As “quarantine fatigue” sets in, try to resist the urge to go out.
May 1, 2020 — 10 a.m. EST
“Quarantine fatigue” is a concept making the rounds in the COVID-19 news stream — it’s a term for the collective cabin fever we’re feeling after being cooped up and isolated in our homes since mid-March. Now that some states are starting to lift restrictions and others are entering its third month under stay-at-home orders, creative things to do in quarantine are top of mind.
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Apple recently released its Mobility Trends Reports, which tracks the changes in our behavior using anonymized cell phone location data. The report shows that people are increasingly staying home less for the second week in a row, as of Apr. 28, 2020. The causes could be any combination of people being tired of staying home, the warmer weather, or the effects of some states controversially starting to lift restrictions. Regardless of why it’s happening, people are venturing out more, and experts agree that this could be dangerous because it’s still too soon.
I feel it, too — the desire for an end, or at least knowing when that end might be. The last time I had a real-life interaction with another person who wasn’t one of my roommates was in early March. However, it’s important we don’t prematurely loosen our social distancing behavior. Here are some new ideas for things we can do to keep from going stir crazy — that go well beyond just video chatting with your friends.
Conscientiously Go Out & Connect Digitally
Continuing to follow the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidelines doesn’t mean that we can’t connect or enjoy the weather. I’m a runner, and running is one of the best things that’s helped me maintain my sanity this past month and a half. I’ve made a few changes to my routine, such as wearing a mask and running a new route with fewer people. I’ve also been competing in virtual challenges and races with friends and family via running apps. Regardless if you're a seasoned runner, or brand new, you can find the right app, and you can connect with people for challenges, or even enter virtual races. If you’re a walker or a biker, many of these apps can track those activities as well.
Explore the World Virtually
The New York Times published its list of places to visit in 2020 a few months ago, and rather than abandoning the list as a reminder of the sad course of events that preclude visitation, it has updated all 52 places for a virtual journey with links to webcams, galleries, stories, videos, songs, and walking tours.
Try taking a springtime walk through the New York Botanical Gardens. The famed British Museum just made its 4.5 million item collection available online, and you can search through the entire collection, or do a virtual tour of the galleries.
If you want to explore locally, you can browse the digital archives of cities where archivists have made fantastic historical photographs easily accessible, from New York City to Philadelphia, or Boston to Kansas, or any other state (tip: search Google for the name of your state plus “historical photos archive”).
Remotely Attend Digital Events
Beyond all the people you follow who are now going live on Instagram, there are lots of events happening remotely. These include dance parties, music festivals, poetry readings, writer talks, and many more listed on Eventbrite. Many of them are free of charge.
Billboard has conveniently compiled many of the past and upcoming concerts and music performances that have been moved online.
Listen to These Podcasts
I had never listened to a Podcast before quarantine; for years people sent me links and recommendations, but I never got around to it. Now that I have, I can enthusiastically recommend these three:
Dolly Parton’s America: Whether you’re a Dolly fan or not, this profound delve into the icon is well worth your time. Forbes declared it the best podcast of 2019, and for good reason. It’s a deeply personal examination, not just of her music and its impact, but also her role as “The Great Unifier,” political and cultural divides, feminism, and everything in between.
Sugar Calling: A podcast by Cheryl Strayed, whose 2012 memoir Wild was a #1 New York Times Bestseller, turned Oscar-winning movie of the same name starring Reese Witherspoon. This is a new podcast, in which she calls on fellow successful writers, such as Margaret Atwood and Amy Tan, to ask for advice during these trying times. The first episode, with her mentor George Saunders, is a particularly inspirational and hopeful spot to start listening.
Joe Exotic: Tiger King: Even if you’ve already seen the Netflix show of the same name (along with seemingly everyone else in existence), I still recommend the podcast. I was initially worried it might cover the same ground as the show, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a more measured, honest look at what happened, thanks to the award-winning writer behind it, Robert Moor. It’s less sensationalized (though, the characters and scenarios of this world are bizarre no matter how you frame them), and it highlights the grim reality and the nuanced humanity of all those involved.
Read Free Ebooks
If you already have a membership to your local library, then chances are very likely that you’re able to check out ebooks for free. Download The Libby App, and simply sign into your library to browse their ebook collection.
If you don’t have a library membership, you can check out these resources for free ebooks from Hampshire College.
Join a Virtual Book Club
If books aren’t your thing, you can join or start a film club, or a recipe club, or any club you want. It really can be as simple as asking yourself, who do you know you’d like to connect with, and what interests you share?
Journal and Write
I’m a writer, but I haven’t journaled since I was a teenager. My relationship with writing shifted the older I got, and I didn’t feel the same need to keep a journal. However, that need seems to have crept back up in the pandemic, so I’ve suddenly started again. I didn’t think about it too much — I just started writing. The benefits of journaling have been proven to help with mental health and even physical health, especially in difficult times.
If you don’t feel like journaling, maybe you could revisit previous journals you may have. I realized the other week as I wrote my first journal entry in 17 years that I haven’t ever looked at what I wrote back then. That’s its own sort of liberation: giving myself the freedom to write without worrying about having to go back to it. But going back to your former self with compassion, free of judgment can have its own rewards.
If writing more creatively has more appeal for you, you can turn to writing prompts to get you started.
Silently Connect with a Stranger for 60 Seconds
Human Minute is a website that allows you to safely connect with strangers to share a moment in silence for 60 seconds. It pairs you to someone from anywhere in the world, and then you make eye contact with that person for a maximum of 60 seconds without speaking. It’s like a remote, micro-version of artist Marina Abramović’s 2010 performance piece The Artist Is Present, in which she sat across from an empty chair eight hours a day for three months, inviting viewers, one at a time, to sit across from her in silence. Just as Abramović’s performance highlighted, and as the photos of people crying from the experience show, eye contact is a powerful thing. This is especially true at a time when so many of us have been disconnected from such meaningful, human moments.
Regardless of how you choose to spend your time in quarantine, try to remember that staying home is for the greater good of your community. Stay at home orders will be released eventually; what can you do with this time that you might never get back again? Making intentional choices for how you spend your day can help you feel more in control and can therefore help you resist the urge to venture outside against your city or state’s orders.