How finding hobbies has improved my mental health as a young adult with chronic illness
Chronic Illness

How finding hobbies improved my mental health as a young adult with chronic illness

I was diagnosed with Common Variable Immunodeficiency during a pretty hectic period of my life. It was the summer before my sophomore in college and I was moving into the sorority house. Little did I know, 6 months later would be the beginning of the pandemic.

COVID changed everything – the world suddenly stopped. For the first time in forever, I was spending my days indoors and oftentimes alone. My lifestyle altered completely and I had a lot of time to think about my interests and hobbies.

In high school I was always playing sports and doing extracurricular activities, so transitioning into college and experiencing lockdown was a crazy change. I had to begin discovering my identity as an adult, especially because there are so many decisions to make. When college graduation approached, I thought even more about my identity as I searched for a job and a place to live.

Now that I am an adult in the “real world,” I’ve realized how important it is to explore hobbies. Living with chronic illness has made me want to spend all my free time wrapped in a blanket watching TV, but I have pushed myself outside of my comfort zone in order to spend my free time in a refreshing and fulfilling way.

I started reading again

Up until a few months ago, I hadn’t read a book outside of school since I was around 16 years old. I kept hearing how much people loved reading, but I felt like I didn’t have the time or mental capacity.

I joined a book club, which led me to reading a book that I loved. It is called Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister. It is a mystery drama novel about a woman that witnesses her son commit a crime and then time travels backwards in order to put the pieces together about her life. There were so many twists and turns, which had me so surprised!

Reading again has given me confidence that I can reengage with old hobbies and it helps me exercise my brain. You can learn more about the benefits of reading in this article from Real Simple.

I make my own coffee and matcha drinks at home

Coffee is one of my favorite things in the world. I drink it every day, and until recently I would always go out and buy it. While I do agree that it tastes better from a coffee shop, I have found a lot of joy and relaxation in making my own fun coffee and matcha drinks.

I have a Keurig as well as a frother, and I love trying out different K Cups to see which is my favorite. I also tried out Chamberlain Coffee, which is a brand that has matcha powder, coffee, and cold brew singles. They are super easy to use and make. I love the Sweet Otter Cake Batter Cold Brew Singles, which I use to make cold brew that takes about 12 hours in the fridge.

chamberlain cold brew singles

I have also used their blue matcha and strawberry matcha powders to make matcha lattes. It has been fun to try out making drinks with different ingredients to see what I like best.

Making fun beverages is a great pick-me-up, especially when I have a lot of things on my agenda for the day. It is really rewarding when I make a new drink that I love. I have set up a little coffee station for myself and I love to invest in new items for it.

I found creative ways to be more active

I will be the first to admit that I don’t love working out, even though it helps me physically and mentally. Because I have a lung disease called GLILD, it is important that I make an effort to exercise. I want to enjoy being active, so I started exploring what kinds of exercise are the most fun for me.

In high school I was an avid tennis player, and this is a sport that people can continue to play for the rest of their lives. I got out onto the court again last year and it felt so good! I love that it brings back fun memories and I can work to improve continually.

I also enjoy long walks on the beach…. for real though. There are a lot of beautiful spots in San Diego to walk and I can bring my dog. Going for walks by the water has really improved my mental health and allowed me to do some light exercise.

You can start a new hobby anytime – you just have to push yourself.

Chronic illness can really bring us down. CVID has changed my life drastically, and the mental battle has been as difficult as the physical battle. I know that my body often betrays me and it doesn’t function as it should. There are days where I don’t want to get out of bed. Sometimes, I want to hide from the world and never come out.

Starting something new is not easy. It takes strength to push yourself out of your comfort zone and take on a new task. It often feels so much easier to stay in negative patterns and allow ourselves to fall deeper into depression and anxiety. But doing the hard thing is so worth it. Everyone deserves to have a life filled with joy, laughter, and fulfillment. Finding new hobbies and striving for self-improvement is an act of self-love.

If you have been thinking of trying something new – do it! Don’t think about it too much. Give it a try, and if you don’t like it, that’s okay too! The journey is part of the fun.

Chronic illness doesn’t have to steal your joy and peace.

You are unique and you have so many special qualities. Chronic illness may be a big part of your story, and it may have stolen many things from your life. But the story is not over. Each day is a new opportunity to be kind to yourself and do the things you love.

My mental health was destroyed in the first couple years of my chronic illness journey. I woke up dreading each day before it even began. I was haunted by all of the anxiety and physical pain that I had to endure.

Luckily, there was light that came in the darkness. I slowly began my journey towards a more joyful existence. I learned more about myself, my disease, and how to prioritize wellness. I chose to follow my dreams and give myself a life that would make my younger self so proud.

It’s still a constant battle, but I have gained so much strength.

No matter how trivial, my hobbies and interests have helped me love myself and continue to find purpose in every day.

Give yourself grace!

give yourself grace


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *