DBT Skills for COVID-19, Part 4: Boredom

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken so many aspects of our lives. We are being forced to live our lives very differently right now and it makes sense that a lot of different intense emotions would come up. In this five-part series, I will discuss five of the most common ways I’ve seen COVID-19 shake people’s lives and the DBT skills that could be used to cope.

Part 4: Boredom

A teenage girl with a dark background sitting along with her hands to her cheeks with a look of boredom on her faceWell, at this point may of us have been under stay-at-home orders for a month or more.  Some people aren’t bothered to stay in their home for days at a time, but for others it’s pure hell.  When the eight episodes of Tiger King run out, you come face to face with… boredom.  Many humans cannot stand boredom.  When we’re bored, we eat, drink, drug, shop, game, gamble, smoke, oversleep, and lots of other things that are not helpful for us long-term.  Here I’ll discuss DBT skills that might help with boredom.

  • Pleasant Events

    Although you’re stuck in your house, there are many options for pleasant events.  Check out the pleasant events list in the DBT Handouts and Worksheets if you have it.  If you don’t, take stock of what you like to do.  Pleasant events could be as simple as reading a book, watching a movie or TV show, playing with your pet, listening to a playlist of your favorite genre or decade of music, or planning future outings for when we have more freedom.  Maybe you plan a fun date at home, spend time out in the sun, participate in a virtual meet-up with family or friends, take a walk, cook a nice meal, exercise with a live-stream or YouTube fitness class, take a bubble bath, or work on a puzzle.  Whatever you enjoy (that doesn’t interfere with your long-term goals!), spend time doing that.  Now is also a good time to try new things.

  • Distract

    A newspaper with a crossword puzzle, a pen, and eyeglasses on top of the newspaper used as a distraction to reduce boredom during covid 19If boredom is bringing up urges for you to do things that could be harmful or interfere with your long-term goals, you may want to try to distract yourself.  The essence of distraction is to get your mind off of what is bothering you; in this case, boredom.  You might distract with activities like the pleasant events mentioned above.  You could distract by contributing, or shifting your attention off yourself and onto someone else.  Examples of contributing might be making cloth masks to donate to people who need them, writing thank you letters to frontline workers during this COVID-19 pandemic, offering to shop for someone who is more vulnerable to COVID-19 complications, or dropping a thoughtful text or call to a friend.  You can also distract by comparing your situation to times when you’ve felt differently or people who are worse off than you.  Although this may seem harsh, sometimes it can help to realize that your situation might not be as bad as others’, especially when it comes to COVID-19.  You can try to create different emotions by watching a funny or scary movie, listening to music that creates strong pleasant emotions, or reading a book that pulls you in.  You can also distract with other thoughts, like doing sudoku or crossword puzzles or watching TV.  You can distract with sensations like going out in the rain or sun or taking a hot shower.  If you are really in crisis mode, you can push away or deny the problem for a bit by turning off the TV and any newsfeeds that talk about COVID-19.

  • Build Mastery

    Being stuck at home is the perfect time to work on building mastery in something you’ve been wanting to work on but haven’t had the time.  Want to learn a new language?  Build mastery with an app like Duolingo.  Want to learn how to play an instrument?  YouTube and Google have options for you.  Want to build mastery in keeping your house clean?  Now is the time to do that baseline clean!  Maybe you want to learn how to organize better, garden, cook, podcast, or get rid of things.  Now is the time!  Pick something challenging but not overwhelming and do your best to make some progress every day.  The sense of accomplishment you feel will help boost your mood.

  • Attend to Relationships

    An open laptop with FaceTime opened up to a smiling womanEven though you may be stuck in the house, you can still attend to relationships.  This is easiest with the people who live with you.  Maybe spend some extra time with your kids or pets, playing with them or teaching them something new.  Try to do something outside the norm with your significant other or family members to shake things up, like a game night or dance party (if that’s not typical for your home).  Humans also need social interaction outside the home, so be sure to find ways to connect with friends and loved ones outside the home either via phone or video chat.  There are all sorts of ways to connect with loved ones virtually, including FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Facebook messenger.  You can have a Netflix Party with your friends where you can all watch and discuss something on Netflix, use the Kast app to watch something together that’s not on Netflix, or Zoom while playing a game.  Check out Part 1 for tips on dealing with isolation during COVID-19.

  • Participate

    All of the skills above will be more effective if you mindfully participate in them.  Mindfully participating means that you are completely throwing yourself into the activity without worrying or judging.  You’re acting spontaneously and going with the flow. You become one with what you’re doing and focusing your full attention on it.

We’ve covered five ways to cope with boredom during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Boredom is super uncomfortable, and humans have a tendency to do whatever they can to get out of uncomfortable emotions.  I hope that the skills we’ve covered will provide you with adaptive ways to cope with boredom so that you can decrease the discomfort in a healthy way.

Want to learn more about DBT skills? Click here to learn about the DBT skills training groups we offer at the Cincinnati Center for DBT.  We offer online individual and group therapy if you need more individualized assistance in coping with this COVID-19 pandemic.

Be sure to read Part 1 to learn how to use DBT skills to cope with isolation and social distancing, Part 2 to learn how DBT skills can help you manage fear related to COVID-19, and Part 3 to learn how to cope with change related to COVID-19.

Check back soon for the last of this five-part series on using DBT skills to cope with COVID-19!