I’m used to social distancing. Having worked from home for a decade and a half, I find isolation to be the best scenario for creative work. But that’s me. Still, there’s a difference between staying home because I choose to and staying home because I have to for my sake and my family’s.
Right. Even I who revel in working alone can feel that difference very profoundly. I’m bothered that even going to the grocery can pose a serious health risk. But just how much more bothersome can it be for a whole lot of people who like the routine of getting up in the morning, going to school or work, and going home at the end of the day?
And as though being obliged to observe social distancing wasn’t bad enough, late last night came the announcement that Metro Manila will be on lockdown in 48 hours. For a month. No travel to and from the area by water or air. Restricted travel by land. I just saw a video of military movement in Bonifacio Global City and it’s straight out of that 1995 movie “Outbreak” (yes, the one starring Dustin Hoffman).
The lockdown and social distancing are expected to save lives. And I believe they will. Distancing yourself from people, strangers or otherwise, who may or may not be carriers of the virus is a good strategy to prevent getting infected. But that’s just the part about staying physically healthy.
What about mental and emotional health? If you’re the kind of person who feels like tearing your hair out if you stay within the confines of your house for 24 hours straight, how much worse will you be in a month?
How do you deal with restlesness and the boredom that follows?
I’m no shrink but I’ll say anyway that the best way to avoid boredom is to keep busy. Not busy like, you know, gossiping over the fence with the neighbors or spending your waking hours on Facebook in search of memes and shady news to share.
In fact, stay away from Facebook where so much fake news proliferate. Stay away especially if your Facebook friends are the kind who get high by scaring themselves with every headline they read without verifying anything, and share away just the same. That’s like watching a never-ending horror story everyday.
Busy means being busy in a productive way.
First, locate every member of your family who lives with you before the lockdown takes effect. Kids especially. It won’t help you emotionally nor mentally if you have to worry about them every waking minute. It’s for their own good to stay home anyway. They can resume their normal lives when the COVID-19 threat is (hopefully) over.
Next, find a grocery where you can order online and your purchases will be delivered to your doorstep. You have to eat, after all, even if you can’t go out of the house. Stock up on food and essentials, but you really don’t need to hoard toilet paper and rubbing alcohol. Oh, please.
When your supplies are secure, it’s time to consider how you can spend all that time you suddenly have. Encourage the rest of the family to stay busy too. Some options.
Learn something new. Or hone a skill you never really had the time to fully develop. Like cooking. Or writing. Or take your mobile phone and learn mobile photography. You do know that you can take photos with it other than selfies, right? Oh, I hope so.
Got some outdoor space? Gardening. If you ordered fruits from the online grocery, save the seeds and plant them. If you ordered herbs like basil, take a few stalks, drop them into a bottle of water, and position the bottle where it will get some sun. It won’t take long for roots to grow. Then you can plant them directly in the soil. Wouldn’t it be nice to harvest some herbs or see a kalamansi shrub growing in a few months when, hopefully, all this is over?
Play games with your family. Board games are fun. Scrabble and Monopoly are our thing. Gaming consoles like a Nintendo Switch can be fun too. Ever tried playing Mario Kart against your kids and spouse?
Read books. You can start by browsing Goodreads. And you don’t need to go to the bookstore. In this day and age when everyone has a mobile phone that’s connected to the internet, you can always read books in digital format. If you’re not into reading, you now have plenty of time to binge-watch everything that looks good on Netflix.
If your house can do with a little loving, start cleaning and decluttering. Segregate what you need from what you don’t use anymore. I was going to say “give away what you don’t use anymore” but you can’t do that right now. Social distancing, after all. So, segregate and give away (or throw out) later.
And that’s a short list. I bet that, if your really think hard, you’ll realize that there are more productive things you can do to fill up the days ahead.