With the pandemic raging at full force, trips have been canceled, our favorite restaurants have been shut down and events have been postponed. It’s easy to feel disoriented—and at a loss for what to do. We are suddenly left with all these hours we didn’t have two weeks ago. How do we spend all our time at home? How do we not let anxiety and disappointment dominate the day? What’s the cure for cabin fever? Here are 10 ideas for passing the time constructively with some uplifting content mixed throughout.
Get Outside. The outdoors are the one thing that hasn’t been locked down yet. Take full advantage of the fresh air and go on a hike, ride your bike on that path you’ve been wanting to check out or go for a jog around the neighborhood. Stay outside all morning, there’s no rush to come home (which is where you’ll stay). For added benefit, take a parent or sibling with you, have a great conversation and bond. This extended, uninterrupted time outside with loved ones might never happen again.
Read. If you’re anything like me, you have a stack of books on your nightstand you haven’t had the mental power or time to delve into. Well, this is your moment to break out the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and get reading. Don’t just skim summaries online, read the whole thing. Sometimes I forget how long this takes. Go to Mount Doom with Frodo, it might be more satisfying than binge-watching the movies (maybe). If reading feels like too much of a burden, listen to an audiobook instead while you bake cookies or run outside.
Call Your Grandma. Or that friend from high school you haven’t talked to in a year. This is the time to catch up with everyone you haven’t had the time for, or courage to reach out to. One of my goals is to catch up with two friends a day. Even a simple, “How are you holding up?” text means a lot to our confused and anxious friends. For me, texting fellow senior friends who are also disappointed about our last semester has been cathartic. Checking in on loved ones is a great way to give back, and feel less alone.
Limit Your Screen Time. While this might not be an option for people who need to work on laptops, or need their phones on all day in case of emergencies, try taking intentional breaks from devices to alleviate technology fatigue. With classes online, news updates happening by the minute and all entertainment digital, it’s easy to spend the whole day glued to screens. This can get exhausting and depressing pretty quickly. Over the next few days, try ignoring the urge to spend your whole day with a phone or laptop on. If possible, make “technology hours” where you turn on your phone three times a day to answer calls, texts or emails during specified periods of time. Try putting a screen time limit on your media apps cut down use. Most importantly, listen to your body when it tells you enough is enough. If your eyes are burning, your head is throbbing or achy and exhaustion is kicking in, it’s time to put your phone down. Get more comfortable with being disconnected and establish these healthy digital disciplines early on.
Try New Hobbies. Have you been wanting to break out those knitting needles to finally learn how to make those mittens? Watch some how-to videos and do it! Now’s the time to try painting with watercolors, or bust out the adult coloring books that have been dormant in your bottom desk drawer for three years. Try your pen at creative writing, or outline a story you want to write some day. Make something—a poem, a paper crane, a funny face. You never know what might develop into a deeper passion, or evoke some joyful memories.
Learn How to Cook (Finally). Now is your chance to learn how to make that penne vodka from scratch. With ample time near a kitchen and grocery stores being the only place you can shop, this is the prime time to learn those essential cooking skills. If you are trying for the first time, I suggest starting small. Chop up some sweet potatoes into thick slices, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil, a dash of salt, and place in the oven for an hour at 400 degrees. Chopping and prepping is half the process—waiting is the other half. Once you open your oven—voila—roasted sweet potatoes. These would pair nicely with some roasted chicken (or chickpeas for my vegetarian friends) and pesto quinoa.
Bake. Baking is one of the most satisfying activities out there. It’s so hard to mess up when there’s flour, sweetness and butter involved. The worst thing you can do is leave the baked goods in the oven too long. So on your homebound days, do some experimental baking. I’m a huge proponent of scones and muffins, so I’ve been tinkering with my favorite recipes lately. Recently, I adapted my favorite pumpkin chocolate chip recipe to work in some healthier ingredients. I subbed in Bob’s Gluten Free 1:1 Flour, cut the sugar amount in half, and added an extra ripe banana for moisture (the GF flour makes things drier). I made these last week and my family loved them. Give these a try (they’re quick). The recipe is below.
Consume Wholesome Content. Now is the time to consume some uplifting news when the rest seems so bleak. A Chicago aquarium that recently shut down is letting its penguins roam the grounds and tour the zoo (cue the viral video here). While we’re panicking, these penguins are flapping their flappers as they waddle among fish tanks and bright marine life. They are completely unaware of what’s happening and this pandemic may be a dream come true for zoo dwellers. It’s good to know that some are thriving amid the shutdown.
Get Nostalgic. Sort through old family photos in that bin in the basement, or read through old journals from sixth grade. Frame a few precious pieces or reflect on where you were at two years old versus now. What’s changed? What hasn’t changed? Call a friend and reminisce about that unforgettable trip to Portugal last summer and have a good hard laugh. You need one.
Reprioritize. It’s hard to dream when the future is so uncertain, but this could be the perfect time to delve deeper into what’s important to you, and what your core strengths are. Get to know yourself! I recently bought Tom Rath’s Strengthsfinder 2.0 book and took the online assessment to get some feedback about myself. After receiving my results, I’ve been trying to understand my top five strengths to inform my job search. Now could be the time to consider your superpowers and dream a little bigger.
At the end of the day, you might try a few items from this list, but the same questions about the future linger: Will Vassar hold a graduation ceremony? Will my brother’s wedding in June get canceled? Will I ever be on campus as a student again? If you’re feeling inundated with the sheer amount of pandemic content and uncertainties, I’m with you. You are not alone. While there’s a lot out of our control right now, we still have daily decisions of how to spend our time. Make yourself a cup of hot peppermint tea, take a few deep breaths and get dreaming. Drive around that cool town you’ve been wanting to check out along the Hudson. Finish that trilogy you promised your uncle you would read. While this situation is anything but ideal, especially without the privilege of a safe home space and access to technology, this could be the forced break you’ve never given yourself permission to take. Get baking, and tell me how those pumpkin muffins turn out!