How do we support boredom when we are stuck at home?

When we choose to stay at home all weekend, lounging round and catching up on things we rarely get bored.

However, when staying home is enforced and we lose the choice to go out, flit between shops and run errands we suddenly begin to feel very differently about things. In many cases boredom quickly sets in, and brings with it new levels of destructiveness.

So, what is boredom?

In its simplest sense, boredom is mental fatigue that is created by monotony (doing the same things over and over again) which creates a lack of interest in tasks and an empty feeling.

What triggers boredom?

  • Doing the same things repeatedly
  • Lack of variety
  • Too much predictability

*It should be noted that we all NEED some predictability, boredom is created when there is little to no variety or no option for variety

What does boredom look like?

  • Boredom affects everyone differently, but in most cases will present itself as:
  • Empty feelings
  • Low attention span
  • Lack of ability to concentrate
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Nervous or anxious feelings
  • Agitated behaviours
  • Fatigued – no energy
  • Wanting to sleep a lot

Why don’t we often feel bored?

In a world where you can shop online 24/7, get lost in phones and computer games, we work all hours of the day and night, and the world is open7 days a week – we rarely get a chance to be bored. We are masters at switching between activities and being on the go.

More so, some people don’t actually know what boredom feels like and so when boredom appears it can be a deeply uncomfortable feeling!

We can be quick to offer children activities and engagement all the time, to avoid boredom, so for some young children and teenagers the current climate will be very hard to swallow as when opportunities and experiences drop – how do we manage?

Can it be good for us?

The interesting thing about boredom is that it can be GOOD for us. We live in a world where we are on the go all the time, and as such, when we have downtime, it can increase out creative ideas, problem solving and reflection opportunities.

Enforced time out, or planned time out, can allow us to

  • Build connections between knowledge, ideas and experiences
  • Develop new thoughts, concepts and ideas
  • Try new things without fear
  • Be more creative and innovative in our thinking
  • Learn about self care
  • Learn to recognise out feelings and how to respond to them

So, what do we need to AVOID?

  • It can be easy to OVER plan our time to try and keep crazy busy and not think about things – this will just mean that you run out of steam later
  • Getting out every activity you can think of in the first week
  • Getting cross with ourselves or our families because they find the change hard
  • Letting everyone sleep in, get up late or go to bed in the early hours
  • Using technology to fill the gaps – whilst it is tempting to get lost in technology, it is counterproductive to our mood, emotions and reactions – cap it at 2 hours per day screen time

Do consider:

  • Keeping a solid routine so that children can feel safe and know what is coming next (this includes waking up, meal times and bed times)
  • Promote independence – with time on your hands, this is a great time to encourage children to do things for themselves to learn some new skills and feel useful
  • Balance activities, none of us can concentrate all day long, break up home schooling with crafts, physical activities, games and relaxation or meditation activities to offer variety
  • Plan one to two spontaneous tasks for children to enjoy, this might be a science activity, a craft task or a project that you can work on together (Pinterest has some great ideas) – especially helpful if our attention is dropping and we all need a pick me up
  • Laugh together – oxytocin is the feel good hormone that is released when we laugh together and have fun, plan some downtime to be silly, learn a trick or create a tik tok challenge – a few belly laughs will soon lift the mood and keep everyone’s mental health in a better place
  • Read together – literacy skills are wonderful, more so, reading together is a great time to talk about characters, share ideas and reflect on our days. Snuggling up for a story or audio book can be a perfect way to help children to talk about how they feel without confronting conversations which make them avoid talking
  • Encourage children to make choices and solve problems – it is so easy to do things for children, but encouraging them to develop their thinking skills in this time will develop their resilience and help them feel in control – encourage them to help you find solutions, write up week plans or to help with the shopping list
  • Be a role model – don’t encourage children to be outdoors and then sit inside on your phone – role model and show them how they can do new things. If you need to work, structure time around their activities, lessons and downtime so that they get the connections they need to feel calm and settled (which will help you feel calm and settled)
  • Be active – sitting down makes us all feel sleepy and disinterested. Whether it’s some online exercise, a game in the garden or learning a circus trick in the garden or some yoga, getting active refreshes out brain. If you combine this with activities that encourage children to pass items across their bodies (juggling, yoga, tricks or clapping games) you can help them strengthen their brain connections and coordination for learning!

Above all, be kind to yourselves, focus on making wellbeing and self care the centre of your time and boredom will reduce significantly.

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