The importance of being distracted: Ways to distract yourself during self-isolation
This is an adaption of an article that I wrote two years ago for people who’re going through cancer treatment and are stuck at home. You see, people going through chemotherapy often have to self-isolate to avoid picking up any infections due to their reduced immune system. Not only is it lonely and sometimes scary, it can also be incredibly BORING. So, with a large proportion of the world in self-isolation now (or likely to be in the coming weeks), I’ve adapted this article to give everyone some ideas of how to pass the time.
So here is a quick A to Z of distractions. Just a simple list.
A: Audio books
Audio books are brilliant because you can listen to them anywhere: sitting on the sofa, doing the gardening, doing the housework or laying in bed. It makes a bit of a change from reading a book.
B: Boxsets, blogs, baking, bingo and boardgames
Boxsets: There are so many brilliant boxsets on various streaming services. There is literally something for everyone.
Blogging: Why not start up your own blog? What is your passion? What are your interests? What do you want to say to the world? It’s so easy to set up a blog (I did it and I’m a technophobe). Just search YouTube for tutorials on how to do this.
Baking: If you’ve got the ingredients, why not try some new recipes (follow recipes online, recipes from old cookery books at the back of the cupboard and on YouTube tutorials). And maybe you could have a virtual bake off with your friends and family who are also in isolation? You’ll have to pick a winner based on looks not taste when you judge the cakes via Facetime or Skype.
Bingo: This is a great game that can be played remotely with friends and family, or within your household. You just need to create a grid and in each square on the grid you write something that can be done or seen (such as, see a Robin, bake a cake, finish a jigsaw, grow a plant from seed, do twenty push-ups and so on). Then you just use the bingo-grid over the coming days/weeks and see what you can tick off. First one to tick off everything is the winner!
Boardgames: Pass the time with a good old-fashioned boardgame and perhaps have a game night.
C: Cupboards, crafts, cooking, competitions, cards and colouring
Cupboards: Sort out those cupboards that have needed a clear out for years, and bin up anything for charity that you can drop off once life gets back to normal.
Crafts: Get going on some crafts like knitting, crocheting and sewing – you could order some supplies online and try that craft you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t had the time (YouTube have loads of great tutorials).
Cook: Experiment with healthy recipes, bake a cake, make bread and make some meals for your freezer.
Competitions: How about setting some competitions? Maybe competitions between those within the household (depending on the age of the adults and kids) like who can do the most sit-ups, who can read the most books, who can finish the Rubik’s cube. And how about some virtual competitions between households and between cousins and grandparents? What about who can grow the tallest sunflower (if this isolation business extends into the warmer months).
Cards: Maybe try out some new card games or learn some card tricks (check out YouTube).
Colouring: Since 2016 the New York Academy of Medicine has invited other libraries, archives, and cultural institutions around the world to upload PDF colouring pages based on their collections for the public’s free download. Google “new york academy of medicine color our collections” to get a stack of printable colouring options for adults and children.
D: Draw, dance and den-building
Draw: Be creative and start a sketchbook of drawings.
Dance: Dance around the house with the music up high (but not so high if you have close neighbours). Smaller children will love this and it’ll help get some of that excess energy out of their (and your) system.
Den-building: I think kids of all ages would love to build a den. And as you’re not going anyway soon, or having guests over, maybe the den can stay up a little longer than usual. Maybe the kids could even sleep in the den. It’s all about making things fun for the kids!
Exercise, exercise, exercise. Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t exercise. And it is so important to do some exercise. If you have an exercise bike or other gym equipment then you’re lucky. If you don’t, then you’ll have to be inventive and this is where the internet comes into its own (yet again). There are so many online exercise videos to choose from. Some require subscriptions but there are plenty of free videos. Local personal trainers and exercise instructors might start virtual classes where you can join through Skype so keep an eye out for these.
F: Films and FaceTime
Films: There are so many films to choose from: the golden oldies, chick-flicks, rom-coms, thrillers, detective dramas, the list goes on. You may want to consider subscribing to one of the streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime for a wider selection of films.
FaceTime: Make sure you keep in touch with friends and family using online services such as FaceTime. If we can’t be together in person then at least we can speak regularly and see each other on the screen. There are various phone Apps and online applications (such as the Houseparty App) where you can have a call with more than one person (sometimes up to or over 20 people). This would be a nice way for the grandparents to keep in touch with the grandchildren, and for you to keep in touch with friends. You might not be able to go on a girls’ night out but you could have a “virtual girls’ night out” via one of these Apps.
Gardening: If you have a garden, back yard, balcony or window box why not potter around with some plants and flowers? This is especially nice to do now that we are entering spring and the weather is brightening up. A great way to get some fresh air and little bit of exercise. It might be worth getting a few gardening supplies in, in advance of self-isolation, or ordering online for home delivery. There are a lot of good beginner-gardener accounts to follow on instagram to help you on your way.
H: Holidays, health and history
Holidays: You may have had holidays cancelled as a result of having to self-isolate so use the time to plan a really nice holiday for once this is all over.
Health: It goes without saying that you need to be looking after your health at the moment (physical and mental health). Take vitamin supplements (that don’t interact with any prescription medication that you’re on), make healthy meals, drink plenty of fluids, exercise and talk to someone if you’re struggling.
History: Expand your mind and learn some history. There are loads of great historical podcasts, documentaries and e-books from which you can learn some really interesting things.
I: Ingredients, imagination and initiative
Ingredients: Have a virtual “Ready, Steady, Cook” competition with your friends and family. What meals can everyone make with four ingredients you’ve all got in the cupboard?
Imagination and initiative: This article (hopefully) gives you a few ideas of how to pass the time if you’re stuck at home down to coronavirus self-isolation or another reason. However, you’re the best person to come up with ideas for passing the time!
J: Journals and Jigsaws
Journaling: Writing can be so soothing and you may find it helps with how you deal with your feelings at this strange time.
Jigsaws: Why not get one of the really difficult ones with 1000’s of pieces that you can work on over the course of a few weeks.
Kids: Spend time with the kids. Depending on your energy levels, get involved with them: watching family films, playing boards games, reading together or just sitting and talking to them. Children have an amazing way of keeping us grounded during hard times – just by being themselves.
L: Learn something new
Learning: Put this prolonged period of time to use and learn something new. Whether an instrument, a language (you can get some excellent audio language courses) or a new skill (how to master cracking an egg with one hand, for example).
M: Movies, mindfulness and meditation,
Movies: Bring the cinema to your home by having a movie night with nice snacks. Make an event out of it. Smaller kids can sell tickets and snacks.
Mindfulness and meditation: If you’re suffering with anxiety about this strange time, then mindfulness and mediation may help. I have a page of resources on my website and whilst this is aimed at people with cancer, the resources will be helpful for anyone.
Novel: Maybe now is the time to start writing that novel that you have always planned to write.
O: Outdoors and online games
Outdoors: If you have a garden make sure you use it – fresh air, vitamin D and being around nature are all reasons for spending time outside.
Online games: These are not just for the kids. There are many online games that you can get on your phone, tablet or PC which allow you play solo or with friends and family. You can play virtual games of scrabble, cards, Uno with friends and family who are also in self-isolation. It’s another way of interacting with your older parents/grandparents.
P: Podcasts, pampering and puzzles
Podcasts: As an alternative to watching the TV or listening to the radio, why not try a podcast? There are literally thousands of podcasts to choose from and every type of genre from chat shows to true crimes, from fiction to news and from history to comedy. You can get these online and on your phone App.
Pampering: Think long relaxing baths, face masks, doing your nails – all without having to rush!
Puzzles: Doing crosswords, sudoko and other similar puzzles can help keep the brain cells active in addition to providing a super distraction. Stock up on puzzle books or try one of the many online versions or Apps.
Q: Quidditch and Quizzes
Read the Harry Potter books and watch the films. Or set up an online quiz with friends and family via Skype or Houseparty or any of those services.
R: Routine and Reading
Routine: I think the key to not going stir-crazy is to have some sort of routine to your day. Don’t sleep in every day or go to bed late every night. Have a daily/weekly routine involving meal times, time to exercise, time for jobs (like sorting cupboards) and time for treats (like watching TV). Check in with friends and family on a regular basis.
Reading: And, of course, a good book is an excellent way to pass the time. You can read all those books you’ve been meaning to read but haven’t. And there are so many great new books coming out all the time, in fact, a lot of authors have book launches at the moment, but their launch events are being cancelled. Why not try to support these authors by getting copy of their new book (ordering online or as an e-book). If you’re on Twitter you can follow #twitterbooklaunch to support book launches over the coming months. Also look out for online bookclubs that are popping up all over the place at the moment.
S: Social media, Streaming and sorting out your photos
Social media: This is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family but I’ve noticed that people are mostly posting about coronavirus at the moment so if you want to avoid all that then social media probably isn’t for you right now.
Sort out your photos: If, like me, you have stacks of photos stored on various devices and on various clouds, then you could take this time to have a good sort out and even order some of those photo books where you design your layout and choose the photos to include.
T: Talk and Ted Talks
Talk to people. Don’t sit at home alone all the time. Make sure you find the time to catch up with friends and family on the phone, FaceTime, Skype or via any one of the ways to talk to each other.
Ted Talks: A great way to learn something new, find out more about a topic of interest or just listen to some really interesting people – check out Ted Talks.
Update anything that needs updating. All the things that you have meant to update for a while but just haven’t gotten around to doing: computer software, App updates and other remote updates. Those updating jobs that never get done because life is just too busy.
V: Virtual tours and vegetables
Virtual tours: If you can’t go to a museum, the museum can come to you. Google “museum virtual tour” and you’ll be presented with a huge list from which to choose. Disney are also putting on virtual ride tours.
Vegetables: If you have a garden, balcony or yard then you can grow vegetables. There is something really satisfying about eating what you’ve grown. Spinach is said to be an easy one to start with, but as with everything else, the internet and YouTube have loads of good advice.
W: Work and wardrobes
Work: If you’re working from home then great! This will give your day some structure and give you something worthwhile to do during your self-isolation.
Wardrobe: Give your wardrobe a good clear out.
X: X marks the spot
If you have kids then you could create treasure hunts and scavenger hunts (maybe the grandparents can set a scavenger hunt via Facetime?)
Y: Yoga and YouTube
Yoga: There are many online courses, videos and aps. A popular online yoga instructor is Yoga with Adriene. She even does chair yoga for seniors so there is something for everyone.
YouTube: YouTube isn’t just for the kids. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this article, you can learn a ton of things from YouTube.
Z: Zorbing and zipwires
No, not really. Just kidding.