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Distractions and the Coronavirus

Seek some pleasant or constructive diversions.

How are you holding up at home in this odd time? Have you established some sort of routine to see you through however long we need to remain home, practicing social distance from our friends, loved ones, and co-workers? If you’ve not yet established a routine, I suggest you try to do so. For those who can work remotely, sitting in front of their laptops or iPads is one way to seek normalcy (I continue to meet with and teach my classes via online methods). But work requires balance by play—or at least something different. I suggest you seek or create some distractions for yourself. By distraction, I mean something—an activity—that diverts your attention away from the fact that you can’t actively pursue your usual haunts (the gym, the office, the classroom, the café) due to social distancing.

According to social media, a lot of people have embraced going to walks or running to keep themselves busy—these two activities can be solitary or done with others as long social distance is maintained. As I work I see lots of people walking (or jogging) past my home. Besides getting some exercise, they are enjoying the cool spring days and changing their scenery if only for a short while.

Other people are walking their dogs for distraction. A friend and I took dog distraction to a new level—we each got a new puppy late last week. Besides prepping and teaching online, I’ve been on puppy patrol, exerting considerable effort to get my new charge on a sleep schedule and to housebreak him as soon as possible. Nothing is more distracting than trying to anticipate and prevent messes before they happen (so far, so good—I usually get him outside before nature calls). Of course, my choice is a bit extreme (and the arrival of my pup happened to coincide with our collective lockdown, not because of it).

Other people are finding cooking to be a pleasant, as well as useful, diversion. If you are a cook, you may be able to create some delicious food that takes you away from the mundane nature of staying in. If you aren’t a cook, now is the time to learn to make simple but savory food—it’s a skill that will serve you well once things return to normal. There are plenty of online recipes and instructional videos that can lead you through how to make sauce or sausage, soup or soufflé.

Other constructive distractions include:

  • Finishing the book(s) you never have time for
  • Binge-watching a television series
  • Listening to music—not as background—but really listening in a quiet, peaceful way
  • Doing your taxes
  • Clearing out clutter in the closet or straightening up your desk or home office
  • Writing a letter—yes, a letter on paper, not an email—to an old friend you’ve lost touch with
  • If you are a student, keep on top of your now virtual assignments and papers
  • Go for a walk—take your dog along
  • Take up mindfulness meditation
  • Organize your books by genre, author, or the color of their covers
  • Rearrange the furniture in your living space—or clean your room
  • Check in with relatives and friends by Zoom, Facetime, or text message
  • Several museums are offering online virtual tours of their collections
  • Make a list of things you think might distract you—then try them out
  • Keep a journal chronicling this weird time—your older self will enjoy reading it

At the same time you are seeking soulful distractions, try to avoid things that might make you anxious or even despairing—you may want to control how much news you consume for a bit, just as checking the stock market is apt to be stressful. Don’t entertain worst-case scenarios or ruminate on how long the current state of affairs will last.

You—we—will get through this and normality will return. In the meantime, pursue healthy, engaging distractions. I have to go take Arno, my puppy out now, before I am distracted by cleaning up a puddle or worse. Take care.