Something that has had a negative impact on many people during the pandemic is boredom. A funny meme I saw reads, “Welp, it’s good to know that being too busy wasn’t what kept me from cleaning my house.” It makes an interesting point: There really isn’t time to be bored, especially not during lockdowns or self-isolation.
Creativity is essential to wellness. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the type of creativity that involves arts, crafts or artisanal skills. It can be reorganizing your drawers, painting a wall with a refreshing or invigorating accent color or even rearranging your current stuff. Problem solving keeps the brain healthy, and is a good outlet for excess energy (especially if you are already exercising). In addition to the gratification you can gain from a sense of accomplishment, being aesthetically productive is also a welcome reprieve from binging television or falling into black holes of political headlines, social media arguments and conspiracy theories.
I just got back 150 copies of the book I have been working on for 18 months. Refining it with my graphic designer and working through the production elements with my publisher kept me way too busy to be bored. It is intensely satisfying to finally hold it in my hands. It’s a beautiful book, one that was a labor of love. Should you ever get a copy, I hope you will get some of the joy in reading it that I got from writing it.
I love nuance and detail, so something else that allowed me to fall headlong into this book project was the fact that I made it multi-layered. There were so many details to polish and perfect, and in many ways it was as if I were writing, carving, painting, choreographing and cooking all at once. And now I have a fantastic little gem to show for it. I can honestly say that having it as an intense point of focus helped me pass hundreds of hours that might have otherwise been spent fretting.
When I encountered challenges during this project, it was much better in retrospect to be sleepless with corrections, rather than from whatever nonsense was happening in the news. I recognize that it was a privilege to be able to distract myself in this way; however, even if you cannot remove yourself so completely from current events as I did, it would still benefit your sense of wellbeing to have an outlet for your feelings. Physical activity is an essential part of maintaining healthy mood, but the mind and spirit need exercise, too.
I found that reviewing my work umpteen times — hunting for mistakes of any kind — was rather like a form of meditation. Perhaps it was also an exercise in projection? I cannot fix the errors I see happening all around me due to forces beyond my control, but I can stomp out every glitch I could suss out in my own little world.
For many years it has been an effective form of therapy for people of all ages to use creativity as a form of self care. Children who have survived trauma are widely known to vent their fears into drawings and dances, and over time those images transform into expressions of happiness and recovery. I personally have watched my dance students stay in school specifically to take my class, because what I offered them was a structured, nurturing place and opportunity for beauty. You can do that for yourself, if you find you cannot connect online or in person with likeminded folks.
I suggest that when you feel bored or stir crazy, you look around at what you have been neglecting. Use the time to be productive, yes, but also to be emotive. Write your book. Learn to watercolor. Use your phone to peck out that melody you have had in your mind. If none of that appeals to you, consider looking for ways to help others accomplish their creativity in place of your own. Perhaps enabling others is the creative project that speaks most to you. You can practice the art of empowering artists to practice.
This is also a time for reflection. In my book, I wrote out 49 reminders to myself that ask me to remember gratitude. All the reasons I have to be happy and the ways I can enact that optimism. It isn’t a self-help book or guru guide to the meaning of life. It’s rather like a journal I use to remind myself of the life lessons I often forget. Perhaps it would help or encourage you, too? If you’re interested, you can learn more about and buy copies of “The 49 Professions of Joy” at 49haiku.com/product/book-the-49-professions-of-joy/.