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Ways to Pass the Time (That Aren't Just Netflix!) When You're Social Distancing Due to COVID-19

Much of the world is experiencing isolation for the first time with the coronavirus (COVID-19) — the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system — but this ain’t my first rodeo. Being that I’m quite experienced with coping with isolation, I thought I would share some advice on how to cope with isolation and social distancing.

If you’d like more info on COVID-19, check out my other blog post on the topic. That post also has science links and bullet point quick facts. 

My Experience of Being Isolated for 5 Years

I spent five years of my life chronically ill and unable to leave the house. I didn’t really have friends who came to me, so I was primarily isolated at home for all of that time as well. 

Many times in the past, and even still sometimes, people hear how much downtime I’ve had in my life and they say I was “lucky.” To have free-time is wonderful, but please remember I was very deathly sick for all of that time, so I didn’t always have the energy to do much. 

It’s not like I was on vacation. I wasn’t able to go out or do anything, so it’s not like I was choosing to stay home; I literally could not get out of bed most days. I had countless days where I was at 0%, 10 out of 10 in pain, and that’s not “fun.”

I worked extremely hard to make the most of my situation and to maintain my personality, my sense of humor and to keep joy a priority in my daily life. I also had a fantastic therapist and an incredible family who supported me and helped me get through it.

Point being, though, I worked hard every single day to make the most of it.  

To pass time, I watched a lot of movies and TV, I did a lot of reading, a lot of writing, and if I was lucky, I maybe had the energy for a little bit of something else.

I had my ups and downs in my health, and so sometimes I would have a good day (feeling like 50% of my old healthy self) and I would make an effort to try or learn something new. Eventually, I had a lot of wonderful hobbies! 

Being that I’m in remission now and do have energy and have been going out, this is very triggering for my mental health and mindset to have to isolate again to protect myself. It feels like a huge step backward, but … at least I have my health now. I can actually enjoy this time much more than in the past. I’m actually a bit excited to focus more on creating and writing. I’m trying to view this as a staycation of sorts and have as little stress as possible because stress helps nothing.

Have a Support System

I’m extremely skilled at making the most of whatever I have to work with, and so I thought this was appropriate advice for me to give to anyone who is isolated by force or isolated by choice during this pandemic. 

Isolation is never easy. Personally, it was one of the hardest parts of my health journey. I truly understand how hard this is and will be for people. 

I highly advise that everyone finds people to talk to, either a professional who can work long-distance, friends or family. Even if you’re just texting, calling or doing FaceTime, keep talking to people, keep your emotional support system intact and in frequent contact.

You may have to be isolating at home, but you can still have a social life from a distance, trust me.  

This Will Be Different for Everyone

Obviously, if someone is sick, they’re mostly going to be resting and they’ll be limited to using streaming services to fill their downtime.

If you’re recovering, you may have more energy to do more things, but you must stay home until you are fully recovered.

If you’re staying home to avoid getting sick but aren’t sick yourself, you are likely a bit miffed by all of this and already are going “stir-crazy” just at the thought of being stuck at home.

I am here to remind you all that there is a lot of fun you can have at home, or on your own. 

No matter what boat you are in right now, you can get through this. 

Things to Do During Isolation

I thought I would share with you all some awesome things you can do at home to pass the time. Most of these, you can do completely on your own, but I will throw in some group activities as well because many of us live with family or roommates and if you’re all stuck at home together, maybe you’d like to do these things together.

1. Streaming.

  • TV and streaming services: Now is a great time to catch up on shows and movies you’ve been wanting to watch. Maybe you’ve been wanting to binge-watch something too, and now is a great time for that. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Disney Plus are all great options, or just good old satellite TV.
  • YouTube: YouTube has music, tutorials for everything and really any kind of entertainment you’d like to watch. Jenna Marbles always makes me laugh, and Carpool Karaoke is fantastic.
  • Podcasts: I’m not big on podcasts, but I know a lot of people are. I only listen to a few on occasion. Lately, I’ve been really loving “Wake Up with Natashia,” and “Chatty Broads” always makes me laugh out loud.

2. Reading and writing.

  • Audiobooks: Those are a popular streamed thing too.
  • Read: We all have books we haven’t gotten around to reading yet. Read your books! I already brought a few books out.
  • Blog: I got into blogging years ago. Blogger is great and free. WordPress is also very popular.
  • Write: Use the notes app on your phone, a computer, laptop or good old fashioned paper. I’m halfway through writing my first romance novel and maybe this time off will be when I finish it. Who knows.
  • Journal: Most of us already have supplies for this around the house. You can also purchase a journaling app. I journal every day with pen and paper, and I have for 10 years now. It keeps me sane.

3. Music.

Music is a universal language and so incredibly healing. Music is one of the key things that saved my life. No doubt.

  • Stream music: There are lots of music streaming services out there, and music is a beautiful way to fill the silence or boost your mood. Spotify is my personal favorite and I use the free version. There’s also Apple Music, Pandora, SoundCloud, etc.
  • Learn to play an instrument: Many people — possibly your own family — owns an instrument no one plays. Learn to play it. I had a guitar I didn’t know how to play, so while I was sick I learned how to play guitar, and later also learned ukulele, and a little piano too. Uke is super easy; I highly suggest it for a complete beginner.
  • Make music: Maybe you already know how to play music but haven’t put your talents out there, or maybe it’s been a while since you’ve shared your talents. Share your gift of music with others.

4. Arts and crafts.

I’m a huge fan of arts and crafts, and many of us already have supplies at home to be able to do these things. Have fun with it. There’s no need to be the best. Just have fun with it like a little kid would.

  • Art: Draw, color, paint, sketch, etc. The list goes on and on. I’m a huge fan of coloring books, and I have no shame to admit that.
  • Scrapbooking: We have the materials laying around and I know someone else does too.
  • Origami: A lost art you will either love or hate. Hopefully, it makes you laugh or smile. Have an origami contest with whomever you live with!
  • Crochet and knit: If you already have the materials, you can learn how to do this on YouTube or online on crafting websites! I learned most of it online.
  • Learn to sew, stitch, embroider or cross-stitch. Again, if you have the materials needed, all you need is time, patience, and YouTube or craft blogs.
  • Wood burning: My fiancĂ© got a wood-burning kit a while back, and now would have the time to try out this hobby. There are lots of other outdoorsy, garage, DIY hobbies too!

5. Food!

  • Cook or learn to cook: Now that you’re home and aren’t supposed to go out to eat, now is a great time to bust out your dusty cookbooks and whip something up.

6. Wellness.

  • Work out at home: Many of us have at home fitness tools we rarely use. Now is the time to use them.
  • Yoga: You can Google poses or watch tutorials online.
  • Meditation: There are lots of guided meditations online or you can do your own thing. Here is my favorite source for guided meditations.

7. Spring cleaning.

  • Sanitize: Start by sanitizing and keeping your home clean and germ-free.
  • Catch up: Catch up on chores and laundry.
  • Deep clean: Once you catch up, dig in for some deep cleaning. Clean your room, your closet, your house, your garage, all the things! (Create donation piles for later.)
  • “Marie Kondo” your whole freakin’ life! 
  • Get organized: Bust out the label maker, and go wild with all the cleaning.

8. Home improvement.

  • Finish decorating: Hang the art you’ve been meaning to hang, and touch up the paint that’s been needing it.
  • Redecorate: Move your furniture, art, decor and photos around for a new look. Change up the layout of your outdoor furniture. Having a “new looking space” brightens our minds and makes us happier and more optimistic about daily life. Ideally, make use of what you already have right now too, or what you have hiding in the back of a closet or in the garage.
  • Build stuff: Maybe you’ve been meaning to build that shelf or that bookcase. Now is a great time to get that project done.

9. Treat yo’self.

  • Make it a staycation: Clean out your hot tub, get it running and make afternoon hot-tubbing part of your life. Get some sun in your backyard. Picture this as a vacation and it won’t be so bad.
  • Spa staycation: Take a long, luxurious bath, give yourself a facial or a massage, or swap facials and massages with someone you live with. Do your own nails, try doing fancy art on them that you normally don’t have time for, play around with different hairstyles or try out those YouTube hair and makeup tutorials you never had time for. Pamper yourself.

10. Other fun things.

  • Garden: It’s springtime, so this is the perfect time to get out in your garden.
  • Teach your pets some new tricks: I think all pet owners intend to teach their pets more tricks than they do. Now, you have the time to give it a shot!
  • Board games: If you’re stuck at home with family or roommates and already exposed to them, then have at it; bust out the board games, card games and puzzles.
  • Dance.
  • Sing.
  • Get weird.
  • Have fun with it.

We all have hobbies we put off to the side and forget about. This is your chance to get back to doing those things that give you joy. This is a chance to learn something new. This is your chance to catch up on practical things too like house cleaning or taxes or something, haha.

Now could be a great time to create a deeper bond with the people you’re living with, or the people you talk to. Have those deep, meaningful heart-to-heart conversations.

Don’t feel pressured to go out and attend things just because someone else is and you have FOMO (fear of missing out). Staying home as much as you can is what’s advised.

Concerts, parades, events, parties and all of the things will likely get rescheduled to a later (safer) date, or just resume with their annual festivities next year. Vacation destinations will also still be there after this is all over.

All of the things will still be there after this passes. 

Health Comes First

What chronic illness taught me is that health is not a 100% guarantee for anyone, everyone.

When push comes to shove, we have to value health first, even if that means we’re making some temporary sacrifices.  

Please take this seriously and take as many precautions as you possibly can. We can, in the least, slow the pace of the spread of the coronavirus so the health care system can give everyone the care they need.

Working together and making a team effort to do the best we can during this hard time is how we’ll all get through this.

As for isolation, if I can do it for five years, I am confident that everyone can do it for a month or two.

A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog.

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