Today begins the fourth day in which strict regulations have been put in place regarding the coronavirus: curfews for businesses, restrictions on gatherings, and forcefully suggested closures. However, by just noontime yesterday – only two and a half days in – I was being told again and again by different people how bored they were. People are more worried about being bored than about the virus! They asked me what to do, and thought I’d just put a few suggestions below.
The fact is, boredom is about to become a serious issue. All accounts show that this situation is not going to end in the immediate future. New Jersey initially closed its schools for two weeks, till March 27th, and is now considering extending the school closures indefinitely. Outside of the US, even the call center workers in the Philippines – people who work on all holidays and at all hours – are being regulated to stay home. The restrictions show no signs of stopping!
No one likes being bored, though it is definitely manageable. Before the internet, boredom was part of life, and people found ways around it or to simply endure it. The past 20 years of instant gratification have caused us to forget that being bored is not a life-threatening condition.
I mention this as there is the possibility of the internet even becoming unavailable. With companies moving a lot of their daily interactions online, due to employees working from home, the internet is going to be burdened much more heavily, especially with the need for video-conferencing. This may slow down your internet to an un-usable degree or simply cause it to not function.
Hence, the time is now to think about how you will get through days and perhaps weeks of boredom. As the Romans used to say, “If you want peace, prepare for war!”
First, as mentioned above, remember that there was a time before the Internet. For those of us over 35, it is a time we can remember pretty well. And for thousands of years, people got by without the internet (and TV!) just fine. Recalling this simple fact of history will make the daunting concept of no internet more bearable.
Second, there are probably a number of things you have to do that you’ve been putting off, simply because you find them distasteful: cleaning that tile on the bathroom floor, for example. These things are always there, but we subconsciously ignore them – much like opening the refrigerator, seeing the shelves well-stocked, and saying, “There’s nothing to eat.” Of course there’s plenty to eat, just not what you want at that particular time. With the threat of boredom, you must be less choosy.
Third, make a schedule for your day – a daily regimen for fighting boredom. Read for an hour in the morning, exercise for an hour, clean, play cards or a board game with your family members and neighbors. This situation is actually a great time to rediscover the joys of depending on other people for entertainment. It brings us closer together. Man was not meant to have all of his enjoyment alone, or to be always solely responsible for his recreation. Write emails or letters to people that you owe them to (even if you can’t send them yet). And lastly, take naps! Afternoon naps are the mark of a civilized society.
Fourth, set yourself a goal. “By the time this crisis ends, I want to be able to do 100 sit-ups”; “By the time this ends, I want to have finished making my bathroom spotless.” Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” During the Blizzard of ’93, one of my teachers finally finished his doctoral dissertation. Boredom can make you productive – it’s just about giving yourself that five-minute push to start something that you don’t want to do.
Fifth, start preparing now – i.e. this minute — for anything you have envisioned. That book that you really want to read, but don’t have — order it from Amazon today. Cleaning supplies, tools, wood – get them today. With the regulations changing every hour, we may be not permitted to leave our homes soon. Don’t wait!
This crisis will be as much a mental war as a physical one. Ian Fleming wrote, in From Russia With Love, “Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make bored.” Make your daily list of things to do, include a goal or two, set yourself in motion – and then, whenever you feel like it, take a nap. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Enjoy it while you can!