8 Mentally Healthy Ways to Keep Busy During the COVID-19 Pandemic (or Anytime You’re at Home for Long Periods of Time)

At about 8 weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re hearing many tell us that they’re running out of ways to keep busy and to entertain themselves. Often, when we’re bored, our minds go into far off places which could be our “happy places” or really dark places. For those at risk for or struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues (obsessive-compulsive disorder [OCD], anger control issues, family system issues, etc.), down time could lead them to thinking catastrophic thoughts (What if I lose my job? What if this never goes away? What if……?) or self-critical and depressing thoughts (I’m a loser without a job. My world is always going to be disappointing.). Additionally, spending increased amounts of time with family can lead to interpersonal hostility, annoying others, others annoying you, and other non-verbal expressions of anger (eye rolling, sarcastic comments, etc.). None of this is good for mental health. Our team would much rather have everyone use solid mental health strategies or engage in pleasurable activities!

Oh, it’s important to highlight that, for some, “down time” is considered “wasted time”, and it increases their stress levels! This is common for people who tend to be goal driven and strive for perfection in all that they do. If you’re someone who can relate to this, please consider that, while it might be possible for you to be incredibly productive, how costly is this to your mental health and relationships? It’s much better for mental health (and, believe it or not, the quality of the work you produce!) to take breaks to do enjoyable things. Your brain needs the break to perform its best. On the other side of this continuum are those who believe that they’re wasting free time and not doing enough. It’s okay to do nothing. It’s okay to rest. We live in a very busy world, so if you’re using this extra time to recuperate, good for you! It’s about balance…those who’ve had very little free time might benefit by having more unstructured, unproductive time. Those who have a list of things they’ve always wanted to do, this would be a great time to start those things. Really ask yourself, “What do I need right now?”, not “What should I be doing right now?”, and listen to your gut.

Our team came up with a list of ideas that will hopefully help you and your family reduce boredom and build bonds with your family members. Many of these are things that we’re also doing!

  1. Masterclass. Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn or a topic in which you have a lot of interest? From cooking to photography to business classes, even make-up application, there are probably topics that you’d love to learn more about!
  2. Audible. Related to Masterclass, Audible has so many great books. Your free time could be used to get involved in a really great story or learn more about something you’ve always wanted to gain knowledge about.
  3. TED Talks. Many have told us that they’ve been searching to find interesting TED talks. We’re all about education and think that this is a great way to use your down time.
  4. Exercise. You know that walk you always said you’d take when you had time? This is a great time to begin an exercise routine. It’s not only good for your physical health, but it’s amazing for your mental health. Consult with your doctor about an appropriate exercise routine, and use this gift of free time to get started!
  5. Board games. Ah, good old board games. Grab the family and have “Board Game Night” a few times per week. You might be surprised how much fun you have with your family.
  6. Hobbies. If you already have a hobby, schedule time for yourself to spend more time doing it. If you’ve always wanted a hobby, what better time is there than to do it now? Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn more about photography and using that DSLR camera (there are so many tutorials on YouTube for this!). How about cupcake decorating? Cooking? Grab a cookbook and cook your way through it. Watch something on the Food Network, and see if you can reproduce it. The sky is the limit!
  7. Organizing. Organizing is a great way to momentarily feel in control of something and enjoy the feelings that come along with productivity. Take one section of your home a day (the bathroom; the garage) or even something smaller (a few kitchen cabinets; the bathroom linen closet) and throw out things that are torn or ruined, donate things that don’t serve you anymore, and re-organize what you plan to keep.
  8. Random acts of kindness. Helping others not only helps their mental health, but it helps yours as well. Call or text a neighbor to see if he or she needs anything. Is there an older neighbor who could use assistance pulling weeds? Is there someone you know that lives alone and could use a phone call or virtual meeting to know that someone is thinking of them and that they matter?

It’s possible that you’ve thought of each of these examples; however, have you made room for them in your schedule? Make a “bored board”, and block out a time on your calendar each day to choose 1 or more of these activities to do. Few people like to frequently feel bored. Although many of us are feeling this pandemic as incredibly life interrupting and stressful, try and take advantage of this gift of time you’ve been given. It won’t last forever, and my guess is that, when this is all over, you’ll look back on using your free time wisely with satisfaction!

For some, this may be easier said than done. If you’re struggling with overwhelming anxiety, depression, obsessive thoughts, bothersome behaviors, or anything that is making you uncomfortable, please reach out to us for a free consultation to see if we can be of help to you. Call us or text us at (908) 914-2624 or email us at info@anxietyandbehaviornj.com.


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