10 things to do if you’re bored in isolation (other than Netflix)

bored in isolation

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Bored in isolation chillin at home

If you are feeling bored in isolation or disconnected from the outside world, here are some ways to relieve your cabin fever.

There is a lot of advice out there suggesting that we use this time of self-isolation efficiently. That’s fair—many people may have found a whole lot more time on their hands. But that’s not the reality for everyone. Some are still working from home and may have the added responsibility of caring for others in their isolation bubble.

While we are being reminded that Shakespeare wrote King Lear and Macbeth during quarantine in a plague and Isaac Newton helped develop Calculus during the Great Plague of London, let’s just bring these lofty expectations down a notch. Nobody is expecting you to emerge from quarantine a scholar, multilingual, or having cured a disease. If you survive this pandemic with your health, sanity, and integrity intact, you will have done very well. And that’s all the world expects of you.

Now. For those who are bored in isolation, it’s a great time to experiment, with low risk of humiliating social repercussions. How about a new hairstyle? Grow a beard. Sing, dance, draw, paint, juggle, build Lego. Go ahead, no-one’s watching (except for those who are stuck with you in your isolation bubble).

NOTE: I won’t mention fitness as I feel social media is overwhelmed with workouts right now. You know where to go for yoga.

1. Read your TBR pile

Bored in isolation? Read your TBR
Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

If you’re not much of a reader, skip to the next point. But before you go, hear me out: Reading takes practice. If you have never read a book or if it’s been a while, it takes time to refine your attention again. If the words are swimming on the page or you fall asleep instantaneously, I promise it will get easier with practice. Just a little each day, as slowly as you need.

If you are a reader and your house is full of TBR (to be read) books, or half-read books, put them all together either on a shelf or in a list. Use Goodreads (web or app) to track the books you want to read. Then, pick ONE and read ONE AT A TIME.

Now, tell me what you’re reading, I want to know!

2. Listen to stories

Not into reading books? Sick of looking at screens? Here are some great resources to listen to.

Audiobooks

Hundreds of free audiobooks on Audible.

Phoebe Judge reads a mystery

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by the world’s best-selling author Agatha Christie, read in the smooth voice of Phoebe Judge from the Criminal podcast. Listen to the podcast here.

The Moth podcast

Featuring re-airs of all-new episodes of The Moth Radio Hour, plus additional stories from their vast archive recorded over the past two decades. Listen to the podcast here.

Stephen Fry’s Seven Deadly Sins

You need to be in the mood for this one, but it’s SO good. For mature audiences. Listen here.

For the kids

David Walliams is releasing free daily audiobooks for kids. Also, for those who need to burn some energy, check out P.E. for kids on Joe Wicks’ Youtube channel. These resources are great for parents and caregivers who are now suddenly homeschooling their children.

3. Fix something

Look around the house. What have you been putting off because you didn’t have time? Well, you’re here because you must be bored in isolation. So if you have basic tools/cleaners/glue/paint/fabric/sewing kit, and access to Google or YouTube, then you have all you need. Get creative! Not only will you solve a problem, but you will also feel accomplished by your handiwork.

4. See the world

No, silly, don’t leave the house! Just watch these scenic webcams from here.

5. Financial planning

Channel fear into knowledge. Whether you are worried about your job/income, or your income is stable but you have nowhere to spend your dispensable income, there has never been a better time to increase your knowledge. Money matters are often wrapped up in emotions. So, to begin with, it can be helpful to identify what your money goals are. Financial stability? Buy a house? Supporting big life changes? Retire at a certain age? Travel (not yet)?

Then, let’s take a step back and look at it objectively. It’s just a bunch of numbers.

Make a budget

Use this time in self-isolation to create a budget. Write down your income from all sources. Then, set yourself a monthly budget. Be generous with your allocation, and don’t skimp out on the non-essentials. If you usually spend $200 a month on eating out (pre- and post-quarantine), put that in your budget. You can always adjust it later to refine your budget, but trying to set an unrealistic goal now will just mean blowing it out. Then your whole budget is likely to fail if you think you won’t stick to it anyway. Once you have those numbers written down, you will have a clearer idea of how much it costs to maintain your lifestyle, and you can choose to make adjustments over time to achieve your goals.

Use an app (I use You Need A Budget), or a website like Sorted NZ, or even a spreadsheet will do. I like to track every dollar coming in and out of my account. Being self-employed, I have an irregular income. By tracking my income and spending, I know exactly how much I need to earn to cover my expenses. Vice-versa, I know exactly how much money I have to spend.

Work out your net worth.

Put simply, list all of your assets including investments, retirement fund, equity, savings/cash, then subtract your debt: car loans, personal/student loans, credit card debt, mortgage. The remainder is your net worth, whether positive or negative. Now, you know where you are at. Don’t be scared if it’s lower than you thought. You can grow from here.

Grow your knowledge

Then, research everything you’re unsure about. Retirement funds (e.g. Kiwisaver), shares and investments, compound interest, ways to save money. Find trusted sources, whether online (blogs and podcasts) or people you know, and ask lots of questions. Gather enough information that you can form your own opinions which will then lead to developing a financial plan. I’m very keen to encourage conversations about money.

6. Cook and bake

It’s not unusual to just food that’s within easy reach, particularly if you’re feeling unmotivated in self-isolation. But there’s a way to get more enjoyment from your food: preparing it yourself. The tactile exercise of making food can be very therapeutic. You don’t have to be a Masterchef to make a delicious meal. Measuring, mixing, and chopping ingredients are mindful practices. All of the senses are engaged in the cooking process, and the food itself is a reward at the end. If you have limited ingredients due to the lockdown, here are a couple of super simple recipes.

Beer Bread aka “Lockdown Loaf” by Chelsea Winter (cheap beer is best. Corona don’t work, ironically)

2 Ingredient Bagels (thanks Sarah J)

Featherweight Cheese Puffs by Jo Seagar ( shared by Hilary Barry)

I also made these delicious Ginger Gems during lockdown.

7. Declutter one thing (at a time)

Pick a room. Then pick an area. Now pick one drawer, shelf, box, or cupboard (not a whole closet!). Just ONE thing.

Pull everything out, clean the inside, and only put back the things you like or need (or that “spark joy”). If they are clothes, just put back the things that fit, and that you will actually wear. With plastic containers, only keep useable items (e.g. with matching lids). If you have lidless plastic containers, use them to divide up tools or odds-and-ends.

Now, be ruthless. Throw away the stuff that is broken, unfixable, and unusable. Next, box/bag up the things that can be used by others (clean them first!), such as charity shops. Always check that they are taking stuff first—don’t dump.

There will probably be more things in the “I dunno” pile. Be honest—you forgot you even had them in the first place, right? Bye-bye then.

8. Write

Everyone has a story. Everyone has thoughts and ideas. Don’t believe me? Then just trust me. Grab a notebook— it doesn’t have to be fancy. It could be scrap paper or even the back of an envelope. Just start writing. If you don’t know where to start, then write about one thing that made you happy today. Or something you laughed about. The dream you had last night. Something that you feel strongly about. Something that made you feel an emotion. Aha—now we’re writing.

Write to nobody. This is just for you. No one has to read it. Who cares about your spelling and grammar. It doesn’t even have to make sense. Just START. You can always throw it away afterwards. But don’t stop; do a little bit each day. Then, like any other skill, you’ll get better with practice. You’ll start to find your own voice.

9. Video chats

video chat

Now that your regular activities are on hold, try keeping those scheduled times available with the regular attendees. Coffee dates, book clubs, mums-and-bubs, casual support groups, movie nights, gym meets—the connection can still take place in modified a virtual format. Whether only two people or a group, having that face-to-face encounter can have a very positive effect for those feeling a bit lonely or bored in isolation. Just seeing a smile and having a laugh will brighten your day.

If you have access to a smartphone, tablet, or computer, set up a video chat with your friends, gym mates, family, and anyone else you care about. There are many services, each with their own limitations or pros and cons.

Choose the one you are most familiar with or best suits your purpose. Resource: 10 free video chat apps to use if you’re social distancing.

tips to fall asleep

10. Rest

Never feel bad for taking time out to rest. Take a nap if and when you need it. This is are extraordinary circumstances, so listen to your body and give it what it needs. Especially if you are feeling stressed, anxious, or worried, try and calm your nervous system.

Rest, reflect, recover, and refresh.

You might have all sorts of feelings during self-isolation, but bored doesn’t need to be one of them.