Curbing the COVID-crazies

18 ways to stay busy while staying home

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Photo by Margaret Debenport

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Story by Margaret Debenport, opinion editor

Spring break for Texas High School students was officially extended to another week as of March 16, but, under the circumstances, that week doesn’t call for days of roaming around town with friends. Bowie County reported the first known case of coronavirus on March 16. With health officials urging Americans to stay at home and practice social distancing in order to “flatten the curve,” practicing social distancing is the most responsible way to behave during this pandemic. While this may seem like a daunting responsibility for many full of boredom, staying at home opens new avenues for productivity. 

While today’s technology offers the common pastimes of scrolling through Twitter or binge watching seven seasons of your favorite show via Netflix, those activities eventually lose their shine as well and leave teens starring blank-faced at a wall, wondering, when can I actually do something again? Your wish to actually do something starts with this list, right now. The fear of an outbreak may stop our car engines, but not our productivity. So, with all that being said, keep reading to discover a week or more of activities sure to keep you from boredom. 

Get gardening

Rather than stockpiling toilet paper, a much cheaper and far more productive way to spend your money is to buy some seeds, which run for about two dollars a packet. Along with the seeds, you’ll need some small pots or a seed starting kit on your next socially-distanced trip to Walmart so you can pick up the essentials. Starting a garden during this time, or even just growing a single potted plant indoors, gives you a productive task to focus on and give attention to every day. Plus, whether you’re growing fruit or flowers, you’ll have a fresh treat to share with your family.

Participate in a ‘live’ read over FaceTime 

While you won’t be able to go to your friend’s houses, that shouldn’t stop you from hanging out ‘together.’ After you’ve exhausted all conversation topics, choose a movie or episode of a television show you’d like to read with them (the funnier, the better.) It takes a simple Google search to find pdf versions of most scripts and screenplays. Just think, you’re one FaceTime away from re-enacting the time Dwight started a fire in “The Office.”

Make marmalade

Now’s your chance to be like Paddington bear. With this time-consuming recipe, you can fill a part of your day making a jelly that can be stored for long periods of time as well as bring your house a pleasant aroma. Most recipes call for about six cups of sugar and four oranges, just something to keep in mind on your next grocery run.

Deep clean your room

If you’ve been putting off scrubbing the nooks and crannies until you have free time, well, free time is now. Strip off your sheets and blankets, throw them in the wash, sweep or vacuum (like you mean it, under the bed and everything), dust your shelves and Clorox your door handles. Go the extra mile by taking inventory of your closet and drawers, then deciding what should stay or what should go to a donation center or a retail shop. Bonus points for re-folding everything in your drawers neatly (trust me, it is worth the effort.)

Get in a routine

While staying up until 4 and waking up at 11 seems like the way to live life on break, those who lack quality sleep or don’t get enough have weaker immune systems than they would if they got a full eight (or more) hours. Although you could stay up all night watching the latest season of “On My Block,” it’s in your best interest to set a reasonable bedtime over break. With sleep, keep getting up at a reasonable hour and getting ready as you would if you weren’t staying at home. Allowing yourself to become completely disheveled over break calls for a more difficult time getting adjusted on your first day back. 

Get moving

While staying on the couch for a week may seem appealing, it’s not what’s best for you. Spread out an hour of activity throughout your day, like four 15 minute brisk walks circling around your house, or six 10 minute intervals to turn on your favorite dance songs and start sweating. If you prefer guided workouts, get moving by pressing play on a workout video on YouTube or even playing Just Dance with your family. By maintaining activity, you’ll boost your immune system and be ready to return to your regular exercise routine once the threat of the pandemic has rolled over.

Get some sun, but not too much

While your fears of getting and spreading COVID-19 may be keeping you inside, don’t forget that you can go outside without making contact with other humans. Getting the right amount of vitamin D from the sun can boost your immune system, not to mention keep you from feeling like you’ve been put under house arrest. When you can, get a breath of fresh air and soak in some sun rays, but don’t stay out too long, and remember to wash your hands upon return to the indoors.

Learn how to cook (without a microwave)

It’s time to get cooking. Plan to prepare a meal for your house, find a recipe, Turn on “Stir Fry” by Migos and get cracking (or stirring or baking.) While you may require the help of a more experienced cook at first, the time you put into making food will fill some hours as well as make you grow more appreciative of the food you eat. Pick a family favorite that doesn’t require the skills of Gordon Ramsey and cook your way through the day.

Start a blog or a YouTube channel

If you’ve always wanted to do one of these things, now is the prime time to get an audience. With schools across the country cancelling, plenty of kids will be upping their time spent online. By creating content that’s appealing to people during the pandemic, you can start a productive activity for yourself and even a chance to make money through advertisement. Prop up your phone to video and learn the basics of editing, or head over to Wix or WordPress to start designing your blog.

Play Knockout over FaceTime

While going over to your friend’s houses may be stopping you from shooting hoops together, a cell phone and live video chat can bring you closer together, and inspire a little competition. Set up your phone a safe enough distance away from the goal and in a place where you can see and hear the other person, then begin your competition. Maybe, to replace the cancellation of March Madness, you create a giant bracket with your friends and then stream the finals to an online audience. 

Get Tik-Tok famous

Once again capitalizing on school shutdowns, making Tik-Toks filled with comedy relating to the news is a great way to gain followers and rack up likes. Maybe the dance you come up with will be the next Renegade, or maybe you’ll just have fun entertaining yourself in the process of choreographing. 

Learn a new skill

Whether you want to learn graphic design, coding, photography or videography, now is the time to find a free online course and cultivate a new skill. With these new skills, you can create artwork or video encouraging hand washing or other precautions to take during the pandemic. A great site to explore is Skillshare, which offers free courses on almost anything. 

Watch all the movies on your watchlist, one (or two) per day

Now’s the time to watch those movies you never have time to, or maybe watch the movies you love all over again. Whether you’re a fan of action, drama or rom-coms, sites like IMDb TV and Tubi allow any person with an email to sign up and watch movies in HD completely free. 

Write anything and everything

Start a journal specifically about your life during the pandemic, or just start a journal for the sake of starting one. Get on a free screenwriting website and write a full-length feature film or a short you can film that stars your family. Write a book and send it to a publisher. Anything is possible with words. 

Fill out as many scholarships as possible

This one is a little specific to seniors, but scholarship websites like FastWeb, Scholarships.com and Cappex offer thousands of opportunities for students to apply for scholarships. These free money opportunities have varying deadlines and some different requirements, so stay on top of them over break, and set aside a certain amount of time per day or week to apply to them. 

Have a karaoke night with your family

Pull up those lyric videos from YouTube, grab a cooking spoon, and get to singing. Maybe you’ll discover you should audition for the next season of “American Idol,” or maybe you’ll just have fun pretending to hit Whitney Houston’s notes in “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Who knows!

Create a family tree

Call your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, their cousins and any blood relative. How far back can you map your ancestry? There are many websites that have free family tree templates available for you to edit and print. This would make a great gift for your family members, or just a cool new thing to frame and put on your walls. 

Delete unnecessary files

Whether it’s Google Drive, iCloud or your phone’s storage, it’s likely you have some photos and files you never use sitting idle. Take this time to delete such files from your devices and free up some space. You can stop those pesky notifications about storage before they even happen!

While all of these things may consume your time for a while, most likely, you will find yourself a bit stir-crazy in the weeks to come. Remember, we’re all going to be transitioning from what we’ve known as normal to the new way of life throughout this pandemic. Check in with your friends to see how they’re doing and on your loved ones at high-risk for a severe case of coronavirus to see if there is any way to help. The coming weeks may bring fear and uncertainty, but don’t let it get the best of you. Stay safe (and at home,) have fun and wash your hands.