10 Screen-Free Ways to Spend Your Time While Social Distancing

First things first: How are you holding up, friend? If your answer is, “Actually, not so great,” then I appreciate your honesty. This is a hard time for all of us. I’m right there with you. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably looking for a whole slew of distracting activities and interesting ways to spend your time while social distancing.

Everyone handles uncertain times differently. Personally, I’ve found myself constantly faltering between crippling anxiety and an odd sense of relief to have a strange abundance of slow, quiet time in my daily life. Can you relate? 

It’s okay to feel unsteady right now; even for those of us who are somewhat used to traversing life with our hearts on our sleeves, COVID-19 has left us all feeling extra vulnerable.

I’ll preface this by saying that I’m obviously no mental health expert here . . . However, I do think that in the midst of all this vulnerability and uncertainty, what we do with our time has a lot of power to influence our emotions and overall sense of well being. Our thoughts beget actions, which beget habits, and all that jazz.

So in the spirit of helping us all stay in good-ish spirits as we navigate this health crisis, I wanted to share a few ideas for ways to spend your time while social distancing (that don’t include binging Netflix, mindlessly scrolling through your social media feeds, or fixating on one scary news article after another).

It’s worth adding that if those things make you feel better, then that’s great. There’s nothing wrong with de-stressing via Netflix or Instagram, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to do something productive right now. For me though, screen-time almost always leaves me feeling more tense and less positive. Small, semi-productive activities, on the other hand, renew my energy and inspire me to keep engaging with the world. If you feel that way too, then I hope some of these ideas spark your interest and leave you feeling a little lighter.

10 Screen-Free Ways to Spend Your Time While Social Distancing

1. Read a book you’ve been meaning to get to for a while.

This first one is a little obvious, but books are a fantastic way to engage your brain without the stress that often comes with online reading. Right now, I’m re-reading The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich, which tells the beautiful story of a struggling multi-generational Native American community, their myths and traditions, and a mysterious woman known as (you guessed it) the Antelope Wife.

2. Catch up on your favorite podcast.

What would we do without podcasts?? I love podcasts for a number of reasons, but especially because I can get my entertainment fix while I work on something else. Some of my go-tos are Stuff You Should Know, Stuff You Missed in History Class, Lore, Sawbones, (shoutout to the hosts, who are fellow native West Virginians!), My Favorite Murder, Love to Sew, and Dressed.

3. Start a garden.

You don’t have to have decades of experience to grow a successful garden! I just started gardening last year as a way to de-stress and connect with the earth while living in the city, and it’s totally changed how I think about my time and structure my days.

Don’t have any seeds around? No problem! Ask  your local greenhouse about curbside pickup options, or order seeds and transplants online. One of my favorite sites to order from is Southern Exposure Seeds because of their historical preservation and storytelling mission.

For a quick reward, try planting lettuce from seed or transplanting herbs—they produce quickly and will encourage you to keep planting flowers and veggies that might require more patience.

4. Create something.

You don’t have to be a professional artist to flex your creative muscles. Write a song, paint something, play with modeling clay, sew some napkins, learn to crochet, draw with sidewalk chalk, choose a Pinterest DIY project . . . Just pick something that makes you happy.

5. Explore new music.

Youtube, Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp are all great tools for discovering new artists (yes, I know there are many others; those are just the ones that immediately came to mind). Plus, listening to artists online helps increase our income from streaming royalties, which is great during this time when musicians can’t schedule regular gigs.

(Psstt . . . Listen to my music here if you want to support yours truly. I appreciate you!)

6. Play with your pets (and/or foster a rescue).

Pet snuggles are great, but so is actual playtime. If you have a fenced yard and a dog, take your pup out for a long game of fetch. Train him/her to do a new trick, try to do some scent work, or even attempt some agility training if you’re feeling ambitious (I’m starting this with Denver next week!). For inside play, Denver and I are big fans of his “babysitter ball” (aka this awesome Wobble Ball).

For cats, you can just play with your kitty using some string, a laser pointer, or a plush toy stuffed with catnip. Our cats will chase a strand of yarn for well over an hour if we’ll give them our time. It’s a simple thing that’s sure to put a smile on your face.

Don’t have a pet and do have extra time on your hands? Consider fostering! Lots of shelters are trying to figure out what the heck to do with all their four-legged residents right now. Even if you can’t really handle a pet during your normal life, you CAN show one some love and hospitality while we’re all chilling at home.

7. Rearrange or redecorate your house.

One of my favorite things to do when I’m stuck inside on rainy days is reinvent spaces in our house. You don’t have to do a full-on spring cleaning project if you aren’t up for it. Just start by organizing a bookshelf, trying a new furniture layout, or creating a reading nook in an unused corner. Whatever floats your boat.

8. Call a friend.

Remember how people used to actually call each other on the phone? I guess this probably does technically involve using a screen to punch in your friend’s number, but calling up a friend or family member you haven’t chatted with in a while is a good way to lift both your spirits.

BONUS – If you’re looking for a way to give back, you can “Adopt a Grandparent” and connect with a senior citizen who might be getting lonely with all this isolation.

9. Get a penpal.

Did you ever have a penpal as a kid? Turns out, letter-writing is for adults too! You can write letters to friends you already have, or—if you want to expand your social network—you can connect with new friends all over the world. Letter Writers Alliance is a really cool organization that connects pen pals based on mutual interests. (Just DON’T lick your stamps or envelopes right now, for Heaven’s sake!)

10. Pray or meditate.

Sometimes, the  best thing you can do is just sit in silence with your thoughts. If you believe in a higher power, pray for this difficult situation to be resolved and for your loved ones to stay safe and healthy. If you don’t, meditate to clear your mind and spend some quiet time working through whatever emotions are coming up for you right now. No one said you have to be actively doing something all the time.

How have you been spending your extra time over the last couple of weeks?

If you have additional ideas around ways to spend your time while social distancing, I’d love to hear about them! Leave them in the comments below + I’ll be sure to give ’em a try this week. 😉 Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and stay HOME.

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