Downtime And Mental Illness
How unstructured time and boredom can negatively affect your mental health and what you can do about it
During the pandemic we are increasingly closed off from the world. Yes, we have our computers and our phones but you can only do so much with these digital devices. They are not adequate substitutes for in-person contact. We miss our families and our friends.
We are bored and lonely. Boredom and isolation are two major triggers for mental health disorders. When we feel disconnected or under-stimulated we are more likely to feel lethargic and depressed. We are more likely to feel anxious. Thoughts that would have only nagged at us now take the driver’s seat.
What can we do?
We can block out time in the day for certain activities and actually write them out so it feels tangible. We should also make sure they are reasonable and achievable. We should schedule in time for hygiene, for work, for rest and for recreation. There will also be spare time for meals and miscellaneous time when we can catch up on chores like paying bills, washing dishes or any random odds and ends we’ve been meaning to get to.
We can look for virtual support groups. They’re everywhere online and there is at least one with our name on it. Do some research and find one that fits your personality and your diagnosis. You may have to try a few until you find the right match. Go under a pseudonym if you are concerned about privacy. Many others will be doing the same thing. Share your story and listen to the stories of other people. Relate and identify where you can.
We can volunteer our time. Check and see if there is a local animal shelter that has spots available. Working with animals is a rewarding experience and it can give us the boost we need to get out of the house and to go be with other people. Other possibilities are hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, food pantries, and shelters. There is always someone in need who would love your assistance so don’t be shy about lending a hand if you can.
We can make sure we are taking care of ourselves. This means basic self care like showering and shaving, changing our clothes, brushing our teeth, eating healthy, and taking our medication. These small things build confidence and maintain our impression of wellness. Taking care of ourselves also means focusing on our overall wellbeing through meditation, exercise, yoga, time-outs for special treats, and Netflix binges and carving out time for those virtual communications with loved ones. They don’t make up for the real thing but they’re still essential.
The pandemic won’t last forever, but as long as it’s with us we need to take care of ourselves as best we can and not let the downtime overwhelm us mentally and emotionally. If we are vigilant we should be able to stay safe and in control until this global crisis passes us by.