It was a surprise to me when I went to a hospital group session on pacing to hear the Occupational Therapist talk about different levels of TV viewing. We were being instructed to complete a diary of the different levels of activity for a week to reassess our pacing (see here to complete the diary yourself). TV viewing was never to be considered rest and different programmes would be different colours depending on their energy demand. Sherlock should not be considerd a low level activity.
Over the last couple of years I have had plenty of time to think about this in more detail. Realistically most spoonies watch a lot more TV than in their former, active lives (unless you cannot stand the audio/visual stimulation). Even when I’ve been too ill to follow a story I’ve often had TV on in the background as a proxy for company. Watching TV is likely to make up more of our day than meditating. It is therefore important to get viewing habits right.
Below is my TV prescription for you, in order of importance. It is based mainly on my own observations, although you could possibly find research to back up some of it.
I find there is a definite place for comedy, and it is usually in the morning in bed. This sets me up for a more lighthearted view of the day – you’ve got to laugh so you don’t cry type of outlook. In the morning you’re probably experiencing some brainfog so gentle, family focused comedy is likely to be better than political satire. Depending on your sense of humour, you may want to try shows like:
Everybody Loves Raymond
Friday Night Dinner
Please comment if you can think of similar shows that make you Laugh Out Loud without having to think too much.
I am coming to the conclusion that a degree of boredom aids recovery. When you’re really ill you just get by day-to-day and there is no room for boredom, it feels like life is more about survival. If, as you improve, there is still no boredom in your life it might be because you’re always pushing to your limit (not keeping a spoon of energy in reserve).
I used to record the most boring TV. I’d go through the schedule and think “great, that looks really dull I’ll record the whole series!”. Now with TV on demand it is much easier to find boring TV at the time you need it.
I don’t want to offend hardworking TV professionals by listing all the dull content they produce but types of programmes may include:
Documentaries you have no interest in
A commentator or main character who has an hypnotic voice
Slow paced sports – snooker, cricket and the ilk
Mediocre drama you’ve seen before
The best times for boring TV are when you’re Too Tired to Sleep; you want to have noise in the background or if you’re watching TV a lot and need different levels for pacing.
If you’re too ill to socialise normally there can be a benefit to watching a soap, reality TV or ongoing series where you feel you know the characters. This can easily become compulsive if you’re not conscious of why you are watching this type of programme. Now I limit myself to Eastenders (4x week), Made in Chelsea (series 1x week) and Holby City (1x week). Watching familiar programmes like this would usually be a low level activity and good for just after meals or if you’re Tired but Wired.
It is a good idea to sometimes watch a series you’re really interested in. You’ll feel more normal and time will pass quicker. These need to be carefully paced though, probably not more than 2 programmes a day unless you’re nearly recovered. Examples from what I’ve watched are:
House of Cards
Six Feet Under
Orange is the New Black
Can you suggest other compelling series?
As an overall theme, try to avoid stressful viewing. Unless these are important to you cut out:
The News (perhaps just listen on the radio)
Violent 18 rated thrillers
Programmes that make you anxious
There’s a Secrets to Recovery session where Alex Howard talks about helpful viewing in terms of a philosophy of narrative where human experience is a quest or journey. This could be an actual quest like Lord of the Rings or a story about inner growth. This will entertain you but it will also communicate on a deeper level that you are on a journey with obstacles to overcome, but you can succeed and learn along the way. It may be best to avoid quest stories where everyone dies at the end!
There is an often quoted and sometimes misused Bible verse which I think has an appropriate place in ME TV viewing:
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Philippians 4:8 (MSG)