Only a few weeks into this coronavirus crazy, already some of us are starting to feel some cabin fever and boredom.
A friend of mine said social distancing had made her hit an emotional wall. People are posting online about feeling anxiety, cooped-up, bored and irritable.
In this post, we’re going to learn about three things:
- How to tolerate difficult emotions like boredom
- How to be kind to ourselves when boredom arises
- Something to try the next time you’re bored
How to tolerate difficult emotions
The problem with boredom is not boredom as such, it’s the perception that we have of it—our judgment of it being a bad thing.
Like most things in life! I heard a quote once that went something like this…
When we pay attention to bordem, it gets suprisingly interesting.
And, being the humans that we are, when we deem something is bad, we want to get rid of it right away.
First of all, let’s look at our assumption that boredom is a bad thing. While it may not feel good, research has shown that boredom can enhance our creativity. Being uninterested in what’s going on around us pushes us inward to dream up ideas and activities that are inventive and stimulating.
Think back to when you were a kid. How many times did you say “Mum I’m bored!”? And then how many times did you find something to do that cured the boredom?
We can use that same process as adults if we become more comfortable with boredom.
Which brings me to the next point.
When we look at the feeling of boredom as a bad thing, we get hooked into trying to get rid of it. Just as trying not to think about something makes us think about it even more. So trying to get rid of emotion hooks you into it more.
Of course, we can’t get rid of our emotions. I’m sure you’ve tried, as we all have. Boredom? Get rid of it. Irritation? Boot it. Anger? Kick it to the curb.
And we need all of our emotions, even the ones we don’t like. We need sadness as well as joy to navigate successfully through life.
Okay, so we can’t get rid of boredom or any other painful emotion. What do we do then?
We learn to tolerate discomfort. We learn to accept* our own experience.
*Important note on acceptance: Just because we accept something doesn’t mean we have to like it. We can accept something and not like it at the same time.
When you’re feeling boredom or any other difficult emotion, be mindful of it. Notice that it’s there and then don’t judge it. So, instead of saying, “I’m bored and it sucks it needs to go,” merely say, “I notice I’m feeling bored and that’s neither good or bad, right or wrong.”
When we hold an emotion lightly like this, we don’t get hooked into it. It’s almost as if the emotion is on a cloud that we’re letting float back and forth. The emotion is the cloud and we’re the sky, just allowing the clouds to do what they will.
How to be kind to ourselves
Now that we’re allowing boredom to be there without judging it or having to do anything about it, let’s bring out another tool: self-compassion. Because even though we’re not struggling with the emotion, feeling it is still hard!
Sometimes when we’re feeling bored, it’s easy to say, “There must be something wrong with me, I shouldn’t feel this way.”
Would you say this to a friend who said she was experiencing boredom? Probably not. Rather, you might say, “I know, boredom is really hard to tolerate, isn’t it?” And pre- and post-pandemic, you’d give her a hug.
In the same way, you can be kind to yourself about what you’re experiencing. I always ask my clients about their mind talk: “Would you say that to your mum/sister/best friend?”
An action step
Finally, here’s something you can actually do when you’re bored: Remind yourself of your values.
Is connecting with people one of your values? Hop onto a video platform and have a chat with someone you care about.
Is lifelong learning a value for you? Go to one of the many free educational platforms and take a class. (Google “free online courses.”)
When I found myself with extra time and feeling rather bored and unsure of what to do, I reminded myself that helping people is one of my top values. Hence, I am writing this which hopefully is helpful during this time especially.
Values are like the anchor that holds us and the compass that guides us. We just need to ask ourselves, “What’s important to me?” and move in that direction.
I’m sure we can all agree that boredom is no fun. And with most of us stuck at home, we have a great opportunity to learn how to manage it!
In a nutshell: let it be, be kind to yourself, and remember what’s important to you.
What are some of the ways you’ve dealt with boredom? I’d love to hear them in the comment section below.