The Things I Do in Quarantine That Keep Me Sane
Idon’t know about you, but I spent most of my quarantine free time on my phone and laptop. Whether it’s scrolling through Instagram, bingeing series or reading someone’s heated argument on Twitter, after a while it’s all the same.
Once I realized I was fueling myself with negative content, escapism and laziness, I decided to get off the couch and do something else. It was the perfect time to change my habits. I am aware that this is a privilege and not everyone can focus on doing ‘fun stuff’ in the middle of a pandemic. However, if you do have the time, put away your phone and try something that can actually bring you positivity in a time of uncertainty.
For a lot people, jobs have been limited to a work-from-home situation or even disappeared from their daily lives. If this is the case for you, you probably find yourself in a situation where you’re stuck at home, with lots of free time. You can’t go out, eat at a restaurant or visit friends and family. And if you can, you’d rather not take the risk. So what can you do then? If you have followed the news, quarantine may not be over for a long time so we need to make the best of these circumstances.
You don’t need a lot of money to enjoy your time at home. There are lots of activities that can be executed for free. Even if it does cost you something, you don’t need the most expensive limited edition Fender Stratocaster to start learning how to play a few chords on the guitar. Besides that, doing something you like is a form of self care. It doesn’t have to be a productive activity, as long as you have fun doing it. Taking the time to enjoy an activity is beneficial for both body and mind.
Let me introduce you to some of the (cheap!) things I’ve been doing to keep myself busy and entertained during this era of quarantine.
Penpalling is the act of writing letters to someone you don’t know in real life, usually to someone in another country. Obviously, you need another person to write to. You can find these people in online communities on sites such as Reddit or Tumblr. You can get as creative as you want, and add all kinds of texts, drawings or small souvenirs into your letter. The letter-writing process can be relaxing, and it gives the recipient a little peek into your life and interests. Also, once you’ve found a penpal, the letter from them can be a fun surprise. It really brightens my day when I see an envelope with foreign stamps in the mail. Check out my story on how to get started with penpalling, if you’re interested.
Just remember that you don’t have to write to a complete stranger if you’re not comfortable with that. Feel free to write a letter to your friend, dog or grandma! It’s about enjoying the writing experience.
Yes, I might be a bit biased here due to the fact that I’m a software engineering student, but hear me out. Learning how to program a piece of code can give you so much technical and analytical insight. You literally tell a computer what to do and it does exactly that, cool right? With its roots in math and logic, you can build grand things using programming languages and frameworks.
Codecademy or freeCodeCamp are great places to start and learn the fundamentals of coding. Medium also offers interesting programming-related articles and tutorials. Once you’ve become familiar with the basics, you can play around with a programming language of your choice and dive deeper by reading its documentation, watching tutorials and of course, writing your very own code.
This one always has been a favorite of mine. Creating my own playlists, listening to albums of artists I didn’t know before and admiring artwork aesthetics. For these activities I use Spotify, but any other music streaming service will work just as well.
When I’m in a certain mood, I create playlists to capture this feeling, so that I can recreate the same vibe in the future. For example, I made a playlist of songs I listened to on my holiday in Sweden last year. Whenever I hear a song that’s on it, I immediately think back of that great summer and makes me feel happy. But it doesn’t have to be that specific. A good place to start is to create a monthly playlist with the songs you have listened to for that month. When you listen back to it later, you’ll get reminded of those times and you can relive those moments again. You can also just look for any other throwback playlist, but it’s also fun to collect the songs that you feel connected to.
Another thing I do with music: I like to just pick a song, and let Spotify do its magic by playing genre-related songs after the song ends. This is how I find a lot of new artists in a genre I already like.
A great way to feed your interest in art, is to scroll through an artist’s discography just to look at their album artwork. It inspires me and I love to compare the album covers to the actual music on it to see if it ‘fits’ the aesthetic. Of course this is a personal preference, and for me it’s really interesting to learn more about an artist this way. You can even document your discoveries in a journal or design an alternate album cover and tweet the artist your ideas. Let me know if you get a reply!
I’m serious. Do nothing. Get bored. Just stare at a wall. Doing nothing is an art form. A lot of people want to get stimulated 24/7 and get restless if there’s nothing that is triggering their brains in some way. When was the last time you didn’t check your phone while you were waiting on the bus? And even if you didn’t check it, you probably felt the urge to at least read your notifications. Try to get rid of that itch, give yourself space to enjoy doing nothing. We Dutch folks call it ‘niksen’ and it’s good for your brain too.
If you follow science-related content on the internet, you have probably seen pictures of the comet Neowise around mid-July. But have you seen Neowise in your backyard? I have spotted the comet a few times, and seeing the actual event in real life was a way more exciting experience than staring at pictures on NASA’s Instagram account (still love you, NASA).
Not only Neowise is an impressive object to look for in the sky, spotting classic constellations and planets is a fun activity for both adults and kids. I have never met a person who thought space wasn’t interesting. So look up, take it all in and enjoy the complexity of the universe that is stretched way beyond our limits. It may scare you, it may fascinate you. Either way, it will take your mind of the things that have been happening on our small, insignificant sphere called Earth.
If there’s too much light pollution in your area, go for a late night drive to a darker spot and look up to the sky. Another advantage: going at night means more people are at home and/or asleep. You can enjoy the view and be outside with minimal human interaction.
A great new hobby of mine in this pandemic is content creation. Creating your own content doesn’t have to be hard. Just like with many activities, it is important to just start. If you feel like starting a YouTube channel, why not? It doesn’t have to be perfect, everyone has to start somewhere.
Write down your ideas first and focus on what kind of content you want to bring out to the world. There are many platforms where you can share your thoughts. Medium, YouTube and Instagram are just a few of them. That’s basically how I started with my Medium content. I felt like writing, so I started typing a draft, which turned into a story, that you are reading now.
I recently read a book about the importance of sleep. I would totally recommend it, by the way. It discusses the benefits of sleeping at least 7–8 hours per night and what the long term effects can be if you don’t. A good night’s rest does more than you think, and restores the body from the day before.
When I learned this, I was spooked by the illnesses a lack of sleep could trigger, so I decided to change my sleeping habits. I have focused on getting more sleep and I noticed an overall difference in my health. I feel more energized, less hungry and more concentrated on different tasks. Making sleep a priority is a good choice if you are already feeling stressed out or anxious due to the current events. Your well-being will improve and your body will thank you in the long term.
Be in the water
Go for a swim in the pool or dip your feet into the lake. If there’s a body of water nearby, use it. Water has a calming effect on people, and it is the perfect activity to relax and get fit at the same time. Even if you just take a quick dive, you’ll feel amazing afterwards. I have been finding myself near the water a lot this spring and summer, due to the hot weather, but also because it’s a safe way to still get out and enjoy nature.
For those who don’t have access to a pool, lake or beach; a shower or bath can do wonders for your stress levels. This can also be a good alternative if you don’t feel comfortable being in public places at this time.
A reality check
Hopefully these activities have inspired you to try out a new hobby, change a habit or just made you think about what you do. These are restless times, and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Even watching the news can make you feel totally hopeless about the current state of the world (which is a totally normal reaction, by the way).
Remember: You don’t have to be productive all the time. We are trying our best! But if you feel like you want to do a little more, you are allowed to do so and you have the right to enjoy it. But it is also okay to take it slow. Be grateful, stay safe and take a breath once in a while.
Side note: The recommended websites and apps have not sponsored me or have any affiliation with me in any way. These are all chosen by personal preference.
If you have any further questions about this story, you can send me a DM on Instagram!
Thank you for reading and enjoy your day ☀