22 Relaxing Activities You can still do during a Pandemic

Life has returned to normal. Sort of. Pro sports are back. Kind of. And the stress of the last couple of months has finally subsided. OK, that's not the least bit true. But we're all doing the best we can to play the hand that 2020 dealt us.

And relaxing at home before the pandemic was actually pretty simple. It was as easy as deleting the social media apps from your phone and spending a couple of days on the couch or cooking for yourself as a treat. But by now, the dinner table has become a classroom and your office, and you need to find some new relaxing activities to destress at the end of your day.

And if the thought of spending any more time on your couch is starting to make your skin crawl, it's time to start brainstorming some relaxing activities to keep you occupied until the weather starts to warm up again.

1. Read a book

Yeah, this classic relaxing activity might be a little more difficult than it used to be. The higher baseline level of stress and the constant stream of streaming options may make this seem a bit more daunting than you'd care to admit. Start with something easy like a paperback potboiler mystery novel. Or even better, pick up a book you've already read once before and loved. What better time than now to rediscover something that captured your imagination and made you excited to turn the page?

But the best way to get back into a routine and reignite your love of reading is to read along with the kids. Pick a book that's a year or two above their reading level to challenge them and help keep you engaged.

2. Find a new space in an old place

Do you have a room in your house you don't use? We're spending all of our time at home now, so it's a good time to clear out any unused space and put them to better use. If you've been working at the kitchen table, then you know how frustrating it is to get anything done in that setting. Let your partner and the kids in there to work also. Redecorate and rediscover what you loved about that room.

Consider moving everyone's workspace into one room in the house that isn't the kitchen or dining room. Turn the playroom into the workroom. Then, on Fridays, after work ends, you can close the door behind you. And keep it closed all weekend. Having one dedicated space in your home to work means you'll have the rest of the house free for whatever.

3. Fire up the grill

Your backyard got a lot of use this summer. It was recess and summer camp and outdoor school and the spot for those early Zoom happy hours. So, grab some food and a bag of charcoal or a fresh propane tank, and throw yourself a cookout. Whether it's burgers and dogs, a pork butt or a beef brisket, it's a guaranteed good time. We didn't get much of a summer vacation this year, so why not take this time to enjoy some of the best parts of summer vacation but without the humidity and the bugs?

And if you're feeling really adventurous, try something new. Why not make this a luau- or tiki-themed event. You probably can't roast a whole hog at your house (kudos if you can), but you can find a new, fun recipe to make this extra special. This would also make for a good small, low-key, socially distanced gathering with close friends and family.

4. Treat yourself

Is the stress getting to you? But does the thought of getting a mani-pedi make your skin crawl? Pamper yourself at home!

Break out your coziest robe and do your nails or a Korean spa mask. Find yourself a white noise app or listen to relaxing nature sounds, rain or whatever music helps lower your resting heart rate and just chill out. Grab a couple of bath bombs, that bottle of champagne you've been “saving for a special occasion" and some cucumber slices for your eyes, and treat yourself.

5. Listen to (new) music

So often, we think of music to hype us up, on a run or something to listen to in the car. Instead, move past your usual rotation of 50 songs and find something new. All of the streaming music providers more or less have their algorithms zeroed in on your tastes and preferences, so in this case, trust the AI and discover your new favorite artist.

And when you do find a new song you like, share it! Set up a music exchange with your friends. Recommend songs and artists to each other, and grow your musical tastes.

6. Break your breakfast routine

There's no activity more relaxing than a nice breakfast in bed. You may need two or more trips, but treat yourself to a delicious meal you can take back with you into your bedroom and eat it while you re-snuggle up against your dog who is probably still asleep. Listen to a podcast while you sip your morning coffee, and nibble on some fresh fruit or a delicious breakfast sandwich.

The important thing to remember while eating in bed: Make it simple, make it easy to eat with one hand and no cutlery.

7. Find your fall fun

It's fall and you know what that means? Decorative gourd season! Hayrides and cornfield mazes may be off the menu this year, but that doesn't mean you can't have the fall fun you had last year. Pick up a couple of pumpkins and spread them across your yard so the kids can “pick" their own.

Then, as long as you're already outdoors, they can carve their own jack-o'-lanterns for Halloween. Pick up some quality cider from the farmer's market (and some even higher quality spirits from the liquor store) and enjoy the crisp fall air from the comfort of your own home.

And if you really miss the cornfield mazes, make a blindfolded obstacle course your family can make themselves. It'll be even more fun after a couple of mugs of warm spirits and cider.

8. Get centered

Going to a gym right now is probably not a great idea. And if you and your family need to find a way to expel some anxious energy, look past the cardio and look inward. The reality is, everyone really ought to give yoga a shot. And now is as good a time as any to try.

If you've ever felt embarrassed or uncoordinated or clumsy in a yoga class, welcome to the club. But now that we're hanging out at home for the foreseeable future, give it another try. Your home is a judgment-free zone, and there are plenty of free YouTube classes to help get you started. Plus, yoga is an effective tool in helping kids learn to channel their nervous energy into something more productive.

9. Build a box/blanket fort

This is a great relaxing activity if you have kids. And it's a great relaxing activity if you don't have kids, too.

Grab some chairs and boxes and a couple of blankets and get to work. Take a tablet into the fort with you to watch some movies. Grab some snacks and your comfiest socks and chill out for a few. It may seem a little childish, but these are stressful times and when that happens, it helps to look back and remember the things that brought you joy as a kid. You'll only feel silly for a second.

10. Find a new best friend

You're stuck and home. You're bored. And you're starting to feel the mental and emotional effects of not being able to hang out with friends. So, what's your best solution? Get a pet!

If you're not a dog person or a cat person, don't worry about it. If it's your first time dipping your toe into the world of pet ownership, get something simple like a goldfish. Then, if you decide later, you can work your way up to mammals.

Study after study shows pet owners have overall higher levels of happiness in their lives, and who couldn't use that right about now?

11. That's my jam(mies)!

OK, since the start of quarantine, we've all embraced the “-leisure" part of “athleisure." And why wouldn't we? It didn't start out that way, but that's definitely the way it ended up. So, why not make it official and have a Pajama Day?

Get matching jammies or onesies for everyone and do all the stuff you'd do when you were a kid, like eating cereal while watching Saturday morning cartoons and even having breakfast for dinner!

12. Dust off that to-do list

You probably read that and thought, “Wait a minute. I thought this was supposed to be a list of ways I can relax." And nothing can ramp up anxiety like a to-do list that never seems to get done. But think of it this way: What's more relaxing or fulfilling than crossing an item off a to-do list?

Start with small attainable goals, like unloading the dryer and folding your laundry, and build your way up to changing the batteries in your smoke detector or assembling an IKEA bookcase.

13. Talk to someone

No, not your new pet. Granted, they're great listeners, but they're not great with advice and guidance. If you notice yourself eating or sleeping less, snapping at people more, eating or drinking more, or if you just feel like you have a higher baseline of stress and anxiety, find someone to talk to about it.

You can find a professional online. If you have insurance, search for a licensed professional therapist in your area who takes your insurance. And if you don't have insurance, there are other low-cost options to help improve your mental health.

Web-based therapy practices are popping up online. These operations have licensed counselors who can be reached by text or video chat any time, whenever you're feeling stressed. But if you're not ready to make that leap yet, talk through your feelings or emotions with a parent or close friend.

14. Start making scents

If you're spending more time at home, odds are you're finding things about your space that you'd like to change or update. A lot of that stuff can be expensive, time-consuming or impractical for an apartment. So, why not start small and update your home's olfactory oeuvre?

Get a scent diffuser, and start experimenting with different essential oils to brighten up your living room. Use lavender in your bedroom to help you fall asleep at night. Peppermint oil will perk you up during the day, so that's a perfect scent for your office or work area. Tea tree oil, eucalyptus and rosemary each have different soothing effects that can make your home more livable and can help alleviate stress.

15. Now you're cooking!

Six months into lockdown and the last thing you want to do is cook. But on one hand, you miss not being able to go out to restaurants. But on the other hand, you now have an opportunity to broaden your horizons and expand your recipe repertoire.

Picking up some new techniques or learning some new styles of cooking can reignite your love of being in the kitchen and will help break you out of your cooking rut. Learning how to make fresh pasta is not only a fun way to spend an afternoon, but then you get to eat it! With tomato sauce and meatballs, too, if you want.

16. Create a happy accident

This is a good one. Have a family art day with some inexpensive canvases and brushes and paints. There are hundreds of hours of episodes of “The Joy of Painting" on Netflix and YouTube to help you relax. In fact, it's so relaxing, you won't even need to paint along to enjoy yourself.

And even if you've never held a brush before in your life, the legendary Bob Ross will teach you there are no mistakes, only happy accidents. When your works of art are finished, find a spot in your home to showcase all of your work. You can turn your office into an art gallery of your work.

Create a gallery wall in a spare room or in the hallway to showcase your work. Or, do something fun with your guest bathroom and use it to showcase your artistic side. There are communities of people on Twitch and Reddit that do paint-alongs to Bob Ross.

If painting isn't your thing, or if you have young kids in the house and think paints are more trouble than they're worth, get yourself some colored pencils and coloring books (for kids and adults). There's a reason adult coloring books are popular.

17. Get a head start on spring cleaning

This is a great one because all those big tasks you've been putting off don't all have to get done at once. You can break up all those seemingly insurmountable jobs to one a week and still be able to reward yourself with an afternoon of bad reality TV. And we're not talking about vacuuming under the sofa.

Think more along the lines of cleaning the floorboards in your apartment and wiping all the collected dust off your blinds. You cleaned your bathroom? Great! Did you get that hard to reach spot behind the toilet? Probably not. And who could blame you? No one sees it, and it's super gross anyway. But those small tasks become much bigger tasks when you put them off.

Get your hand broom and dustpan and get all the dust out from under your refrigerator and stove. When you do the floors in your kitchen, do you have a habit of sweeping the gross stuff to the floor kick beneath your cabinets? That's an invitation for all kinds of bugs to come by for dinner. And even if you're spending more time alone at home, that doesn't mean you want insects letting themselves in every night to keep you company.

18. Learn something new

There are hundreds of online classes you can take right now to teach yourself some new skills, either for your job or to help prepare for a new career. Everything from programming and UX design to writing for business or even working toward your MBA.

Maybe your new skill set can be added to your resume to help yourself become more marketable when you're ready to look for a new job. Or, maybe you bought a super cheap guitar and you're teaching yourself chords so you can learn to play the theme song from "Psych" — hypothetically speaking, of course.

19. Flaunt your socks appeal

You know what's fun? Fun socks. You know what's even more fun and a surprisingly great relaxing activity? Making your own fun socks.

A quick trip to the art supply store and your nearest big-box retailer can help pass the time and help you channel your inner fashion designer. Pick up some plain white socks and things like glitter paint, markers and design your own fun socks! It's a fashion show for your feet.

20. Rise and grind

You're hearing a lot about side hustles and finding extra ways to make money during global downtime. And sure, there are lots of good reasons to try something new to get a little extra cash coming in. Having a little extra money never hurts. And since you have nothing but time, you can put that time to good use by picking up some part-time freelance work, like blog writing for a popular renter's lifestyle and living publication —again, hypothetically speaking.

Job hunting sites like LinkedIn and Indeed now feature a tab that specifically searches for full-time and freelance work-from-home jobs. If you're ready for a career change, start looking around casually. The time may be right for you. And if you find you have good days and bad, look for something that isn't quite as demanding but will still motivate you to work hard when you're feeling productive.

21. Celebrate Taco Tuesday!

Or Meatball Mondays or Cheeseburger Thursdays or Fondue Fridays or … Throw yourself a theme week of dinners. This not only gives you an opportunity to tackle that Sunday meal prep you've been thinking about, but it gives you something new to look forward to every single day.

Pat down and season a whole chicken to roast on Sunday, prep some homemade meatballs and freeze them to thaw for later in the week, get some fresh produce and cut it up for a delicious hot cheese dip. Pair each meal with a nice bottle of wine as a special treat for all the work you did to prepare for your delicious meal du jour.

The only question is how much chicken parm is too much chicken parm? The correct answer is there's no such thing as too much chicken parm.

22. Watch classic movies

When your friends start talking about their favorite classic movies, do you quietly sneak out of the conversation so you don't have to admit you've never seen them? Are you tired of hearing “What do you MEAN you've never seen _____?!"

Now, you can catch up on the sly and never have to admit you'd never seen "The Godfather: Part II" until just recently. If you want to go all the way with it, bookmark the American Film Institute's Top 100 Movies and work your way down the list. It's also a great way to introduce your kids to some of the greatest films ever made, including movies you wouldn't have otherwise thought of.

And if you're looking for something a little more family-friendly, AFI features lists of the greatest movie musicals, the best comedies ever made and the movies with the top heroes in cinematic history.

Take a deep breath and find your relaxing activities

Not every minute of every day needs to be planned. As we've all experienced by now, some days will be easier than others. The important thing will be to focus on yourself and those around you.

Relaxing activities will help fill the hours and pass the time, but you know when you're on solid ground and when you could use some help. We'll get through this. Even if it means eating pancakes in our pajamas while we watch "Casablanca." If that's the kind of sacrifice it takes to navigate this strange time and come out the other side, then that's what we're gonna do. And in the meantime, please pass the syrup.

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