How Hobbies Can Help Patients with Pulmonary Fibrosis

How Hobbies Can Help Patients with Pulmonary Fibrosis
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Most of the conversations in the Pulmonary Fibrosis News Forums are about the physical and medical aspects of living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). But occasionally we steer off-topic and talk about who we are as people first and patients second. We talk about our families, travel plans, and hobbies. Many forums members have a new hobby. Others have returned to one they had neglected before getting sick.

As a lover of all things “do-it-yourself,” there are few activities that bring me greater joy than spending a day in my craft room making cards or scrapbooking. My mind focuses on the task at hand, and I don’t worry about other things. It’s one of the health benefits of a creative hobby.

I recently talked about this with my rheumatologist during a follow-up for my lung transplant evaluation. Since my diagnosis, I’ve struggled with learning to slow down and not be as heavily involved in volunteer and social roles. I am a classic overachiever and want my hands in everything. I crave learning and describe myself as an “information junkie.” But sometimes my curiosity gets the best of me, and I take on more than I can handle. My rheumatologist says this is one of the worst things we can do for our minds and bodies, IPF or not.

I am grateful for my healthcare specialists, but this physician is particularly skilled. As an internal medicine specialist, she believes in a physiological mind-body connection and challenges me to find ways to slow down my mind. She says that when our brains are relaxed, our bodies fare better. That’s not always easy when living with a life-threatening lung disease.

During my last visit, she and I talked about my crafting hobby. She believes in the benefit of hobbies for mental health, and she challenged me to carve out windows of time in my weekly schedule to craft. She reminded me that I wouldn’t cancel a chiropractor appointment if my body was in pain, so why wouldn’t I prioritize something that will help my mind feel better.

In addition to helping me focus, the following are other ways crafting is therapeutic:

  • Improves physical stamina: As I continue to recover from almost three months of illnesses, I am noticing a decline in my physical abilities. Sitting up without support is uncomfortable, and my arms and legs are significantly weaker. Using a supportive chair that forces better posture while crafting is helping me regain core muscle strength.
  • Provides additional income: I love it when friends order custom cards from me, and I can create something unique for them. The extra funds I earn are a bonus.
  • Opportunities to socialize: I’ve always been energized by time and conversation with like-minded people. When I spend time with my crafting friends, it reminds me that I am known for something outside of IPF. Because it doesn’t require a lot of physical exertion, it’s a hobby that I can participate in even when I am not feeling my best.
  • Gives me a sense of accomplishment: It can be hard to finish tasks when living with IPF because of physical and mental fatigue. Crafting and completing a small item leaves me with a feeling of accomplishment.

What hobbies help you cope with IPF/PF? How are they helpful to you? Tell us about them in the comments below.

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Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.

Charlene is a fiercely independent 30-something woman who can’t sit still. She loves coffee, wine tasting, playing with her dog, and spending time on the beach with her family. She’s a lover of all things travel, and never passes up an opportunity for a dip in the ocean! A proud Canadian, Charlene was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in 2016 after 13 months of investigation into sudden shortness of breath, a chronic cough, and unusual fatigue. IPF has forced her to slow down, but she’s slowly learning the value of quality versus quantity in everything she does.
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Charlene is a fiercely independent 30-something woman who can’t sit still. She loves coffee, wine tasting, playing with her dog, and spending time on the beach with her family. She’s a lover of all things travel, and never passes up an opportunity for a dip in the ocean! A proud Canadian, Charlene was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in 2016 after 13 months of investigation into sudden shortness of breath, a chronic cough, and unusual fatigue. IPF has forced her to slow down, but she’s slowly learning the value of quality versus quantity in everything she does.
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6 comments

  1. I love your post. My husband was diagnosed in April of 19 but now they are saying they are not sure as he is doing so well and he has some findings of hypersensitivity pnumonitis and some of IPF but he’s young (54).lol they need to meet you..
    So we go every 3 months for function test and wait for now. I pray for you and your family. You make the difference we all want to make. Thank you for that.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Cynthia,

      Thank you so much for reading my columns and for your kind words! I’m sorry to hear your husband is dealing with this disease too – it can sure be relentless and never discriminates by age. Some people (even professionals) have argued that I may not have “IPF” but rather auto-immune related PF, but all my autoimmune panels/bloodwork aren’t indicative of a problem. So, until I develop something auto-immune related, no one has any other answers but IPF. It is a hard battle I’m working through! All that said, I’m really glad your husband isn’t plagued by the awful symptoms of this disease – I will keep my fingers crossed that is the case for him for a long time. Thank you again for your kind words, they made my day 🙂
      Charlene.

  2. Lydia says:

    I started knitting and sewing. Before IPF I wouldn’t have had patience for these hobbies but now I’m benefiting from the slower pace. It clears my mind and helps me control my “anxious “ breathing. It feels good to have a planned activity that provides a sense of accomplishment.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Lydia,

      Thank you so much for reading my column and reaching out via the comments. I hoped this would be a topic that many of us could resonate with. I am glad you have found knitting and sewing to keep your mind busy, that is important. I agree with the sense of accomplishment, it feels good doesn’t it? Glad you’ve found some quiet hobbies to help you cope with IPF. Thanks for sharing!
      Charlene.

  3. Holly Patient says:

    Hi, Charlene,
    I am also rediscovering the joys of hobbies as a newly retired and now post-transplant person. I agree that being creative and producing something that gives you and others pleasure is important. That’s probably true for everyone, but especially so for those of us with restricted activities and energy. I spent much of the fall sewing tops for friends and family members–a simple pattern which seemed flattering to most figures, using fun fabrics. I also started watercolors, taking a couple of one-day classes to get me back into it after many years of “not having time.” My lack of talent does not hold me back! I can still learn and improve. I would love to see your cards and artwork, if you have it anywhere on social media.
    Holly

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Holly,

      Thanks so much for reading my columns and reaching out via the comments. As always, it is wonderful to hear from you! I love that you’re re-discovering creativity, and couldn’t agree more how beneficial it is for those of us with restricted activities and energy. Sewing and doing watercolours sounds so fun — maybe some day you could teach me! Having some time for creative outlets now (I also “never had the time”) has been one of the gifts from IPF that I try to be thankful for as it has become very therapeutic for me. I’ll get my card link to Christy for you 🙂
      Char.

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