When symptoms worsen and flare it can be frustrating and disheartening when we can no longer stick to our treatment schedules that help us with managing symptoms, such as our graded exercise program, yoga routine and walks out in nature. However, below are 6 activities I can do even in bed to ease symptoms and recover from flares.
Disclaimer: This post is intended for informational purposes only. I’m not a qualified practitioner and I’m not encouraging anyone else to do these activities. Please consult a qualified practitioner before implementing them or changing your current treatment plan. This post contains affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you I earn commission if you click on a link and make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. See my full disclaimer here.
When symptoms flare and cause you to be bedbound it’s common to feel a range of emotions: –
- Disheartened, guilt and sadness.
- Fear that you’ve lost the progress you’ve worked so hard to make.
- Frustration that you’re no longer able to follow parts of your treatment plan, like your graded exercise program and cooking nutritious meals.
However, there are 6 activities I’ve found I can do even in bed to help with easing and managing symptoms and help recover from flares.
Managing Symptoms Tip 1). Cold Exposure
Cold exposure stimulates the vagus nerve, which calms the nervous system and can relieve symptoms in 2 ways:-
- Calms the sympathetic nervous system – our stress/fight or flight response, which is designed to help us respond to dangers and threats. When active it:-
- Increases heart rate
- Increases breathing rates,
- Raises blood pressure,
- Increases anxiety and
- Impairs digestion.
- Activates the parasympathetic nervous system – our rest and relaxation response, which:-
- Reduces heart rates,
- Decreases breathing rates,
- Lowers blood pressure,
- Reduces anxiety and
- Optimises digestion (1).
To heal we need to be in a parasympathetic state. However, the sympathetic/stress response is often overactive for those with dysautonomia/PoTS, or any chronic illness. This can contribute to symptoms like increased pain, sensitivity to sound and light, nausea, sleep disturbances and dizziness.
How I do cold exposure in bed
A simple activity I do in bed to activate the vagus nerve and help ease symptoms is to place an ice pack or cold flannel on my forehead or side of my neck for 2-10 minute intervals (1). Just make sure you place a towel, cloth or other protective material between the ice pack and your skin!
Managing Symptoms Tip 2). Breathing Exercises
As we breathe, inhaling stimulates the sympathetic nervous system/stress response, while exhaling increases parasympathetic nervous system activation/the relaxation response (2). Shallow chest breathing and breathing in and out through the mouth increases the stress response. This reduces the amount of oxygen delivered round the body, which can impair recovery and increase symptoms (3).
To increase the amount of oxygen taken in and transported around the body, breathing should be (4):-
- Done using the diaphragmatic (belly breathing),
- In and out through the nose,
- With the exhale lasting twice as long as the inhale.
- Activates the vagus nerve, which calms the nervous system,
- Reduces stress,
- Promotes relaxation,
- Lowers heart rate, which may help ease dysautonomia/PoTS symptoms,
- Improves sleep – helps you fall asleep faster and wake fewer times during the night.
How I perform Breathing Exercises in Bed
An example breathing exercise I perform laying down in bed is:-
- Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly.
- Slowly inhale through your nose over 2-4 seconds. Feel your belly move out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain still.
- Slowly exhale through your nose over 4-6 seconds. Let your belly deflate like a balloon. The hand on your chest should remain still.
- Repeat for 2-5 minutes, or however long you can manage.
Managing Symptoms Tip 3). Affirmations
It’s easy to become disheartened living with a chronic illness, especially during flares. It’s easy to worry about whether you’ve lost all the progress you’ve made, whether you’ll ever fully recover, if you’ll get worse, develop new symptoms and worry about the impact this has on your future.
Affirmations are positive statements that directly counteract the negative thoughts. When repeated regularly they help develop new neural pathways in the brain, which changes our negative thoughts and emotions into positive ones that become permanent and occur automatically. This not only improves mental health but also eases physical symptoms (8; 9).
It’s common to use positive statements like:-
“Every part of my body has the ability to function perfectly”
“Every day I am doing everything I can to heal and get stronger”.
You can also create your own using bible verses, such as:-
“God can heal me and restore my health” (Isaiah 57:18-19, Exodus 15:26, Jeremiah 30:17),
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13), and
“God has a bright future planned for me” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Alternatively, you can repeat whatever positive and encouraging statements resonate with you most.
When I Repeat Affirmations
It’s recommended affirmations are repeated at least 3 times every day, including:-
- First thing in the morning,
- Last thing at night and,
- Whenever a negative thought occurs.
How I Repeat Affirmations
To activate a larger number of areas of the brain and help make the new neural pathways even stronger, I relay them in various ways:-
- Write them down with my dominant hand 10 times (if able to)
- Write them down with my non-dominant hand 5 times (if able to)
- Say them aloud or silently to myself 10-20 times in a row
- Get someone to stick them on different parts of my bedroom (for example, on the mirror and wardrobe) and say them aloud or silently to myself whenever I look at them during the day.
They are especially effective when used alongside positive visualisations below.
Managing Symptoms Tip 4). Visualisations
Neural pathways in the brain are activated whenever we think, feel or act (10). It’s natural to pay attention to symptoms and evaluate them. It’s also common to experience negative thoughts and emotions because of them, like fear and anxiety. However, these emotions trigger a stress response that can make the symptoms worse, such as increased heart rate, shaking and nausea (10).
Each time we focus on the symptoms or have these negative thoughts and emotions, the neural pathways in the brain used to generate them become stronger and more easily activated. Eventually the sympathetic stress response occurs automatically, and the symptoms, thoughts and emotions persist or worsen over time (10; 11; 12).
Fortunately, the brain is easily adaptable. The brain doesn’t know the difference between an event happening in real life or one being imagined, as mental imagery activates exactly the same parts of the brain that actual physical experiences do (10; 12). Therefore, we can use positive visualisations to develop new neural pathways in the brain, while simultaneously weakening old ones, that can improve health in real life (12; 13).
How I Perform Visualisations
I relive past happy memories where I was totally healthy or create a new experience. I visualise myself totally healthy doing the things I want to, such as going on walks and playing sport. The best time to do this is first thing in the morning when you wake up and last thing at night before you go to bed, as this is when you are most relaxed (10).
To maximise the effectiveness of the visualisations, I use all of my 5 senses, imagining as much detail as possible about everything I can:-
- The emotions I feel.
For example, if I’m imagining myself totally healthy on a walk through the park I might visualise the following details:-
- Your clothing
- Other people
- Birds in the sky
- Sound of the wind
- Dogs barking
- Other people talking
- Wind in your face
- Feel of the ground you’re walking on (flat/uneven)
- Temperature (hot/mild/cold)
- Taste of ice cream you’re eating
- Taste of smoothie you’re drinking
- Fresh flowers
- Fresh air
If you struggle to recreate a past experience or develop a new one on your own, you can follow a guided visualisation video on Youtube like the one below.
How Often to Perform Visualisations
The more consistently you repeat the visualisations each day, the stronger and more easily activated the new neural pathways in the brain will be. These changes in the brain are accompanied by physical changes in the body that over time have been shown to ease symptoms and allows these positive experiences to occur in real life (11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16).
Managing Symptoms Tip 5). Restorative Yoga
Restorative yoga involves holding certain poses for 5 minutes, or as long as you can manage, while breathing deeply (it can be combined with the breathing exercise above). It has many health benefits (17; 18):-
- Stimulates the vagus nerve, which increases relaxation, placing the body in an optimal state to heal,
- Lowers heart rates,
- Reduces pain,
- Relieves depression and anxiety
- Improves sleep quality.
Bed Restorative Yoga Exercises
The photos below show 3 poses that I can do laying down in bed.
restorative yoga routine video
If you would like a routine to follow, below is a 10-minute routine I do laying on my back in bed.
Managing Symptoms Tip 6). Prayer/Meditation
Praying to God provides comfort and gives me hope and strength during struggles, while even just a 3-minute meditation has been shown to significantly reduce stress and anxiety levels and increase relaxation (19; 20). There are plenty of meditation apps to choose from like Insight Timer, Soultime or Abide, which all have a selection of free meditations to listen to.
Other blog posts
Click to read my other blog posts with more tips and strategies that are helping me improve my health and manage my conditions:-
- 10 Free Ways To Improve Your Health
- Morning Routine – 7 Things That Ease My Symptoms In The Morning
- Hydration For POTS – 9 Tips To Stay Hydrated
- 15 Things To Do In Bed To Ease Anxiety & Stress During Flares
- The Elimination Diet That Eased My Symptoms
- 12 Vagus Nerve Exercises To Improve Physical & Mental Health
- 6 Free Ways To Start A Toxin Free Lifestyle (& Why It’s Important To Improve Health)
- 6 Detox Pathways To Support To Remove Toxins & Help Ease Symptoms
- 15 Easy Ways To Detox Your Home (& How It Can Help Ease Symptoms)
- 10 Tips To Stay Cool & Survive The Summer Heat
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I hope these tips are helpful. Are there any activities you find useful to do in bed to manage symptoms? If so, I’d love to know. Drop me a comment below, or message me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or YouTube with any suggestions.