When normal activities are suspended, whether during a pandemic or due to some other change in circumstances, we might find ourselves with more than the usual amount of free time. How can we use that unexpected free time in positive and productive ways?
When times are strange, we can still use our free time in a positive way
Since around March in the United States, life has been very different from normal. Even for those who are not ill, many of us have been staying home--some working from home and some not able to work at all. Many planned activities have been canceled. For many of us, the pace of life has slowed down and time that once was filled with activities we enjoyed is now unfilled.
Slowing down a bit can be a good thing because it gives us the opportunity to evaluate how we are spending our time. However, with no end in sight to this "new normal", this can be difficult as well.
During the crisis, individuals, depending on circumstances, may experience anger, anxiety, avoidance, boredom, confusion, decreased concentration, depression, detachment, emotional exhaustion, insomnia, isolation, grief, guilt, sadness or other symptoms,” says Michael Morgenstern, MD, who is board-certified in both neurology and sleep medicine by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. “The severity of these feelings, and our ability to cope with them so that they don’t interfere with our daily function, is important.” [from The Lasting Impact of COVID-19: How Will It Affect Our Mental Health?]
Ideas for how to spend your time
Each of us has to find her own way to cope with the uncertainty, the changes, and the resulting anxiety. One way to turn it around is to use this time differently. Give yourself something to look forward to or direct your attention away from the uncertainty. Use this time in a positive way.
Improve a professional skill
* Take some online training covering subjects relevant to your career or another area of interest. If you are required to get a certain amount of continuing education credits each year anyway, this helps to satisfy that requirement and expand your knowledge. Whatever your job or profession may be, is there a skill you rely on that you can work on improving during your downtime?
Revive an old hobby or interest
* What did you used to enjoy that you haven’t had time for? Needlework, gardening, painting, playing an instrument? Working on family scrapbooks or photo albums? Reading books? (Our local library is open during certain hours, but if you can’t go to the library (but have a library card), most libraries make e-books and audiobooks available for checkout via apps like Libby from OverDrive.) Maybe you enjoy writing? How about some poetry, fiction, articles, or a blog? You could start a blog to chronicle this experience and share any knowledge you may have. Or even just journaling. Imagine reading your journal 20 years from now and remembering this experience.
* Find creative ways to reach out to friends. This is a great time to renew friendships that are important to us and reconnect with others. Right now, social media is probably not the best option to do this. There is a lot of negativity and anger on social media sites and it’s easy to misinterpret things that are said. Mental health experts have been encouraging us...