Recently, I discussed the importance of disengaging from the mentality that we have to turn into the most productive versions of ourselves during this time. However, the reality is that many of us have a lot more time on our hands. For some of us, the days feel long and repetitive and under-stimulating yet exhausting, as though we’re living through Groundhog Day in real life.
So, I’ve provided a list of ways to fill up your time in today’s post—and it's more than the usual 'meditate and go for a walk' stuff on every other site (though those are fine ideas). While the message here is not that you “should be” doing all of these things or that you “should be” using this time to get things done, I feel compelled to lend a helping hand to those of you who have been staring at the clock for the past few days, desperately wanting someone to just tell you what to do. Please add any ideas of your own in the comments below as well so we can support each other!
First Thing’s First: A Template for Time
The ‘Wellness Wheel’ is a tool used in Positive Psychology that divides life into eight different areas that have been deemed “happiness factors.” The exercise involves assigning a score out of 10 to each realm to signify your degree of contentment, with 10 being ‘very content.’ It not only gives us a sense of our values, but also to how balanced our life might be. For example, you might find that a lot of your time and energy have been put towards improving the Business/Career section, only to notice that you’ve been completely neglecting the ‘Fun & Recreation’ realm as a result.
While this tool is useful in and of itself, it can also be a helpful guide when it comes to structuring your time during COVID-19. I’ve been inviting some of my patients to set aside time to write down activities that correspond to each area of life so that they may pick and choose different ones each day that stimulate different thoughts, ideas, and creative juices. Be creative when you’re coming up with ideas! For example, there are different volunteer opportunities available right now for those of you who are hoping to increase your participation in the “Contribution to Society” piece or you can connect with so many professionals online now if you’re looking for career advice.
The point is, it’s easy to become bored when you do activities from the same area of life day in, day out. Use the Wheel of Life to come up with various activities so that you have more options.
And now for my list of activities! I’ve been relying on many of them myself so that the days can go by quicker.
Increase the amount of time you dedicate to activities you already do.
Given how busy our schedules usually are, many of us have our morning and evening routines down to a science: wake up, brush teeth, grab a breakfast wrap, and head to work, lickety-split.
I’ve been using the extra time to really slow down my morning and evening routines—and I mean really slow them down. I’ll spend five extra minutes thoroughly flossing my teeth, brushing them, and maybe using a Crest Whitstrip (because what the heck else am I going to do with the time?). I’ve even been adding a 10-minute facial massage into my morning routine, which I’ve been greatly enjoying (as has my skin!), and you could consider adding a face mask, hand massage, and more into your routine.
This applies to so many other things as well. Rather than whipping up your morning cup of Joe with your usual instant coffee mix, spend some extra time making yourself something special like a matcha latte. If you like flavouring your drinks, look up homemade syrup recipes online and make them from scratch. Get creative, try new things, and just slow down.
2. Get creative in the kitchen.
I’ve always liked cooking, but only when it doesn’t feel like a chore. I’ve been using this time to just enjoy the process in and of itself. Plus, I’ve been making meals that I can portion out and freeze for later, so I have a freezer full of healthy home cooked meals at the moment!
Whether you decide to start cooking again or baking more—or learn how to make kombucha from my video—I hope that we can use this time to truly connect with food again. So many of us have gotten into the habit of eating on the go or turning to restaurants rather than our kitchens during busy times, so let’s appreciate the goodness of real, whole foods again. The good news is that if a recipe doesn’t work out, no one’s even going to know!
3. Take advantage of online offerings.
A lot of companies, organizations, and tourist destinations have found creative ways to make their services accessible to the public during this time. For example:
The Louvre, Van Gogh Museum, and more are offering free museum tours right now
Cirque du Soleil shared a 60-minute special on YouTube
Toronto intends to share the cherry blossom trees from High Park online when they’re in full bloom
A ton of musicians are scheduling online live streams for viewers
Online events for kids, teens, and adults are also listed here
Honestly, if you’ve ever been interested in going somewhere or doing something—anything—Google that thing + ‘COVID19 online’ right now and you might be surprised at what you find!
4. Learn something new through an online course.
Yale, Berkeley, and other institution are offering courses for free during this time. Udemy is another option that is super affordable, while Masterclass is a great choice if your budget can accommodate the price. Alternatively, The Great Courses and a lotto other learning portals have sales right now, so the opportunities for learning are endless!
5. Marie Kondo your house.
This is a great opportunity to thoroughly clean and/or organize your house. Just the other day, I went through my entire closet, pulled out all of the furniture from every room, and did the most psychotically intense clean I’ve ever done in my life. (I even purchased a microfibre brush and squeegee tool to specifically clean my windows from the outside…this was no. joke.)
Not only did the time pass quickly, but I got a great workout and a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day when I looked at my sparkling clean apartment.
If there’s a room that you’ve always wanted to paint, a desk chair you’ve wanted to reupholster, or any other house-related project you’d wanted to do, use this time now to g et it done. This can also be a great thing to do with your partner if you’re looking for some kind of project to do together!
6. Try a new workout regimen.
While you might be used to lifting weights, running on a treadmill, or group hot yoga classes, try experimenting with something new from the comfort of your own home. For example, I’ve always wanted to try Zumba but have been too embarrassed to try it in a group setting, so you bet your bottom dollar I’ll be trying one during this time!
So many trainers and studios are also creating at-home workouts or offering online workout classes to support people during this time. Some options include:
• Pilates Buddies is offering online pilates classes
Kendall Wield, another personal trainer in the area, has at-home workouts on her Instagram
I invite everyone to make a donation to different trainers or purchase some of their programs if you can right now. While practically all of us have taken a hit financially, most of us are spending a heck of a lot less, too. Spending your money to support content creators and businesses, especially local ones, is really important right now.
7. Get creative outdoors.
Aside from going on walks, hikes, bike rides, and more, try tending to your garden or starting one from scratch. If you don't have a garden or live in an apartment, the VegTrug is a great option that comes in different sizes. I received my first VegTrug as a gift when I lived in Guelph as a master’s student and it fit on my little balcony! I still have and love, love, love it!
Other fun things you can do outside include: creating a scavenger hunt for your roommate(s), partner, or family members (yes, even if you’re an adult!), playing catch, doing some chalk art, and more. Use this as an opportunity to connect with your inner kid self again and just get back to playing.
If it’s a yucky day outside and you need to get out of the house, try taking a long car ride if you have access to a vehicle. Just having some physical space from your living quarters can be helpful right now!
8. Express your creative side.
It might feel too vague or overwhelming to just tell yourself, “I’ll start drawing,” so here are some specific crafts I’ve done in the past that I’ve very much enjoyed in case you need some ideas:
Create some homemade cards. I’ve been making a lot of watercolour cards right now!
A card I recently made!
I get a lot of my inspiration from Pinterest. I just type ‘watercolour card’ in the search bar and go from there!
YouTube has a ton of helpful videos, which is what I’ve been learning from.
Skillshare is another site with resources for this kind of thing!
Learn hand lettering for homemade cards, tags, signs, and more.
Make a sign for your apartment or cottage. Dollarama has different wood panels that you can painted design that only cost $4!
Woodburn something. I once made a lovely wood-burned sign for my parents’ cottage!
Learn how to knit or crochet (again, I rely on YouTube for this!). Great beginner knitting and crochet projects include face clothes or dish rags!
Make your own jewellery.
Keep it simple and make some friendship bracelets just for fun
Take it up a notch and try making some fashionable bracelets, earrings, and necklaces using beads, chains, and more. (All of the supplies can be found at Michael’s!)
Make a scrapbook with/for your significant other, a family member, or even about how you've been spending COVID-19.
Make a book, calendar, and more online through Shutterfly.
9. Board games, puzzles, and more.
Board games and puzzles are always a good choice. I’ve been loving Aggravation (pictured above and Poker during this time! You might just want to stay away from Monopoly...
10. Teach your pet tricks.
Yes, this is a pet rat playing basketball. Because domesticated rats are the best.
If you’re lucky enough to have a pet right now, use the extra time to take them for walks, give them extra snuggles, or teach them tricks.
On the topic of animals, go to the ‘Zoos & Aquariums’ section of this page to see which ones are offering online tours right now!
11. Watch stimulating material.
Watching regular TV shows on Netflix can become boring, so I’ve been really enjoying getting into different documentary series. Of course Tiger King has gained a lot of traction, but there are so many other awesome documentaries on Netflix and other streaming services—and HotDocs is giving people the opportunity to stream their amazing new documentaries from their homes during COVID-19! As someone who has been a crazy fan of HotDocs for years now, I’m SO EXCITED about this!
There are a lot of excellent self-care activities you can do from home, such as meditating, journalling, doing gratitude exercises, reading self-help books—many of which have accompanying workbooks as well—and more. Many people I’ve spoken to have said that they've learned a lot about themselves during this time and that having so much time on their hands causes a lot of emotions and experiences that have been stuffed down for years to resurface. While this can be anxiety-provoking, unsettling, and overwhelming, I invite you to practice radical openness by being willing to step towards whatever is making you feel uncomfortable. The moments for self-learning are plentiful right now, so take advantage of it.
13. Find ways to connect with friends other than just having a Zoom call.
As great as it can be to connect with friends right now, you might find yourself struggling to come up with things to talk about given that we've all been, well, at home… literally every day all day. So, here are some other options:
Play games online using Xbox
Play games like Exploding Kittens, Uno, and more with friends online
Download Houseparty and play the games they offer there. Houseparty is an app that allows you to essentially do a group FaceTime, though you can play games within it, too. (Seriously, my sister and I played the draw-and-guess game for an hour on the weekend and it was hysterical!)
Download Netflix Party and watch Netflix shows and movies with friends in real time—and at the same time—online.
Write your friends letters to send in the mail. As I mentioned, I’ve been making a ton of watercolour cards during this time and many of my friends have said that snail mail is especially lovely to receive during this time!
14. Make a time capsule.
We are experiencing history in the making right now. Document the journey by making videos, writing journal entries, and printing out news articles to revisit in later years. Back in the day, my 16-year-old self wrote a letter to my future self, which I discovered just this year, and it was a riot to read! Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later.
15. Go through old memories.
My dad made a USB stick of family photos for me!
On that note, go through old photos, videos, and albums. It can be so fun to relive past memories, especially when we’re living through a crisis at the moment!
I've also been reliving the past by watching movies from my childhood (think Now & Then, The Sandlot, and Indian in the Cupboard! Why I liked Indian in the Cupboard as a child is beyond me, by the way... that movie bored me to tears as an adult!)
The Bottom Line
While the list of activities in this blog post is certainly not exhaustive, I hope it will spark some ideas in your mind about how to spend your days. A note I’d like to add is to plan the activities that you’d like to do for the week ahead of time if possible, only because COVID-19 often means having to order things online or do curb-side pickup at stores, which might also take more than one day to process given the high demand right now.
I also understand that not everyone is in a situation of having too much time on their hands. For parents being asked to home-school their children, frontline workers, and more, I imagine that the idea of having too much time on your hands seems insane yet desirable right now. That said, the struggle of having too much empty time is valid and challenging in its own right, as many of my readers have likely now realized.
Please add your own ideas to the comments below! I’d love to hear what you’re up to and collect more ideas for everyone (and myself!).