Keeping Busy During a Global Pandemic

Here we are, locked down again. It’s easy to cling on to the negatives, but I’m going to shelve that for now and focus on the positives. Under normal circumstances, any twentysomething would be focusing on their careers and partying hard, with their health possibly taking a back seat. However, during Covid-19 all of this came to a halt.

We now have more time to focus on ourselves and in many cases, our families. Like myself, a lot of us have moved back home to live with our parents and have given up our social lives – all for a good cause of course.

Zoom calls, zoom quizzes, zoom drinks, zoom parties, zoom everything – it has become boring to say the least and some of us may be getting tired of the usual “let’s go for a walk”.

So what have I been getting up to? I’ve recently started my Pilates journey, I’ve been taking creative writing classes, I’m finally learning how to cook and I get to spend more time with my dog, of course.

But not everyone has the same interests as me. I quickly learned this after speaking to some of my good friends to see how they’re coping.

I reached out to Pauraic who is an old schoolmate living in the same area as me. He is currently completing his master’s degree in the University of Limerick and is studying hard. The finish line is on the horizon for him, so I found out how he has been occupying his free time.

“I’ve been lucky that I’ve had a very busy master’s programme to keep me busy during the pandemic. However, in the early days, I found it very easy to spend hours at my laptop without a break, feeling guilty if I wasn’t giving my college workload my full attention.”

To survive the combined stress of college work and lockdown, he recently turned his attention to paint by numbers and mindfulness colouring books. “They really require you to focus and keep attention to detail, in a way that empties your mind and helps you to relax.”

Some of his creations. (Photograph supplied by Pauraic)

“My ideal study break is now finding a podcast (The Laughs of Your Life, and I’m Grand Mam are my two favourites) and painting or colouring for 30 or 40 minutes. A simple hobby that’s cheap, relaxing, and if you do a good job, you have a nice piece of art at the end.”

Another schoolmate of mine Jessica, now living in Dublin, found her calling with yoga. A simple exercise that suits all age groups and is quite relaxing for the mind and body.

“At the start of the first lockdown, after doing the whole isolation drinking binge, I tried getting into strength work-outs 3 times a week, and I also took up yoga.”

The yoga equipment. (Photograph supplied by Jessica)

She used to jog 3 times a week, but this came to a halt when she suffered a knee injury. This injury, combined with her job, meant Jessica found it difficult to keep up her fitness routine.

“I was working from home at the time so doing it all was a lot easier and I had the time, but during the summer I went back on site in work so the workouts took a hit, but I kept up yoga.”

“It’s a great thing to take up, keeps your body active and moving, to counter a desk job or just lying in bed.”

When I spoke to Niamh, one of my lovely work colleagues from Prosperous in Kildare, I noticed that like a lot of us, she’s making the most of her time at home with family.

“I cursed lockdown a lot but it has freed up a big chunk of my time and has allowed me to pursue some hobbies that I never had the chance to attempt pre-Covid.”

“Last year, I jumped on the baking bandwagon and perfected my banana bread recipe but also made birthday cakes for my family when their special days arrived.”

One of the birthday cake creations. (Photograph supplied by Niamh)

“The latest hobby has been cooking. My family and I have taken it upon ourselves to cook one meal each a week and as we are all naturally competitive people, we rate the food. We’ve had delicious food whilst having some fun.”

Niamh also managed to re-decorate her bedroom, forming a new love for painting and home décor.

“I also tackled my bedroom and threw all my energy in to DIY. I bought a big bucket of white paint and went overboard and made sure to get the value out of my buck by painting every blank surface.”

A great hobby taken up by Sean – another friend of mine from college who is based in Wellpark in Galway – was sea swimming. This is something I wouldn’t even dream of doing! However, it’s fascinating to read about the health benefits associated with it.

Apart from getting the perfect photo for Instagram, this activity has proven to be quite helpful with weight management, it boosts your immune system and improves your skin health.

“The impact of the restrictions placed on leisure centres, gyms and team sports are pretty clear. These measures impinged upon and took aspects of my regular routine away from me. Naturally, something else had to fill the gap so I took up open sea swimming which turned out to be a challenge, but a quite enjoyable one.”

So what did he do to prepare? Well, he bought a 4mm neoprene wetsuit and booties. “The wetsuit keeps you warm and makes you very buoyant. Sometimes you can be thrown from pillar to post when the water is choppy, but it is definitely most enjoyable when good weather and calm conditions are present.”

Sea swimming adventures. (Photograph supplied by Sean)

“Swimming in the open sea is a different kettle of fish (pardon the pun) when contrasted against heated swimming pools, so it is best to be prepared. It is a great form of exercise once you build up the confidence to do it. I would recommend it, give it a shot there are plenty of benefits to gain.”

I’ll fill you in now on the hobbies taken up by the elegant Evelyn, who is a mate of mine from Adare in Limerick. During lockdown, she began incorporating exercise, cooking and baking into her already busy schedule. She is currently completing her Primary Masters in Education with Hibernia College in Dublin, studying for almost 10 hours per day.

“Overall, through these lockdowns I’ve started exercising a lot more, normally doing long walks or 3 to 4 workouts a week.”

It’s evident that Evelyn has her routine down to a tee during the week – mixing exercise with college work. But, what has she done at the weekends with her spare time?

“I’ve started cooking and baking more which I normally wouldn’t have done, I’ve tried loads of new recipes and I am really enjoying it!”

Some yummy scones. (Photograph supplied by Evelyn)

I’m looking forward to that lovely home meal the next time we hang out!

I had an interesting chat with Gerry, a friend of mine and journalist from Balla in Mayo. He took up a hobby he never thought he would: cycling.

“Before Covid-19 and lockdowns, I was your stereotypical anti-cyclist. Hated seeing them on the road when I was driving, slowing me down as I went about my business. I felt it was the sport of the mid-life crisis and I often vowed that I would never be seen dead in the tight-cycling garments, particularly if I was supporting a few extra ‘tyres’! As a GAA player too, it just wasn’t cool either.

So what changed his mind? What made Gerry put on those tight-cycling clothes and begin his exciting new hobby?

“Truth be told during the first lockdown, and out or sheer boredom, I took the old fella’s bike out for a spin and surprised myself at how much I enjoyed it. The thrill of going fast down a hill or being out on the open road you get as a young lad never fades.”

His first day on the new bike participating in a charity cycle in August 2020, when Covid-19 restrictions allowed the event to take place. (Photograph supplied by Gerry).

Gerry now cycles once, if not twice, a week. He owns a new racing bike and has invested in the cycling gear he vowed never to wear before.

“I really enjoy the sport! Funny times.”

And last but not least, I chatted with my pal Erica who is a secondary school teacher from Westbury in Limerick. An avid gym-goer with unbelievable determination and motivation, she is trying to keep active as best she can now that gyms are closed. So what has she been doing to keep up her fitness levels?

“I have taken up daily workouts and walks to keep the mind and body busy. I find going for a walk in the morning gets you going for the day and motivates you to get more done in that day.”

A kettle bell used in her home workouts. (Photograph supplied by Erica)

While working from home and trying to keep her brain fit and active, Erica has set herself a personal goal. “I have also started reading 10 pages of a book per day as I want to start reading more.”

So there you have it, the positive side of being stuck indoors for a long period of time. Some of us have taken on new hobbies, while some of us have been focusing more on aspects of our lives that have been neglected. Whatever it is that you decide to do, try give it your all – who knows where it might lead you in life.

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