To put it mildly, a pandemic is stressful. We’re all supposed to stay at home, but many people still have to go to work. It also doesn’t help that we still know so little about COVID-19. All of this leads to stress and worry.
If you’ve been feeling more anxious than ever, you’re not alone. It’s a tough time, and this is something we’ve never been through before. It’s easy to give in to that anxiety and spend your time panicking on the couch. At a certain point, though, you have to fight that feeling, or it will become overwhelming.
Indulging in self-care activities, like meditation, warm baths, or long walks outside are great ways to try to relax. But, sometimes, you really need to do something that will keep your mind busy.
Below are a few ways you can occupy your mind and think about something other than COVID-19—at least for a few hours.
There are so many reasons to start working out right now. First, exercise boosts endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, all of the feel-good chemicals in your brain. They make you feel more energized and happier. They’ve also been proven to combat anxiety and stress.
Second, the right amount of exercise can boost your immune system, and prevent you from getting sick, which is something we could all use right now. Just don’t go overboard—overdoing it can have the reverse effect. Generally, exercising for 30 minutes a day should be fine.
Finally, exercise is also an excellent way to shut off your brain. When you focus on getting through a tough workout or try to nail a specific routine, you won’t have time to think about anything else.
There’s never been a better time to start working out at home because, of course, the gyms are closed. Fortunately, most fitness apps and streaming services offer free trials for a few months. Many fitness pros put workouts on their Instagram or YouTube accounts. Some gyms are also offering Facebook live-stream workout classes for free!
Video Chat with Friends and Family
Social distancing means you can’t go out and get brunch with your friends, grab a drink at happy hour, or even go to the mall and shop. There’s no doubt about it—this sucks.
The good news is, though, we live in 2020, and technology allows us to connect with people, even if they’re miles away.
Studies show that a lack of social connection can not only hurt our mental health, but also, ultimately, our physical health. Being isolated can also result in more anxiety and depression.
So, instead of sitting at home and starting a conversation with your cats, plan a video-chat hangout with friends. Have a virtual happy hour, where you can all enjoy your drink of choice while you catch up. It’s free, and you can wear sweatpants!
You can also FaceTime someone for a quick chat. Or, plan a movie night so everyone can chat while watching the same film. The options are endless, and they’re all helpful!
Try a New Recipe
Social distancing also means you can’t go out and try that new restaurant you’ve heard about. As a result, many people have been cooking more than ever before (between takeout orders). This could be a good thing! Trying to cook something new is a big distraction because your brain has to focus on learning something.
You don’t have to pick the most complicated recipe out there. See what you’ve got in the pantry, and then find a recipe that works. Make sure it’s harder than just two or three steps. Something that requires more thought is ideal because it keeps you from thinking about other things.
Plus, you’ll have something delicious to eat at the end, and it’s hard to argue with that!
Deep Clean Something
This period of isolation happened right around the time many of us started to feel the itch to spring cleaning. If you’re bored and full of nervous energy, there’s likely something (or more than a few things) that could use a deep cleaning. Why not take advantage of this time?
Experts have found that cleaning can be an effective way to relieve anxiety. Cleaning something gives you a sense of control, which many of us could desperately use right now. Plus, when you’re finished, you can clearly see the satisfying results.
Pick a new section of your home to deep clean every few days, like the kitchen or a bathroom. By the end of this, not only will you be less anxious, but your house will be spotless.
Watch a Documentary
Getting totally engrossed in a TV series on Netflix or rewatching your favorite movies are fun ways to distract yourself. However, it’s a good time to check out something different you usually don’t have time for, like an interesting documentary.
These make you think a little more than your run-of-the-mill romantic comedy. You might even get so wrapped up in whatever you’re learning about, you forget about your anxiety altogether.
There are tons of options on Netflix. Choose something informative that catches your attention, and leave your phone in the other room or silence it so you won’t be distracted.
Play a Trivia Game
If you need to keep your mind busy and off your anxiety, try playing a game. Trivia games are perfect right now because you really have to think about your answers and strategy. They’re a wonderful way to keep your mind occupied while still having fun.
Playing a game with friends or family via video chat might help even more because you’ll be focused on winning.
Make a Scrapbook
Crafts that are constructive, but also fun, are a great way to stay busy and keep your spirits up. Research has found that doing something creative can flood your brain with the feel-good chemical dopamine and boost your immune system, while reducing anxiety, depression, and stress.
You can choose any craft you want, but an excellent option making a scrapbook. They’re a fun way to create something you’ll cherish forever. Plus, it will allow you to remember happier times and, perhaps, give you a little renewed hope for the future.
Read Your Favorite Book
Sometimes, all it takes is a really engrossing book to take your mind off your worries. But reading something brand-new you’re unsure if you’ll enjoy might not be best right now.
Instead, re-read something you know you love and will really get into. For some, this might be a childhood favorite, like the Harry Potter series, or a beloved classic or mystery. Whatever it is, you’re sure to find it just as enthralling as the first time you read it.
Actually, you might even notice some details you missed last time.
Play Video Games
Video games aren’t just for a select few or “gamers.” There are also many games out there that will require your full attention and totally distract you. You might even discover that Mario Kart is entertaining enough to take you away from your anxiety.
If not, though, games like Counter-Strike and World of Warcraft require you to really get your head in the game.
If none of those are your thing, a puzzle game like Bejeweled (which is rhythmic and weirdly soothing) might be more to your liking. In addition to being fun, one of the best things about playing puzzle games right now is they’ve been proven to reduce stress.
Like deep cleaning, organizing requires you to think, which makes it another effective outlet for anxiety. You have total control and can arrange things exactly the way you want. There’s also the added benefit of being able to actually find whatever you’re looking for after you’re done.
Tackle something that desperately needs to be cleaned out and organized, like your pantry, medicine cabinet, or closet. You don’t have to spend any money to do this, you just have to get a bit creative; check out Pinterest if you need some inspiration.
Whether it’s a game, a hobby, chatting with friends, or finally cleaning out that hallway closet, distracting yourself from the onslaught of grim daily news is an excellent idea right now.