Novelty or Connection or...?
October 12, 2020 5:29 PM   Subscribe

My mental health is suffering from all this time indoors, away from people except for the same people constantly. Can you help me think of ways to make this all less despair-inducing? How are you maintaining sanity, a sense of novelty, and a sense of connection? Things to buy, rituals, self-talk, vision boards...I'll take any approach that lessens the ennui.

I'm tired of these four walls, and tired of the same company every day. I need... Something.

Our area is mandating masks, so we have been going to stores a bit, but shopping for entertainment is not sustainable and doesn't mesh with my values. We have eaten at restaurants using socially distant outdoor seating. I'm tired of Zoom for socializing. My son is doing some Outschool stuff, but he also doesn't know how to act around other kids he sees at the playground because he's so out of practice. I/we need a change of scenery. We did a long weekend recently which helped, but the help didn't last long. How are you maintaining sanity, a sense of novelty, and a sense of connection?

I got some things to make home life more fun, but it's not helping. I am in treatment for depression already, but it's not helping with this discontent, this cabin fever, or this feeling of being sick of the same thing every day.

(Side note: Like a lot of adults I don't have a lot of friends, and I relocated right before COVID so I've got even less than I did before. I have taken a break from social media so my friends from elsewhere are also including me less in virtual activities, which is ok since I'm sick of Zoom for everything anyway. But yeah, relying on that best friend you can call and then not talk but just both cook at the same time is... A thing I'd love to have, but I haven't built it at the current phase of my life.)
posted by crunchy potato to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
The two biggest things that help me are : going on walks while having phone calls with friends (“walk and talk”), and hiking. Everything else is a nice idea, but doesn’t really cut it for me/have the same kinds of returns.
posted by raccoon409 at 5:37 PM on October 12, 2020 [10 favorites]

I’m taking an in-person class -and it makes my Tuesday’s and Saturday’s ‘special’, or at least a little bit different from all the other days. It’s tricky to recommend this because I evaluated the safety measures etc before committing to it - not sure how things are being done in your area. But if it’s something that’s being done carefully in your area, I would highly recommend.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 6:23 PM on October 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Games? From tabletop RPGs via Roll20 to casual multiplayer games like Stardew Valley to full-on MMORPGs. Sometimes socializing online is a bit better/easier when there's something to do besides chat.

Get-out-the-vote efforts are still happening (mostly phone/text, but there are a few postcards-to-voters operations that might still be in progress).

Fandom? Maybe AO3 has something really cool around the latest show or movie you watched. Or maybe co-watching (with friends) the show or movie you read that cool fic about.
posted by humbug at 6:34 PM on October 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

I am also in a new area. We've been taking lots of long bike rides.
posted by aniola at 6:38 PM on October 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

If I had more money, I would buy a whole bunch of different sheet masks and try a new one everyday. It's novelty for pretty low effort. You could do a sheet mask challenge (you can put together your own selection instead of buying from this shop) and then review/post the photos on Instagram. Maybe you can become a skincare guru!

If you prefer making your own skincare products, this site provides instructions.
posted by whitelotus at 7:00 PM on October 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

In all of 2019, I put about 80 miles on my bike. Since March 2020, that has gone up to 722 miles. By accident. I had no intention of doing this but, my word, when even walks seemed to loop me through the same 30 minute circle around my home and I started feeling trapped in my neighborhood (which I love!), I simply started getting on the bike. Whenever I could. In those early weeks, I was even going out at 2 am or whenever I finally gave in to the doom-flavored insomnia and just needed out. I think there's something to the notion of being outside--literally feeling the outdoors on your skin--while being able to move faster than you could while walking or running... does something to us, psychologically. This weekend I took my bike to the ferry for a trip across the bay. And it was raining! When was the last time I intentionally went for a bike ride, much less a walk, when it was raining? Thirty years? Longer?

Can you and the fam hop on scooters, bikes, anything like that?

I also have a workbook that a therapist introduced me to last year. I've been working to rebuild a habit of paying this kind of introspective/constructive attention to my mental health after (hopefully) starting to dig out of the drinking-every-night-and-gaining-a-lot-of-weight routines that I managed to fall into over this last year. It's nice--it's a dedicated part of the day that I use as a way to pay attention to myself through someone else's lens--specifically, someone who has training and experience in helping people recognize where they are, where they want to go, and all those pieces in between. It can feel a bit frustrating to deal with the thought sometimes that mental health work wasn't really designed for use during lockdown, but that's also part of the challenge that's, I dunno the right word, stimulating? It feels like working in unexplored territory. Acknowledging a personal frontier.

Lastly, I've been really, really paring down my belongings. Slowly--very slowly--but being holed up for so long has really helped be confront this recognition that stuff and clutter and messiness kinda make me bonkers. For months I was doing a daily hour of cleaning up, tossing out, paring down. It was amazing. Now I've gotten the lived-in spaces to a pretty wonderful state that I try to be diligent about maintaining. Wash that dish as soon as it's used, put those dirty clothes right in the hamper, make the bed, dust. When I'm able to achieve those maintenance steps, I take the opportunity to venture into the dark voids of closets and the attic and the crawlspace where clutter and nostalgia and inertia still reign. And I spend a little time paring down there, too. I like the thought that this kind of slow, persistent work on these things will have led me to some very tangible goals of having a minimum set of stuff by the time this pandemic wanes. Heaven knows we have the time to dedicate to a long, forward-looking project like this, and this one just happens to also anchor you in the moment with a task that does nothing but makes your place a bit more reflective of how you want your mind to feel (I don't mean to put my words into your mouth, but that's how it feels to me).

Be well!
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 7:39 PM on October 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

Are you getting any alone time? That makes things easier for me, even if it’s just an evening in the bath with magazines.
posted by stellaluna at 7:42 PM on October 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

I volunteer at my local Farmers Market (year round) every week and have been able to find: connection (in helping others/answer questions), learning (there is so much I don’t know about growing/crafting/baking things from people who make this as source of income!), social distancing (crowd maximums/masks/other protocols are firmly in place by Provincial Medical Officer which designated Farmers Markets as an Essential Service), novelty (especially working in Canadian winters, no week is the same), lots of food to eat/explore (great for not cooking some days) and peace of mind.

You’d have to evaluate your own area or risk, but it’s a great source of comfort for me in these time. Volunteering in general, really.
posted by carabiner at 8:04 PM on October 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

I forgot to mention about volunteering at Farmers Markets: I easily walk 10 000 steps in my shifts, so lots of exercise!
posted by carabiner at 8:11 PM on October 12, 2020

Will be following with interest as I also don't have a whole lot of luck doing, really, anything at all that feels worth doing these days.

Trying to maintain my sanity in the face of everything just wasn't working at all, so lately I've been really leaning into how fucking stupid and terrible everything is right now. I refuse to expend any significant energy trying to be "normal" and "productive" in a completely batshit situation. Apparently my entire nation is incapable of making halfway decent decisions, so fuck it! I'm not gonna either. I'm indulging basically every terrible idea I have with the following restrictions:

-I need to at least TRY not to lose my job
-I need to not kill anyone else.

Anything that won't jeopardize those requirements goes! Want to stay up til 3 am watching Cobra Kai and eating gummy bears? Do it. Want to paint my rental bedroom cotton-candy pink? Fuck yes. Live on apple slices and microwave tamales and carryout tacos? Ordering mystery snacks from overseas that cost more than my health insurance premium? SIGN ME UP.

Like I said, none of this is going to convince anyone that I, a middle-aged professional woman, am "sane," but it has kept me out of an institution and, critically, out of the morgue. So, you know. Give it a shot!
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:12 PM on October 12, 2020 [31 favorites]

Two things are keeping my head above water as I anticipate restrictions, which I approve of, last way past winter and into spring. While it's still considered relatively safe to do so, I have three neighbourhood cafes I consider safe and rotate visiting to different ones (they are closed on different days of the week so there is always one open). If advice changes and cafes are closed I will take it on the chin and rely on my home coffee machine but I am getting out while I can.

Secondly I know you said Zoom is not really great for you but I find having a range of activities I can drop into it has been helpful, if not perfect. For my sins I quite like self-help/ personal development books, even though I am not the best at putting the advice into practice. At the weekend I logged into a journalling workshop run by Marianne Power, author of "Help!", which had others from the UK plus the US, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Ireland. I felt I had a lot in common with these people, in terms of interests I would say I only know 2 people in real life that are as like-minded, and I am not currently able to see either of those two. Last night I also attended a monthly group thing over Zoom, it was the first night, but it was again a feel of communicating with likeminded others and being able to see their faces. It was this course which as far as I could tell was secular and based on positive psychology and not too much woo ..

I also sometimes attend a donation-based "pay what you feel" Spanish conversation chat group led by a native speaking tutor, it's good practice for me and cheaper than one to one tuition. So I would gently suggest trying mixing it up in terms of the Zoom activities you try and maybe seeking out ones in line with your true interests on, for example, Eventbrite. I would rather Zoom about something that's an exact match for my interests rather than have a general chat with less likeminded people in person (in my country I can't even do that anyway, as gatherings are only allowed up to six people from two households indoors or out).
posted by AuroraSky at 8:14 PM on October 12, 2020


This has helped for me. Get on Zoom with a friend and then just play board games. I go to Board Game Arena which has a lot of different sorts of games. They have a chat mechanism built in, but it's not so high bandwidth that you can't keep Zoom going at the same time. We play a lot of short games and you can even join in with someone in you family and people not in your family if you have multiple people who are interested. Same thing with NetflixParty (which I guess just rebranded) where you can watch movies and also chat.

Me and my SO (distanced b/c COVID) have also gotten into completionist tasks like "Take a picture in every town in the state" (we live in small states) and it's been nice some days to just get in the car and GO somewhere and try to find something cool there. Take a picture, mark off a map. Could be a thing to do with a kid possibly.

See what is up with the library. They are often trying hard to have things to help people who are sick of a lot of it.

Write letters (or postcards, postcards are easier) to people you might otherwise interact with over social media. Get stamps, pens etc. MrFi Card Club can be good for that. I am not great at it (I had a rough month last month and couldn't keep up my obligations) and that's okay most of the time. I really think We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese is on to something. Try to loosen some of the other restrictions you may have on what you can and can't do. See if it might help.
posted by jessamyn at 8:24 PM on October 12, 2020

I got involved in a cookery club with my wife where we make five meals one day a week for people who due to illness or long shifts as essential workers are struggling to cook for themselves, and then they get delivered by another volunteer. We both got super into planning and making delicious meals for our "guests", ensuring they were healthy and well balanced, and baking a little treat to go on the side. Feeling involved in my community and like I'm doing something, however small, has made me feel a lot more connected and less powerless. I've also been reaching out to old friends I haven't spoken to in a while, since everyone has a lot of pandemic induced free time. Also none of this means I haven't spent time crying on the floor because this situation sucks so's just given me good times and a sense that we have to get up, 5 people are relying on us, and binging GBBO now counts as "research"
posted by MarianHalcombe at 12:13 AM on October 13, 2020 [7 favorites]

Literally the only place we've gone and done something since March was a trip to the zoo in September. Our zoo has a mask requirement "when you can't maintain 6 feet distance" and sells timed-entry tickets to keep crowds down. We chose a day in the middle of the week in hopes that families would be busy with school, and it wasn't crowded at all. We kept our masks in hand in case of close encounters but we mostly didn't need them on as people kept their distance. All of the indoor stuff was closed but we still had a great time. It was exciting just being out and doing a thing!
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:34 AM on October 13, 2020

I'm not a huge podcast guy but I really like Pete Holmes' "You Made it Weird." A lot of the episodes are 2+ hours and it's just two people having really funny, interesting conversations about life, comedy and religion. It feels like I'm hanging out with a couple of really smart friends. I'm sure a lot of other podcasts are similar where if you get to know the host it feels like someone you know in real life.
posted by Clustercuss at 7:21 AM on October 13, 2020

Maybe it's time to socialize. Covid made relocating even harder.

Jump onto - most meetup groups have found a safe way to socialize, in person (outdoors, etc) or with other indoor distancing events. Meet some new people!

I know that the advice is "socially distance" - but there are almost no cases of outdoor transmission. I went to a meetup in a beer garden and on a restaurant patio, and felt totally safe. Other groups are doing community hikes, runs, etc. says these activities are very safe. Outdoor ANYTHING is so low (20x less) that I would encourage you to scratch that connection itch with anyone, anywhere, outdoors. I'm sure there are mom groups and play groups that meet outside. Go for it before winter!
posted by bbqturtle at 8:40 AM on October 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Go outside! I did just enough of Couch to 5k that I can comfortably run a mile, but the key part is actually swinging by the neighborhood mansion with the beautiful garden at the end of my run. Wandering and taking photos of leaves works too.

I've also been sending a lot of mail. Recently I found a stationery subscription and am excited about sending mushroom cards.
posted by yarntheory at 8:52 AM on October 13, 2020

Seconding bbqturtle. I joined my local Meetup which has been having lots of picnics, outdoor book clubs, etc. and it’s saved my sanity. The same group of people tend to go every time so I’ve been able to build friendships and everything is free which is a bonus. No one’s gotten Covid through it yet.
posted by Brain Sturgeon at 10:25 AM on October 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's a little thing but could you get a bird feeder, even just a small window-mounted one? I love to see my little bird neighbors hanging out at the feeder. I get a really diverse range of species, which is kind of exciting and gives you a sense of the passage of the seasons (different birds migrate through my area, and some birds are only interested in my feeders at certain times of year). Even if you can't attract a lot of different kinds of birds, though, just watching a bunch of house sparrows squabbling or mourning doves walking around does wonders for my mental health.
posted by mskyle at 11:30 AM on October 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'm a novelty seeker. If you can afford it, let yourself indulge in the whims of the moment. Want to play that video game? Awesome. Cool ebook on sale? Done. A pack of 30 goat milk soaps, each slightly different from Etsy? Ordered. By accepting I was going to be "flighty," I felt less guilt when my attention shifted. And, funnily enough, my attention has been shifting back to things I started on early in COVID, e.g., crocheting.

I also find "doing a biggish thing" to be motivating. I signed up to read 10 books in 3 months for a work challenge, and that was awesome, even though I read less than 10 books the entire prior year. Do you have a room you've been meaning to make over? Something you've been longing to do? Maybe it's time to order that King sized bed (b/c who isn't spending a ton of time in bed anyway). Or, it's time to order that pottery wheel and make some clay art? Are you finally finding yeast in your grocery store, now it's time to make your sourdough starter and name it. Have some extra time? Why not do that "biggish" thing you said you were going to do.

I've also started doing those things my husband usually does b/c it's nice to do those things for him. In my case, it's learning to make dinner for both of us. Being the one to make the bed. Feeding the whiny cats at dinner.
posted by ellerhodes at 6:22 PM on October 13, 2020

« Older Mouse cursor highlight solution   |   How to wash a straw-covered pillow? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments