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By Steven Booth, Founder, Elevation Behavioral Health

When the coronavirus first emerged here in the U.S. emotions were high. Collectively, we felt a lot of anxiety and uncertainty around both the virus itself and our financial futures. Suddenly, with next to no warning, we were sent home to ride out the wave in hopes of flattening that infamous curve. 

At first, it was such an unusual situation that it kind of felt like we were on an extended camping trip at home. We were buying cans of baked beans and hunkering down, glued to the T.V. as the daily updates became a new morning routine. As the days wore on, we searched for productive pastimes, chatted with friends and colleagues on Zoom, and practiced yoga to a YouTube channel on our laptops. 

And then the boredom set in. The shine was off the penny.

As days became weeks, and weeks have turned into months, learning to now deal with boredom during the COVID-19 quarantine is going to be a necessary practice in maintaining sanity. Mental health is strained, for sure, during this protracted lockdown. Our resolve is fading, along with the funds in our bank accounts, so let’s consider some clever ways to relieve boredom during the pandemic.

Boredom Exposes Buried Emotions

With our movements restricted and our choices for entertainment limited to a Roku, it is easy to understand why we may be lapsing into mind-numbing boredom now, at week 8 or so of the lockdown initiatives being instituted. Along with a lack of interesting activities to keep us engaged, an uncomfortable re-introduction to ourselves may result. Uncomfortable because we are usually so distracted with the busyness of work, socializing, and parenting in normal daily life that we can deftly ignore our interior life. With no time to be introspective during regular times, we can easily ignore things that are troubling us at a deeper level.

Now, with all the time in the world available to us, we are facing the truths within. Bubbling up to the surface are feelings of disappointment, fear of the future, reliving traumatic events, or ruminating over failed relationships. Suddenly, as we while away the days in a state of utter boredom, there is nowhere to hide from these troubling emotions.

Confronting our truth during isolation can actually be a very productive action to take. Why not replace abject boredom with a little self-reflection… and productivity? 

How to Manage Boredom During Social Distancing and Lockdown

While a trip to Disneyland may be off the radar for a while, there are some activities that will help fill the social void left by the coronavirus. Consider these options:

  • Start a garden. Gardening is actually a very therapeutic activity that bonds us with nature and offers an opportunity to ponder our feelings while we toil in the soil. Growing vegetables or flowers is a process, giving you a sense of accomplishment when the fruits of your labor become visible. Gardening is also an excellent intervention for anxiety, quelling our stress and soothing our souls.
  • Plumb YouTube for ideas. There is literally a video for any imaginable activity available on YouTube. If you type in “how to” to the search bar you will literally be met with limitless ideas on new things to learn or do. Whether you want to learn how to write an eBook or cut your own hair, you will find a video to teach you.
  • Learn to cook. Even if you already know how to cook, why not expand your cooking repertoire to include something new or exotic? There are online Zoom cooking classes available where you purchase the ingredients ahead of time and then join a video class to follow along with a chef. 
  • Set new career goals. Taking a break, voluntarily or not, from your job may inspire a new career path. Spend the free time researching a prospective new job or business idea, learning as much as you can. Sign up for online classes or certifications. Set short and long-term goals for achieving this new dream profession, and then follow through to make it happen.

Keep in mind that boredom management means time management and practicing self-discipline. Wallowing in boredom is a time-waster. Don’t waste the opportunity to accomplish something new while you are stuck at home!

Be Aware of Signs of Depression

There are many people struggling with symptoms of depression during the COVID-19 lockdown. Loneliness, boredom, feelings of isolation, and financial stress are all contributing to a brewing mental health crisis. Be cognizant of the warning signs of depression and reach out for help if you experience five or more of them:

  • Loss of interest in activities or things that once gave your joy
  • Not wanting to get out of bed
  • Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Slowed thinking and movements
  • Change of sleeping habits, sleep disruptions
  • Change of eating habits
  • Feeling ashamed or guilty for no reason
  • Suicidal thoughts

Depression is a serious mental health disorder that requires professional intervention.

This too Shall Pass

We all look forward to hearing the “all clear” announcement, hopefully in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, it is important to avoid falling into the trap of boredom. Boredom can lead to despairing thoughts and loss of hope. By addressing our mental health needs during the pandemic, we can stay afloat emotionally. Filling time with productive endeavors is great, but sometimes that is not enough to stave off encroaching depression.

If you find yourself sinking into hopelessness about the future, do not ignore the red flags that might be signaling depression. Mental health providers are still available to offer timely treatment via tele-mental health platforms during the quarantine period. Once the restrictions are lifted, therapists will transition patients to the office setting once again. Meanwhile, lean on the provided video-chat platforms for support through these trying times. And always remind yourself that this too shall pass.