterns!):
Mechanical Paper Models That Move
Oh, and this popped up in my newsfeed today, which got me quite excited. If you want to take your origami models to the next level, you can also make them walk, spin, jump and move!
Types of Animals Paper Model Books:
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8. Gamers – Game On Without Guilt!
If you’re into gaming, now’s your opportunity to game all day with zero guilt. Games are truly one of the most immersive activities. They while away hours quickly, and are one of the best distractions from pain. They often even make you forget the need to eat and drink – so remember to take care of yourself whilst playing!
I’ve heard a lot of good reviews about Animal Crossing, so you might want to check that out. Or simple mobile phone games work too, such as Candy Crush and Wordle. I’ve started playing Plants vs Zombies and Sudoku on my phone again.
I used to spend hours on end playing a text-based MMORPG called CarrionFields from dialup. It may not be the most popular thing around these days, what with much faster internet speeds. But the allowance and possibility for strategy, player-killer and roleplaying are endless, which was what I loved about it!
Piece Together a Jigsaw Puzzle or Two, or 10
My sister loves putting together 1000-piece puzzles and up. The end result can be rather gratifying I suppose, as you start out with one tiny piece, and watch a beautiful picture emerge.
I have gifted her with many puzzles over the years, and she’s even framed them up at home. Whilst I don’t enjoy doing puzzles, I do enjoy the time spent sitting, chatting and bonding with her, as we figure it out together.
I like the vintage nature ones by Cavallini in particular, which are like art works or infographics. They also have puzzles related to travel, animals, birds, ocean life, constellations and even colour charts!
I also like the vintage Vogue magazine cover puzzles by the New York Puzzle Company. They have an old world glamour feel to them. Their ‘The New Yorker’ magazine cover puzzles are nice, too!
⭐️ Buy Cavallini Papers & Co., 1000-Piece Puzzles:
⭐️ Buy New York Puzzle Company Puzzles:
More Colourful & Stylish Puzzles:
Other Sorts of Puzzles You Can Take Your Time to Solve
There are also other sorts of puzzles you can solve and play with, such as crossword puzzles or Sudoku (which I love!). My favourite Sudoku interface is the one by Optime. It’s addictive, mindless and fun, as my eyes try to hunt down that next hidden clue asap.
I’m not sure if you had “Where’s Wally” books as a kid, but finding Wally in a complicated illustration kept my sisters and me occupied. It extends beyond Wally these days, and there are other books where you go can go on a visual treasure hunt.
Types of Puzzle Books:
9. Online Window Shopping
I’ve been doing a little too much online window shopping, but nevermind. Whatever consumes time, basically. I even count scrolling through grocery products as online window shopping. I know I have a browser folder full of links called ‘Gifts/Shopping’ now…
The anticipation of a parcel arrival gives you something to look forward to. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s still fun to browse and look at all the weird or fancy stuff they have on sale online.
Early Christmas Shopping – You’ll Have the Best Gifts at the Best Prices
Remember that online shopping isn’t all about you! You can save up a list of gifts as things to do while recovering from knee surgery. Then purchase them slowly over the year when there are discounts.
You can also treat it as browsing for early Christmas gifts – who cares if it’s months away. Come the festive season, you’ll be well prepared. You’ll have the best gifts at the best prices, and with less burnout!“You can also treat it as browsing for early #ChristmasGifts..Come the festive season, you’ll be well prepared. You’ll have the best #gifts at the best prices & with less burnout!” #ChronicLife #ChronicallyIll #spoonie Click To Tweet
10. Research & Read Up on Knee Surgery Recovery Resources
A good use of time while recovering from surgery is to do research for things you’ll need next, or what you can do to help you recover better.“A good use of time while recovering from #kneesurgery is to do research for things you’ll need next, or what you can do to help you recover better. #recovery #DisabilityTwitter #ChronicIllness #accessibility” Click To Tweet
Along your recovery journey, different accessibility and physiotherapy tools will be needed. You may not be able to use many of these resources yet, such as a wheelchair or walking frame. But when the time comes, you’ll know exactly what the differences are, and what you want for yourself. You’ll be surprised how intricate the little details can get.
Read up more about your medical condition and the research being done, or treatments available at present. You can discuss these options with your doctor, to see if they might be viable or suitable for your injury in particular.
Remember to use Google Scholar and not random YouTube videos by random people to access trustworthy information. If you think that seeing someone’s face on social media means it’s legit, please know that deep fakes are getting popular and easier to create.
11. Keep Up with Your Physiotherapy
Out of all the things you can do while recovering from knee surgery, this is probably the most important. It is your key from disability back to ability. Sadly, fully ruptured knees will never be as good as the original. But the more you take your physiotherapy seriously, the better you’ll regain your functionality.
You will be given more physiotherapy exercises to do with each milestone you reach, and it’s important to stick to them. I know it’s difficult. It can feel like a chore, especially since it hurts, which your brain doesn’t like.
Some weeks I’m just in too much pain from my ‘regular’ pain flares, so I can’t even do anything. If you live with chronic illness too, let’s face it – the recovery process will take more time, and might be more unpredictable. But that doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you do what you can, the best you can, when you can. Take it one day at a time, and in time you’ll get there.“The #recovery process will take more time for those w #chronicillness..But what matters is that you do what you can, the best you can, when you can. Take it one day at a time & in time you’ll get there. #ChronicPain #disabled #spoonie” Click To Tweet
12. Chat with Online Friends in the Chronic Illness & Disabled Community
You are never alone in your recovery journey – don’t forget that. There are many others with chronic illness and disabilities out there. Even though they may not be experiencing the same injury or surgery as you are, they understand the toll it takes on a person.“You are #neveralone in your #recovery journey..There are many others with #chronicillness & #disabilities..Even though they may not be experiencing the same #injury or #surgery..they understand the toll it takes on a person. #ChronicPain” Click To Tweet
As this article on PubMed Central says:
“Study findings extend the current understanding about online blogging as an avenue of social support by identifying the use of a VOSS by bloggers and blog readers which enables the establishment of a virtual “community”. It provides a conceptual understanding of how bloggers and readers who share experiences of chronic pain can establish relationships. Through sharing experiences of different offline environments related to pain, blog users are able to engage in a sequence of steps leading to experiences of virtual social support.”
I have a chronic illness group of friends on Facebook Messenger, and we check in on each other regularly. They too, are going through horrendous health problems. Shruti’s brain is sagging, whilst Claire lives with MCAS and other painful chronic conditions.
It’s comforting to chat with them, as topics that other people may find ‘morbid’ or ‘disgusting’ are normal to us. We discuss bowel movements, death and bleeding as if it were normal, because it is our normal.
Find the Right Community For You
So reach out for support, in whatever form that looks like to you. I personally dislike in-person meetup support groups. But if that’s your preference, you can arrange to attend one.
That can be something on your calendar that you look forward too. It may be troublesome with the extra logistics, but worth it for your mental health.
Otherwise, there are many online support groups out there, whether you’re looking for general support, or for a specific condition. They can be found on all the social media platforms, charity websites, or even pen pal groups!
Just remember that not all chronic illness communities are a good fit for you. Some can be overly negative, or even veer towards toxic positivity. So do screen them properly to see if it will be helpful for you. We all have different support needs and preferences.
Unintended Benefits of Joining a Support Group
An unintended benefit from joining a support group is that often when you reach out for support, you end up supporting someone else, too. And that’s always a good, fulfilling feeling. Just because you’re suffering, it doesn’t mean that you can’t help someone else, whether intended or otherwise.
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13. Digital Decluttering
A clutter-free space is always a pleasant experience, isn’t it? Whilst that’s not possible to do physically right now, we also leave crumbs of digital clutter everywhere.
You know those 50 photos you took of your cat in the same position? Well, they’re taking up space on your phone and/or computer. Not only can that cost you money, but it also makes finding other photos difficult.
Now’s the time to do some simple digital decluttering. These little tasks are actually highly productive. They’ll increase your efficiency when you’re back in swing.
I use Gemini by MacPaw, which is able to scan through your folders quickly. They show you which are duplicates, blurry, are screenshots or auto downloads, etc. I like the swipe left/right function for the ‘Other’ photos (yes, like Tinder), as it’s pretty fun.
Other things that are on my digital declutter todo list: browser bookmarks (you know those window shopping links?), email folders, apps and subscriptions.
Guilty as Charged:
Updates & Backups
Other technical things you can do while recovering from knee surgery is to update all your passwords, and backup your computer systems. It’s good practice to update your passwords so every 3 months for security reasons.
Many people tell me they don’t remember their passwords, so they don’t change them. I’d recommend that you hit ‘Forgot Password’ to reset it. Then use a secure password organiser like LastPass to remember and auto-fill them in for you each time. It’s a pretty mindless, repetitive task and you get ‘into the zone’ after a while.
You can also do one of those pesky backups via Time Machine (for Mac), Backup (for Windows), or a hard disk. I know they’re boring to do, but if/when your system breaks down, you’ll be very glad you did!
The benefit of Time Machine/Backup is that you can restore your entire workspace as it was previously. The benefit of a hard disk is that you can separate folders, say, your movie folder, and free up desktop space from them.
14. Journaling – There are a Hundred & One Ways to Do it
Many people find journaling therapeutic, and it’s a helpful tool to organise your thoughts and emotions. It’s one of the best things to do while recovering from knee surgery to document your healing journey. There are also many ways to journal, depending on your personality and preference.
Traditional Daily Journaling
When I was young, I used to keep a daily journal. I happened to find these journals many years later, and they gave me many good laughs. Oh, the trivial problems of being a teenager. I also found ones I had written as a child, and it brought a smile to my face.
Journaling captures the essence of daily life and records our personal growth. That process is so gentle that we often don’t even realise how much we’ve changed as time passes. When you read them at a later point in life, I guarantee you will wish you that you had done more journaling.
Types of Personal Notebooks / Journals:
This is the latest journaling trend, and allows for a lot of flexibility. You can also get washi tape, stickers and other decorative items to embellish your pages with. You can draw up your own food and mood logs, plan and record daily tasks and more.
Be as creative or as structured as you like. The options are endless, and it’s a progressive effort. When you’re done with a notebook, flipping through the beautiful pages can bring satisfaction.
Types of Leuchtturm1917 A5 Hardcover Notebooks:
Mental Health & Medical Journals
Using a journal to track pain levels, mood, meals, sleep quality, medications and other personal details can be useful for unravelling patterns. Or even help to relieve some of the stress bottled unwittingly on the inside. Showing and practising gratitude has been shown to have many mental health benefits as well.“Using a #journal to track pain levels, mood, meals, sleep quality, medications & other details can be useful for unravelling patterns & relieve some stress. #journaling #ChronicLife #InvisibleIllness #MentalHealthAwareness” Click To Tweet
As someone who lives with chronic pain, depression and anxiety, the boundaries blur after a while. Sometimes I don’t even notice when a new type of pain creeps up. That was how the Spontaneous Bilateral Patellar Tendon Rupture happened. I had mistaken it for my ‘regular’ Sjögren’s or Lupus joint aches.
You can plot charts, draw graphs, or simply record it the old-fashioned medical journal way. I record each time I take a medication that’s not on my compulsory cocktail using the Notes app on my phone, and include why I took it. It’s so simple, yet I can still spot patterns from that.
If you’re the practical or curious sort of person, journaling in this format can be an aid and record of your recovery process. Here are some tips on how to get started from Mental Health America.
Types of Symptom & Wellness Trackers:
Types of Mental Health & Gratitude Journals:
Thought dump all the stuff running through your mind in endless loops onto paper. It can help you to ‘purge’ them. Writing takes more effort and time than typing. That can help you to process and observe your thoughts more meaningfully.
Whilst thought dumping or expressive writing don’t remove the worries and anxiety in my head entirely, it did help me to move on to the next useful thought. It’s a bit like problem solving, in black and white. I would also analyse my priorities and moods to see what the sources were, and if I could do anything about them.
I still have these little notes, and when I glance at them, they bring back memories. So in a way, keeping this diary was still beneficial, and I’m glad I captured some of those moments in writing. They show me where I was, and where I am now.
If you don’t know where to even begin or what to write about, you can try guided journals. These usually include prompts or questions to help stimulate your writing juices. Many of them also contain affirmations, inspirational quotes and beautiful drawings within them. Every little thought scribbled down can help to clear your head a little.
Types of Guided Journals:
Types of Guided Art Journals:
I used to snap one polaroid picture a day, and write a sentence with a black marker on the edges; a photo diary of sorts. It didn’t have to be anything special. Most of the pictures were of ordinary everyday things, such as a table, my dog or my face.
I really liked this method of keeping a diary, because it’s the ordinary things that make up life in daily increments. When I flip through these compilations, they tell a story of my life. (I think I’ve just inspired myself to start this mini diary project again!)
I like the traditional Instax mini size, but they also come in squares and landscape sizes. There is also a digital printing version, where you can snap pictures and also print ones from your phone or computer via Bluetooth.
Types of Polaroid Cameras:
Finally, you don’t need a physical diary to journal these days either. There are now quite a number of phone apps you can use.
I started using Daylio, as my psychiatrist told me to record my mood every day to find some patterns. But it extends beyond that and allows me to include a short daily journal entry with a photo. I like that I just need to write a short snippet, and the visual element makes it fun to browse through.
15. Make a Vision Board or Bucket List
A vision board is a collage of images that represent your goals and dreams; a visual reminder of what you want and hope to achieve in your life, and as a person.
It can include bucket list destinations, career, finance and personal goals, your values in love and life, and anything else you want. Use images that resonate with you, and cut or print them out from anywhere. There are also vision board kits, if you prefer to have something a little more readymade.
It can be a fulfilling self-awareness exercise, and a beautiful visual reminder every day. Take your time to piece them all together, and feel free to modify it as life takes you different paths along the way.
Types of Vision Board Kits & Supplies:
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16. Writing & Blogging
Admittedly, I was in too much pain and too depressed to do anything for many weeks, much less keep up with my blog. And that’s okay. Take your time to grieve and let yourself feel what you need to feel while recovering from knee surgery. It is a life-changing event after all, and an important part of the healing process.“Take your time to grieve and let yourself feel what you need to feel while recovering from #kneesurgery. It IS a life-changing event after all & an important part of the #healingprocess. #ChronicIllness #grief #DisabilityTwitter” Click To Tweet
When I felt like I was in a better place mentally and emotionally, I started blogging again. My first post was more emotional, which was cathartic. Subsequently, I could write more about my knee injury experience, what I learned, and share resources to help others. (All links in the series are at the top of this post!)
Handwritten Thank You Notes
You can get some nice cards – or make them yourself for some extra love! – and write thank you notes to all the healthcare staff, caregivers, friends, family and people who took care of you, and have been supporting you.
It’s always nice to receive a handwritten letter, and words are forever. I know I keep these little notes from others, as they’re like tangible bits of precious memories.
Types of Thank You Card:
17. Start a Gratitude Jar
This is really easy to get started. All you need is a sealable jar or container, a pen and some paper. Then you write one thing you’re grateful for every day and pop it in.
Over time, the notes stack up. When you’re feeling down, you can pour them out, unfold and read them for some cheer. Look at it as ‘saving inspiration for a rainy day’. Gratitude is powerful, and a shift in perspective can often turn a bad day into a slightly better one.
There are also pre-written affirmation notes that come in a jar that works a bit like fortune cookies. These can be fun for days when you don’t know what to say or think. And some of these can serve as reminders for things we may have forgotten, because we’re not in a good mental state.
Types of Gratitude Jars & Affirmation Notes:
18. Collect & Curate Inspirational Ideas for Things You Love Online
I admit to being a bit obsessive when it comes to collecting and curating things. It’s a personality thing. I remember when my co-workers and I were all into analog photography at one point in time, and someone commented that I seemed to be ‘documenting everything’.
It’s the same with interesting websites and online resources. Now I have folders bursting with information. Yes, I need to do a lot of digital decluttering… That’s probably why I love Twitter best out of all the social media platforms as well. It’s where I find and curate blog posts from various chronic illness bloggers with the most ease!
Hashtags such as #ChronicIllness, #ChronicPain and #spoonie help me to find the best and latest content written by real people in seconds. Whereas on Google search it’s mostly dry, medical sites due to competitive SEO factors, and the need to write ‘helpful content’. Who’s to say a patient’s perspective or poem isn’t just as helpful?
Get Ready for the Better Days to Come
Even if you can’t get up and cook or redecorate your house now, collecting ideas is always a good idea! You can even level up and do a spreadsheet on Google Sheets, Trello or Airtable. Things to include: Photo inspiration, places you can buy items from, costs, ingredient lists, links, etc..
Whilst these are things to do while recovering from knee surgery, they’ll give you some fun activities to do right away when you’re up and about again!
You can check out my social media feeds to see the stuff I curate, organise and post, if you need some ideas:
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19. Start an Art or Pet Instagram / Tiktok Account
It can also be fun to roleplay your pet on social media, like I do with my dog, Talisker, on Instagram. You can get to know other pet parents and have friendly banters, which can cheer you up. Talisker does that with Claire’s cat, Sammy, with Shruti’s toy poodle, Toby, as a sidekick. Sadly, both of them have crossed over the rainbow bridge due to an accident and illness. R.I.P. beautiful ones 😢
It’s also a photo diary of sorts. I have photos of Talisker from as a pup there, and the captions bring back fond memories, and shows me how he’s grown and changed.
If you’re into artistic endeavours, social media is also a great place to display your creations, and to meet more people who share your passion. Check out my friend, Carrie’s, gorgeous Ikebana creations on Instagram.
Don’t underestimate what your art or pet photos can do. Just browsing through Carrie’s flower feed brings me joy, and I get a good chuckle from some of the animal ones. Check out the #SpoonieArt and #ChronicillnessArt hashtags on Instagram for some inspiration or smiles.
20. Things to Do While Recovering from Knee Surgery – Plenty for the Bloggers!
⬇️ P.s. If you don’t blog, or don’t intend to start one, skip to the next section! ⬇️
If you’re a blogger, then you know that there is always 101 things to do next for your blog, be it planning, writing, creating graphics, or something else!
I suppose that’s a good and bad thing. The bad part – learning when to stop. The good part – there’s always somewhere you can channel your passion to. It can also be done right from bed as you’re recovering from surgery.
Organise Your Content Calendar & Plan New Blog Posts
For those who run into blogger’s block or don’t know what to write about next, a content planner can be helpful. Many bloggers would even say that their best blogging tip is to have a content calendar.
This can be useful especially if you’re trying to target holiday seasons and Awareness Days. Here’s a list of Awareness Days for 2023 from Rutgers to have a think about if you need ideas.
A consistent posting schedule can help you to establish yourself, and connect with your readers. When they know what sort of content you post and when, they will start to keep an eye out for them.
I don’t really have a plan, but do jot down my ideas on TeuxDeux, and save post drafts in Google Docs. Other popular content planning tools you can use include: Trello, Evernote, AirTable and Taskade.
Now would be a great time to do a bit of research, content planning, and drafts. Come the time when life gets busier again, you’ll have content to keep your blog afloat!
Update Old Posts
If you’re in no mood to write a new post, you can always improve the quality of existing content, on-page SEO, and update the graphics.
I still sift through my blog archives to update posts that I think have the potential to become more useful. This has helped them to appear in search engines as well, even if they were written years ago.
Give Your Website a Facelift
Maybe your blog has been around for 10 years, and it’s starting to look a little dated. Or perhaps you’ve always fancied a certain style, but had no time to revamp your site. OR maybe you’re using a free blogging platform, and want to move to self-hosted.
Now is a great time to do all of the above. You’ll also have a powered-up, beautiful blog after to continue your advocacy work on after.
I guarantee that the hours will fly by – because that’s what happened to me as I finished up two websites – Sick Lessons and Blogging Bread. I also made a bio landing page using Carrd, since I already use it for my work site, Black & Web.
I love WordPress themes from Heartenmade, and can spend hours scrolling through Theme Forest. Elementor also has their own template library, and their drag-and-drop interface is extremely user-friendly.
If you’re looking for a hosting company, I’d recommend Cloudways for cloud hosting. I know many bloggers in the chronic illness community are on Lyrical Host (use code achronicvoice for 10% off!) for traditional DNS hosting, too.
As you can see, there’s plenty of things to do while recovering from knee surgery for the bloggers out there. Come join us if it sounds interesting to you – I’d love to share your posts, too 🙂
21. Continue or Start Advocacy Work
And yes, that’s possible even when bed bound after a surgery. With the internet these days, possibilities for advocacy work are endless.
If you are a blogger, continue to write and share about your experiences. You never know who your words and experiences may help, even if they don’t leave a comment on the post. I know that there are a number of ‘silent’ readers on my blog, which is fine by me.
If you don’t blog or do any advocacy work but would like to, why not come join the chronic illness and disability community? Lord knows we still need more advocates and awareness in society. There are so many rare diseases and mental illnesses that still hold a lot of stigma, with little to no research funding for them.
Read & Share Posts from Other Chronic Illness & Disabled Bloggers
Even if you aren’t a blogger, you can still make a difference. Reading and re-sharing blog posts from other chronic illness and disabled bloggers helps to spread awareness, too.“Even if you are’t a blogger, you can still make a difference. Reading & #resharing blog posts from other #chronicillness & #disabled bloggers helps to spread awareness too. #advocate #BloggingCommunity” Click To Tweet
I highlight snippets I find useful via Instapaper, then schedule them on Buffer to Twitter and Facebook. If there are many snippets I find useful, I space them out in my Google Calendar for scheduling at a later date.
An unintended benefit was that I learned a lot about chronic illnesses other than my own. You will also make a blogger’s day, simply because you read, commented and/or shared a post they wrote!
22. Volunteer Your Services for a Charity or Non-Profit Organisation
Starting a blog, YouTube or podcast channel are some ways to begin, but not the only ones. There are also existing non-profit, charity and healthcare organisations that are looking for volunteers.
They may be looking for a social media manager, designer, content curator, or someone else. Whatever skills you do have – I’m sure they could benefit from it. If you’re looking to pick up a new skill, volunteering is a great hands-on way to do so as well.
If you’re sick of talking about illness all the time, you can volunteer for other meaningful causes as well. Such as a migrant crisis organisation, or your local animal shelter. There are so many causes around the world that need more hands to help out.
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23. Keep Calm & Meditate
I’m not quite into meditation, but it’s scientifically proven to have benefits for your mental well-being. Whilst it may not take away your pain, it can still help you to be less anxious and more self-aware.
My friend, Melissa, is a yoga teacher who lives with Fibromyalgia. She is passionate about accessible yoga, which can be done even from bed. You can also listen to my interview with her on the Sick Lessons podcast here.
Sign Up for a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Course Online
If you can’t sleep, a body scan meditation can be relaxing. Here is a 10-minute body scan video on YouTube by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is an American professor emeritus of medicine, and creator of the “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR) programme.
“Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) therapy is a meditation therapy, though originally designed for stress management, it is being used for treating a variety of illnesses such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain, cancer, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, skin and immune disorders.”
Whilst MBSR is not a cure, there is also evidence that it can be beneficial for your over all well-being. MBSR courses generally run for 8 weeks. Here are recommended institutions to register at, and sound clips for simple meditation exercises, compiled by the Yale School of Medicine.
Jon Kabat-Zinn has also written many books on mindfulness for various purposes. There are books for beginners, mindful eating, depression, why it’s important, and more. You can take your time to browse all of his books here.
Buy Books by Jon Kabat-Zinn:
24. Connect with a Mental Health Therapist
Your mental health is definitely going to take a blow while recovering from knee surgery. It would be strange if you did not feel upset, angry or sad. After all, parts of your identity and abilities have been altered.“Your #mentalhealth is going to take a blow while recovering from #kneesurgery. It would be strange if you did not feel upset, angry or sad. After all, parts of your #identity & #abilities have been altered. #ChronicallyIll” Click To Tweet
My own hospital psychiatrist did video consultations with me as it was more convenient that way. She works closely with my healthcare team as well. For those who do not have a therapist on your own healthcare team, request for one.
If your request is refused, there are also a few mental health professionals you can reach out to online. They communicate via video calls, emails and even text messages.
Online Mental Health Therapist Platforms (Pros & Cons)
Popular ones are Better Help and Talk Space. Do note that there is some controversy to using such platforms; Mental health is such an intimate thing, and conversing behind a screen literally screens away some of the social cues.
Personally, I prefer in-person psychology sessions as it provides more space, context and connection. But such mental health platforms can be useful for those who are unable to leave their homes easily. Seeing a private psychologist in-person can also be costly. It is still better to reach out for help than not though, when you’re struggling and suffering.
In Singapore, there’s The Therapy Co, which allows you to connect with qualified mental health professionals. The platform is founded by Sarah Poh. She is a Psychotherapist whom I got to know, surprisingly, through an SEO course instructor.
Reach Out to Your Loved Ones for Moral Support
Alternatively, you can reach out to a friend or family member. Whilst they may not be professionals, sometimes just thrashing things out helps.
Often, those who are depressed lack even the motivation to help themselves. This includes doing the work to find and arrange an appointment with a mental health therapist. They may also feel embarrassed or guilty for needing to see one. The costs for knee surgery and items needed while recovering can be hefty already.
But let me get this straight – seeking help for your mental health is not a luxury, but a necessity. You cannot function to the best of your abilities when your mental health is in disarray. Don’t let societal stigma or internalised ableism stop you from getting the help you need.“Seeking help for your #mentalhealth is not a luxury but a necessity. You cannot function to the best of your abilities when it’s in disarray. Don’t let societal #stigma or internalised #ableism stop you from getting the help you need.” Click To Tweet
Mental Health Apps
If you still feel that therapy is ‘not your thing’, you might want to look into a digital app. Such apps have a lot of resources to help with pain management, stress and mental health issues.
They contain many tips, self-reminders, exercises, articles and tools. It’s like a pocket-sized toolkit which you can pull out and use as needed.
Once again, remember to do your research on the company, and don’t use them to self-diagnose. Mental healthcare is ‘trendy’ these days and sadly, some are just out to make a profit. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some genuine founders out there – you just need to find them, and find what suits you best.
Conclusion – Focus on What You Can Do & Let Time Do Its Work
I hope that this list gives you ideas for some things to do while recovering from knee surgery. Some of these activities may sound fun, but we know that the reality is that it will still be an arduous recovery journey.
The recovery timeline for a major knee surgery is also highly variable. That unpredictability can be extra frustrating. How long will you take to heal? How much function can you regain?
As always, only time will tell. So focus on what is within your control, and take care of your entire well-being, from the physical to mental, emotional and even spiritual aspect. Doing so creates a positive cycle, and working on one part of your well-being impacts all other aspects as well. All this ultimately contributes to your recovery process.
Wishing you a speedy recovery, and the best possible results!“Focus on what is within yr control & #takecare of yr entire #wellbeing. Doing so creates a positive cycle, and working on one part impacts all other aspects as well. All this ultimately contributes to your #recovery process. #healing” Click To Tweet
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