A friend forwarded an email to me that was from an anonymous doctoral-level psychologist. This doctor said that he/she had worked with thirty-one patients that week, all suffering from emotional stresses due to COVID-19. Because of this, the doctor compiled a list of 25 “Mental Health Wellness Tips for Quarantine” for future patients and for the world at large. Every tip was wonderful, but #18 really got my attention because I was in the middle of writing a two-part blog on how to stay busy during the pandemic. This doctor validated the importance of creating the list, and the importance of using it.
Here is the psychologist’s Tip #18 in its entirety: “Find a long-term project to dive into. Now is the time to learn how to play the keyboard, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, start a 15-hour game of Risk, paint a picture, read the Harry Potter series, binge watch an 8-season show, crochet a blanket, solve a Rubik’s cube, or develop a new town in Animal Crossing. Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.”
If this sounds like a good plan to you, please check my last blog. It includes five great ideas for the What Can I Do Now Dilemma and read below for ideas number six through ten!
#6 Reconnect with Your Past:
- Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bookends Theme” reminds us to: “Preserve your memories. They’re all that’s left you.” To heed this mandate, make a photo album or scrapbook. An extremely easy way to make an album online is with Chatbooks. You’ll want to give it a try after watching their funny promo.
- Write a real letter to a cousin, old friend, or past co-worker. Can’t imagine what to say? Googling “How to write a letter to a friend” comes up with lots of hits. One from ImagineForest.com has seventeen prompts to help as you stare at the blank page.
- If writing is daunting, pick up the phone and call your old friend instead. Better yet, use FaceTime or Zoom to see your friend as you talk. If you preplan the call, you can each come with your beverage of choice, making this the next best thing to meeting at Starbucks or the corner bar or the old college hangout.
- And if you’re really serious about connecting with your past, genealogy is a rabbit hole to go down. Ancestry.com is a great place to start. (You need to purchase a membership to search their databases.) Important information can also be found for FREE at Findagrave.com. I typed in my dad’s name, the year he was born, and the year he died. In return, I got a listing that included information about his parents, his spouse, and two out of three of his siblings. I also got a full obituary and a photo of his headstone. Not only did I get the name and address of the cemetery where he is buried, I also got the section and row in which to find him.
#7 Learn a Craft:
- Creative Bug’s website is the place to go for classes on sewing, knitting, quilting, crocheting, and the like. Generally, these classes are not free, but check with your library to see if Creative Bug is a one of their “electronic resources/online classes.” My library makes this resource free to all cardholders.
- Craftsy.com is another reputable source for this type of online classes. Add cooking, baking, drawing, and painting to the list of offerings. You will need to pay for these classes, but they have over 1500 from which to choose and each class averages 6 sessions.
#8 Get Back to Reading Books:
- An easy way to get back into this habit is to listen to an audio book. Call your local library to learn how to download them for FREE on your phone with apps like Libby and OverDrive. The books themselves are great, but sometimes you get a bonus like having a celebrity as the narrator. I listened to Tom Hanks read The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. And when I listened to Tina Fey read her book, Bossy Pants, it was like listening to a stand-up comedy routine.
- Think of a fun topic to Google like banned books. Here is a list of “10 Controversial Classics.” Each listing comes with a “Fun Censorship Fact.” You may be surprised to find Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on the list! One of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, is on the list too for Slaughterhouse-Five. After finding these books, read them!
- From there move on to fun challenges like reading everything written by an author. I have done this with Ann Lamott and Paul Auster. Both have written fiction and biographical nonfiction. It is wonderful to see where the two intersect in their writing.
#9 Games in the Newspaper:
- These games have been there for decades and would not be taking up such valuable real estate if they were not time-tested sources of fun. My newspaper carries five puzzles daily: basic and advanced crossword puzzle, sudoku, Jumble, and Cryptoquip. Coffee, pastry, and a puzzle are a great start to a day.
- Some of these games can also be played online with the wonderful perk that you can check your work as you go along. I have spent hours playing this variation of sudoku.
- INTERESTING NOTE: It used to be said that playing such games wards off cognitive decline, but current research does not prove this. Instead, it seems that the games “provide a higher cognitive point from which to decline.
#10 Need More Suggestions? Google any of these words to come up with ideas:
- Find a side hustle
- Virtual theater performances
- Free workout apps
- Learn how to play chess online (or mahjong or poker or piano or guitar)
- Etc., etc., etc.
Back in the day when I was a bored child, the What Can I Do Now Dilemma was just a temporary nuisance. Today, because of the pandemic, having too much time on your hands is more serious. It’s a mental health hazard.
Lucky for us, this part of the COVID-19 problem has a CURE. As we acknowledge that the pandemic has flattened our lives in many ways, so must we acknowledge there are scads of resources at our finger tips to pump it back up.
I have offered lots of options. It’s time to pick one and begin pumping!
One final fun activity for you: Visit my Etsy shop for COVID-safe shopping.