We have become so accustomed to going 150 miles per hour down the highway of life that we have forgotten what it’s like to enjoy one of our most valuable commodities: time. Then the COVID-19 quarantine happened.
I’m about as Type A as they come. Not only that, I am an Enneagram Type 1, which means that I am a well-organized, orderly, hyper-critical, impatient perfectionist. I thrive on routine and schedules. Flying by the seat of my pants makes me twitchy and irritable. Checking things off my to-do list give me a perverse amount of pleasure. When plans change or my schedule gets thrown off, I get panicky and unproductive.
So you can imagine how I’ve reacted to the utter destruction of ordinary life (and schedules) as we know them due to the spread of COVID-19. Suddenly, my 5 and 7-year-old children are home with me ALL THE TIME. I can’t run my weekly errands, much less keep my daily gym appointment that literally saves my sanity. As a writer who works from home, being able to think without interruption is absolutely essential. But now, I am a suddenly homeschooling, homesteading, pioneer woman of sorts just trying to keep us all alive and fed. To say that all of this has rocked my schedule-loving, routine-thriving, list-making, git-‘er-done world would be an understatement.
While my reaction to this massive shift in my structured, busy life is absolutely understandable, it’s not really healthy. Americans are some of the most stressed-out people in the world and it’s taking a toll on our health. We are living in an age of freneticism where we believe we are required to be “on” and busy all the time. Relaxing, taking things slow, indulging in unstructured time for us is “wasteful” and “unproductive” and typically frowned upon. We have become so accustomed to going 150 miles per hour down the highway of life that we have forgotten what it’s like to enjoy one of our most valuable commodities: time.
Soon after realizing this COVID-19 quarantine was going to last for more than a few days, I knew I was going to have to shift my mindset in order to survive this. And while I did initially try to implement some sort of structure to our days, I have found that, more often than not, we end up having pretty unstructured days. And I am surprised to report that I am learning to enjoy this slower, more playful, less frenetic pace of life.
The Beauty of Unscheduled Time
Having unscheduled time, it turns out, is amazing for your overall mental health. Not only that, it’s really important for child development. Children with unscheduled time have to learn how to amuse themselves, which is an art that is quickly being lost in this over-connected digital age. Unstructured time forces kids to use their imagination and think creatively. It also forces them to engage with the people around them and learn how to negotiate, collaborate, problem-solve and learn other crucial social skills that will help them later in life.
For adults, unscheduled time allows us to reconnect with parts of ourselves and our families we may have forgotten or ignored in our perpetual need for busyness. Giving ourselves permission to enjoy coffee on the porch in the morning, go for a leisurely walk around the neighborhood and enjoy a good book in our favorite spot in the afternoon is a gift to our physical and mental health. Learning how to slow down, quiet our minds, and be present will help reset our overstressed bodies and over-scheduled minds.
So instead of seeing this time as a huge inconvenience and letting it stress me out, I am doing my best to shift my mindset and see this time as a gift. This may be the only prolonged period of time in our lifetimes where we are forced to stop living a frenetic life, slow down and enjoy our family and our home. Why not make the best of it and find out what blessings we may gain?
10 Ways to Enjoy Unscheduled Time During COVID-19 Quarantine
Here are some ways you can enjoy this unprecedented time and make the most out of this slower, unscheduled time in our life called quarantine.
Unplug. Spend some time unplugged from everything. Turn off the phone (or silence it), turn off the TV, put away the iPads. Stop panic researching everything COVID-19. Instead, encourage creativity for yourself and your kids: painting, coloring, drawing, writing, reading, sipping tea and talking to one another.
Enjoy the quiet. In my house, there is typically some sort of constant background noise. Either the TV is on or I have music playing. Lately, I have been making a conscious effort to turn it all off and just let the silence soothe me. Now, I notice the laughter of my kids playing outside. I hear the birds chirping and the bees buzzing when I sit on the porch. The silence gives me a sense of peace I never realized it could bring and it’s refreshing.
Cook more. I do not enjoy cooking. Not because I’m bad at it, but because I find it to be too time consuming. If a meal takes more than 30 minutes to create, I have no patience for it. But now, we have a bit more time. Start trying new recipes. Bake bread from scratch. Make the world’s best chocolate chip cookies. And get your kids in on the action during the quarantine!
Sit down as a family for meals. While I try to employ this simple habit even when there’s not a pandemic happening, now is a great time to make it a habit if you haven’t already. Sitting down with the family and talking about your day while eating a home-cooked meal is one of the great joys of life that we have been missing out on for a while.
Take up a new hobby. Or rediscover one you used to love. Have you always wanted to learn how to knit? Do you enjoy painting? Would you like to resume your love of baking, crocheting, or doing crossword puzzles? Now is the perfect time to learn a new hobby and encourage your kids to do the same!
Spend more time outdoors. My kids have been spending more time outside these past few weeks than they have in their short lives. We have a postage stamp of a yard, but I put a tent out and a blow up pool and they are having the time of their lives. I literally have to bribe them to come inside for dinner and bedtime every night and that makes me so happy.
Start journaling. Journaling is an amazing way to process whatever fears, frustrations, and emotions you may be experiencing during the quarantine. It helps you to understand what you’re going through emotionally, but it also frees your mind from the burden and helps you to let it go. If you’re not a big writer, you could always just start a gratitude journal. Every morning, write the things you’re grateful for and watch how your attitude changes!
Do only what you love. Don’t want to do the laundry today even thought it’s your regularly scheduled laundry day? Skip it. Don’t feel like scrubbing the toilets or cleaning the kid’s playroom? Let it go. While you will have to tackle these everyday tasks eventually, give yourself some grace and flexibility during this time. Those chores will still be there tomorrow.
Read a good book. One of my very favorite things to do is read. I love escaping reality by delving into the world of a good fiction novel. I am deliberately setting aside time to read several nights a week. Two of my dearest friends and I have even started our own virtual bookclub where we read the same book at the same time and have regular “meetings” (which, of course, includes happy hour) to discuss our book. It’s a great way to stay connected while social distancing.
Declutter. Being stuck in your house during this quarantine all day every day is incredible inspiration to start getting rid of all your excess crap! If you’ve been trying to carve out some time to go through your massive craft supply collection or get rid of all the clothes your kids have outgrown, now’s the time! Goodwill is still taking donations, so take advantage of this time to declutter and organize.
Rest assured, this time of isolation and quarantine will certainly pass. Someday, probably soon, we will all be able to return to our regularly scheduled programming. And while I look forward to getting things back to “normal,” I, for one, am very much hoping that I can take some of these slow living lessons and incorporate them into normal daily life.
Photo Credit :: Amy McLaughlin Photography