What to Do When There’s Nothing to Do
By Ken Druck, Ph.D.
It’s Spring Break. But almost every aspect of life as we know it has changed. Millions of kids are out of school, employees are working from home, travel and events are canceled, stores and theme parks are closed, shopping centers are looking like ghost towns, and hospitals are being overrun. “The Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020,” as it will be called, has altered just about everything having to do with the old normal, and Home Alone now refers to anyone in California over 65 (like yours truly) whom the governor has confined to “home isolation.”
As a friend of mine put it last night, we’re living in a “new now.” Thankfully, a host of best practices; local, state, and federal government initiatives; and federal proclamations for containing a pandemic are being instituted to save lives, salvage the economy, and assist those most severely compromised. Surviving a pandemic, we’re told, means following new rules for social distancing, handwashing, handshaking, hugging, sneezing, coughing, and regulating the distance between ourselves and others.
We’re also resolving that things aren’t going to return to normal anytime soon, and that this Spring Break will forever be remembered as the time when our world turned upside down and inside out. Since we have a lot of time on our hands, what will we do? Besides watching HBO and movies on Netflix, solving jigsaw puzzles, and playing video and board games, what will we—especially those of us who depend on nonstop screen time, sports, shopping, entertainment, games, and diversions of every kind—do when there’s nothing to do?
Here are a few ideas:
- Slow down, unplug and take impeccably good care of yourself, your loved ones and community by following best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
- Give yourself permission to express the fear, anxiety and frustration we’re all feeling. Do so in a constructive way with a trusted confidant, rather than displacing or internalizing them.
- Approach responsibilities (family, job, finances, food and supplies, caregiving loved ones, health and practical matters, etc.) without reverting to complacency or panic.
- Since most parents and kids don’t spend this much “Family Time” together, sit down and talk about what you can do to make Spring Break a wonderful lifetime memory rather than a nightmare. Make a list and be specific!
- Treat this as an opportunity for rest, replenishment, and reflection.
- Do some spring cleaning and put your house/life in order by doing the things you often complain there’s no time for. Invite your kids, partner or parents to help out.
- Create quality-of-life opportunities for strengthening, deepening, and healing your most important relationships.
- Take time to rediscover life’s simple joys through reading, music, conversation, craftwork, meditation, contemplative prayer, and spiritual exploration.
- Pay closer attention to your health and fitness by going on walks (in nature), doing “at home” yoga and workouts, eating lightly, and dropping a few pounds.
- Take a virtual tour of one of the many hundreds of great museums.
- FaceTime with parents, grandparents, relatives and friends to catch up on each other’s lives.
- Establish a reliable line of communication with your doctor in case you need help.
- Acknowledge yourself for all the things you’re doing to keep us all safe.
- Unclutter your office, garage, attic, or storage facility. Throw things out or give them away . . . and lighten your load.
- Go on fun and interesting daytime adventures alone or (at a safe distance) with your partner, son, daughter, grandchild, friend, neighbor, or co-worker.
- Take an online class or sign up for a podcast to study something you love and want to learn more about.
- Use the internet to research and explore the things you’ve always been curious about but never made time to investigate.
- Reset, rebalance, and work on improving some aspect of your behavior—whether it’s cutting back on the use of drugs, alcohol, sugar, and carbs; or the way you handle anger, anxiety, or depression.
- Binge-watch some wonderful, uplifting, funny, romantic or adventure movies or documentaries. Avoid catastrophe movies such as Outbreak.