With lockdowns being re-imposed and many of us still feeling nervous about going out, it’s important to explore constructive activities that can help us fill our time at home. When lockdown first started, there were a slew of social media posts about how to make the best of our time inside (Plan your wedding! Get in shape!), followed by a backlash of resentment that caused influencers to flip-flop (It’s okay if you just sit on your couch and eat ice cream. You do you!). Now that the dust has settled (and some schools are finally opening, taking the pressure off frazzled parents), hopefully everyone can find a sweet spot in between the two extremes, especially as the weather is cooling down in many parts of the world and the temptation to go outdoors is decreasing.
I have been practicing for the Covid lockdown for nearly seven years. My practice came from time spent living in Cameroon, Niger, the DRC, and Afghanistan, often behind high walls with barbed wire, guards, and even a curfew. In those places, there were very few bars or restaurants where I felt comfortable or was allowed to go, and my pool of friends was often quite limited. I ended up spending a lot of time in my house, alone, which sounds worse than it was.
Oftentimes, the temptation was overpowering just to spend my evenings and weekends working or watching endless movies and TV shows, and I gave in. But the more time I spent overseas, “practicing” my isolation, the more I learned that engaging in creative, meditative activities was a surefire way to fight anxiety and depression, and maybe even learn something.
- Cook something that is technically challenging – or learn to cook. I spent many evenings during my Peace Corps service in Cameroon cooking things from scratch. When I made lasagna, I had to go to the butcher shop and request a piece of meat that was then ground by hand. I made the lasagna noodles and even the ricotta from scratch (adding vinegar to simmering milk kind of works). Researching different techniques to cook your creations and then seeing if you can pull them off can be fun, leaving you feeling triumphant or ready to figure out where you went wrong for next time.
- Learn how to play a musical instrument. During this particular lockdown, I’ve learned to play the ukulele. The first week or so of any new instrument can be challenging, and you’ll find yourself wincing at your many mistakes. But, if you stick with it and do a little bit every day, you can find yourself lost in practicing – and you’ll be so excited when you have a breakthrough and can finally play something without making mistakes!
- Paint or draw something, even if you’re not an artist, or get crafty. I never considered myself to be a good artist, but when a friend introduced me to the concept of “Paint and Sip,” where you drink wine and paint, I discovered the meditative properties of painting. Time flies when you are focused on your paper or canvass. It doesn’t matter how it turns out – the feeling of creating something leaves you warm and fuzzy. The same can be said for sewing or beading. Anything that requires 100% of your attention can create a meditative flow state.
- Edit your photographs. If you find yourself sucked into a social media hole or missing your travel adventures, consider going back through photos of a past trip, editing them, and using them for future posts or, better yet, to fill a photo album. Creating photo albums online and having them printed is a meditative activity in and of itself, and they make excellent gifts.
- Learn a new language. There is a reason why doctors encourage older people to practice a language. It boosts your memory and concentration. DuoLingo is free, and the format encourages practicing even just a little bit every day. Pick the language of a country that’s on your travel bucket list. It takes a while for the content to sink in, but you could learn something that will be useful in the future.
- Move your body! Whether its yoga, boxing, or just dancing around your living room, getting up and moving when you aren’t able to go to the gym or go outside will make you feel so much better. If you can’t get outside for a walk, but have access to a treadmill, hop on with a book. Time flies when you read and walk at the same time. The bottom line is, you never regret working out – you only regret not doing it.
- Read and write. Join a yearly reading challenge with friends and on Goodreads, or a virtual book club. Listen to audiobooks while you are cooking your next masterpiece. Choose a book you wouldn’t normally read, and allow yourself to get completely sucked into the story. Kind of like working out, it’s rare that you regret reading – you only regret not reading. If books aren’t your thing, consider investing in a subscription to magazine. The subscription may inspire you to read more. If you need motivation to write, join a virtual writing group. Pick something you’re passionate about and start a blog. Keep a journal nearby and work through your feelings on the page. Check out the Poets & Writers website and enter a writing contest.
- Spend time with your pets. Everyone knows that petting dogs and cats lowers your blood pressure. Pets may be the only group that is truly enjoying these strange times – 2020 is their year.
Good luck, and don’t despair! We will all get through this!