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20 ways to keep busy if you need to quarantine due to travel or exposure

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So, it happened. You’ve landed in a two-week quarantine, and now there’s nothing to do but wait it out. This is a bummer no matter how you slice it, but on the bright side, you are doing the responsible thing—and we’re here to help you get through the next 10-14 days!

Whether you’re stuck in a three-story house or in a 6’x6’ bedroom, we’ve got activities to get you through your quarantine. Here are 20 great ideas for what to do during quarantine. 

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1. Get flexible

Lululemon yoga mats will actually cushion you.

You know I had to say it. But listen, there’s a reason yoga is such a popular lockdown activity—it’s a way of getting rid of all that pent up quarantine energy that you can do in any amount of space. Since yoga can be gently restorative or intensely challenging, it’s totally suitable for those of us who responded to lockdown by spending as much time as possible watching Netflix.

I’ve been doing fifteen minutes of yoga before I start my day in the morning, and even those quick sessions make a serious difference in how happy and alert I feel. If you decide to shake off the quarantine sluggishness by perfecting your downward dog, check out our favorite yoga mat that we found perfectly grippy, cushioned, and nicely portable.

Get the Lululemon The Reversible Mat 5mm for $78

2. Read new books

Book of the Month also makes a great gift for the book lover in your life.

The Goodreads stats are undeniable—I’ve read more in 2020 than I have in years, and lots of people are doing the same thing. Most of the time, my brain is buzzing with things I need to do and places I need to be, but if there’s a silver lining to quarantine, it’s that it forces you to slow down. Take that time to nurture your attention span and settle in with a good book.

I can’t hype Libby—an app that connects with local libraries to instantly lend out ebooks and audiobooks—enough, but if you’re strictly an ink-and-paper kind of person, why not try something new? Book of the Month sends out a curated selection of new novels each month, just ahead of their publication dates, and fans say the picks are fantastic.

Join Book of the Month for $14.99/month

3. Learn a new language

Babbel's easy to follow program makes it a great choice for new learners.

Language learning is another fantastic way to keep your brain active, no matter what kind of limitations you have on space. We’ve enjoyed trying out language programs like MondlyPimselur—and, most recently, Babbel. For quarantine learning, we think that the intuitive, accessible, and affordable Babbel program is a great bet. 

In our test of Babbel, we found the program fun and engaging, and the interface refreshingly easy to follow. Best of all, at $12.95 a month it’s much more affordable than many language learning options, so it’s no big deal if you find out conversational Russian actually isn’t for you.

Try Babbel starting at $12.95 / month

4. Find your calm

You don't need anything to start meditating, but a little guidance never hurt.

As much as I wish quarantine felt like a vacation, there’s no denying these are stressful times. Why not take some of the time you’ve dedicated to lying around feeling anxious and use it to practice lying around feeling peaceful instead? I know meditation can be a tough sell, but take it from me—as a notoriously fidgety person who only started meditating recently, I’ve been amazed by how learnable it is. Maybe this is obvious—it’s a skill like any other—but honestly, I still can’t believe I’ve managed to sit still and calm for more than a minute at a time.

The Headspace app has been a really helpful resource for me. You definitely don’t need an app to start practicing, but if you’re like me and get a little intimidated by the activity, having a library of high quality guided exercises can be a really nice place to start.

Subscribe to Headspace for $12.99/month

5. Get crafty

Tactile tasks like crocheting are fun, accessible, and great for your brain.

I’ve been inspired by talented friends to try my hand at crocheting recently, with the hope that by Christmas, I’ll have plenty of projects to dole out as gifts. I love the process of making something with my hands—especially something that doesn’t take that much time. Already know how to crochet? How about knitting, or embroidery, or even sewing your own clothes? This kind of craft isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re like me, it might be just the right balance of tactile and mental engagement to keep you content through your unexpected 2020 binge-watch of Supernatural. This set of crochet hooks has everything you need but yarn.

Get the BCMRUN Crochet Hooks Set 14 from Amazon for $9.99

6. Learn a new skill

Logging onto Skillshare wakes up a level of curiosity about the world I've barely felt since March.

I strongly believe that no one is under any obligation to do anything in quarantine except get through it—but if you have a restless mind and a tendency toward boredom, it’ll probably feel good to dive into a tangible, rewarding challenge. I’ve used Skillshare recently to brush up my video editing skills, and I feel like a kid in a candy shop every time I open the website. It makes me wish I had days to spend exploring classes on drawing, photo editing, and creative writing—and if you’re stuck in quarantine, maybe you do!

Sign up for a free two-week trial of Skillshare

7. Bring back snail mail

Buy a set of cards, or make your own!

Getting sick of staring at a screen all day, but still want to connect with your loved ones? There’s nothing that feels more special than receiving a piece of snail mail. I love channeling my inner child and covering letters with doodles and stickers, or getting excited about pretty stationery. You’ll make your friends’ day, and your letters can serve as a (slightly dramatic) log of your time in isolation. Check out this cute variety pack of greeting cards from Hallmark to get you started.

Get the Botanical Social Stationery set from Rifle Paper Co. for $22

8. Try an emotionally compelling video game

Ask any of my friends—I am obsessed with this game.

I’ll be honest with you—before the pandemic, I had never played through a full video game in my life. Maybe I’ll lose credibility with some of you for admitting that, but hey—if you’re a big gamer, I’m sure you don’t need this recommendation from me. This one goes out to my newbie gamers who have just been waiting for the right time to play, without any annoying spectators shouting advice from the sidelines.

I recommend Night In The Woods for a fun, spooky, atmospheric game that you’ll be able to enjoy even if you (like me) are hopeless when it comes to virtual combat. It’s beautifully animated, and it made me cry multiple times in the best way.

Get Night in the Woods from Itchi.o for $19.99

9. Settle down with a 1000-piece puzzle

I love this arboretum themed puzzle, but Barnes & Noble has options for pretty much anyone.

Am I getting old, or have puzzles been getting more fun lately? I owe this one to an old roommate, who used to put on music, pour everyone a glass of wine, and facilitate a night of hanging out and chatting around a puzzle. Nowadays, doing a puzzle while listening to a paranormal podcast is basically my ideal way to wind down. It’s the perfect tactile activity that doesn’t require too much conscious attention, so you can dive into your new audiobook without distraction.

Get the Cavallini & Co Arboretum 1,000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle from Barnes & Noble for $22 

10. Learn anatomy and get drawing

These pencils of varying softness are perfect for artists of any skill level.

Drawing is one of my all-time favorite ways to spend my alone time. I’m not a good artist, but the beautiful thing is that I don’t feel like I need to be. Who’s looking? You can fill pages upon pages with studies of the cast of Days of our Lives and no one will be the wiser. For anatomy practice, I love the Quickposes library, which prompts you to get comfortable quickly capturing a pose. You really don’t need much to get started drawing, but this set of classic graphite artists’ pencils are definitely a worthwhile investment.

Get the Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils from Joann for $29.99

11. Organize your desk

Clearing your space is one of the quickest ways to clear your mind.

If your workspace is anything like mine, this activity alone could last about two weeks. My desk is basically the dumping ground of my living room—books, papers, instruments, and gadgets without homes all wind up there. I’ve been slowly but surely making this space a little less of a disaster zone, installing shelves and recycling papers that I don’t actually need. There is nothing more satisfying than an organized workspace, and that is a gift you can absolutely give yourself this year. This simple wall filing system will get all your miscellaneous papers off of your desk and out of the way.

Get the SimpleHouseware Mesh Desk Organizer from Amazon for $24.97

12. Become the next chess master

Marble, wood, plastic - you don't need a fancy board to be a great player.

Been binging The Queen’s Gambit? Become the Beth Harmon you wish to see in the world. There’s a wealth of information online to teach you chess strategies, strong opening moves, and how to predict your opponent’s movements—all you have to bring is your curious mind and time. This is an activity that will keep your brain engaged when it’s most in danger of melting out your ears, and will give you the opportunity to flex on your friends for the rest of your life. 

Get the Chess Armory 15″ Wooden Chess Set from Amazon for $28.99

13. Master the perfect cappuccino

Put on some lo fi beats and it's almost like you're in your neighborhood cafe.

If you’re lucky enough to be quarantined in a space that includes a kitchen, a whole new range of possibilities opens up to you. I’ll spare you the suggestions to nail a perfect loaf of bread or braise meat for hours—but how about branching out with your morning coffee? An espresso machine is definitely an investment, but it might be worth it if you’re constantly yearning for your local cafe. Our favorite affordable espresso machine is the Gaggia Classic Pro, which pulls consistently smooth and delicious shots of espresso with just a little bit of a learning curve.

Get the Gaggia Classic Pro from Amazon for $449

14. Play games with friends near and far

There's a reason this is the main way I virtually hang out with my friends.

It’s pretty tricky to come up with virtual social activities that are actually fun and satisfying. I’ve tried watching movies with friends over Zoom (thumbs down), attending virtual happy hours (two big thumbs down), and holding online coworking dates (you get the idea). Instead of trying to make normally in-person activities work over the internet, I’ve had much more success with activities that are meant to be virtual.

My favorite example is Jackbox—a collection of clever, lightweight games that you can play with your friends over any distance, and that, most importantly, are actually fun. My personal favorite is Drawful, a riff on Pictionary, but Jackbox offers loads of quick-to-learn games that facilitate some serious virtual bonding time.

Get the Jackbox Party Pack from Jackbox for $12.49

15. Call your grandma

It's nice to have a smart speaker on hand for music, but my favorite feature is being able to take phone calls away from a screen.

So, you’re stuck inside with no one to see and almost nothing to do. Face it, you’re out of excuses—it’s time to call your family. Make it your mission to call every member of the extended family (or every long lost friend) who you haven’t spoken to all year. You’ll likely be glad you did, and you’ll be getting in their good books right before Christmas. Sick of being glued to your phone? It might be time to consider making your calls over a smart speaker. Our very favorite is the Bose Home Speaker, which won us over with its volume and versatility.

Get the Bose Home Speaker 300 from Amazon for $199

16. Start your home garden

This tiny herb garden will stay green all winter.

It’s getting colder outside and you’re stuck to the couch, but that doesn’t mean you have to bid farewell to greenery. Caring for another living thing can feel incredibly grounding, which is a lifesaver when you’re lacking the motivation to rise from your bed in the morning. This countertop home garden kit will give you a project for lockdown that will keep on giving once the two weeks are up. We have a whole guide to products that will help you grow herbs at home, but for a kit that will work even if you can’t offer the little seedlings a drop of natural light, check out this nifty smart garden.

Get the Click & Grow Smart Garden 3 for $74.95

17. Get some culture with the Met

If you're new to opera, streaming at home with subtitles and HD close ups is almost better than seeing it in person.

You might have heard that the Metropolitan Opera has been streaming encore performances of their Live in HD series through the pandemic—but have you actually sat down and watched one? Watching a three-hour opera alone might sound intimidating, but this is a really cool, totally free chance to soak up some culture that often feels inaccessible. Each opera is available to be streamed for 23 hours, so you can get comfortable with a glass of wine and a jaw-dropping performance pretty much any time of day. I promise, the sets alone will make it worth your while. Plus, one major benefit of streaming opera—subtitles!

Stream the Metropolitan Opera encore performances for free

18. Connect with others through a good cause

Reaching out with an act of kindness is the best remedy for isolation blues.

Yes, it sucks to miss out on movie theaters and restaurants and hanging with friends, but I’d argue these are all symptoms of the most difficult thing about quarantine—the loss of basic human connection. I’m not going to say that any one activity can fix that, but there are definitely ways to make that particular ache more manageable. Here’s one way to deal with this, that will also use up some of that plentiful quarantine time and bring cheer into a stranger’s life—write a card to someone who will appreciate it. Cards for Hospitalized Kids and Cardz for Kidz are both nonprofits that collect cards from volunteers and send them along to hospitalized kids and seniors. It’s an act of kindness that will remind you of life outside your living room.

19. Stream something no one else wants to watch

If you're a classic film fan, check out the Criterion Channel—horror fans like me, I'll see you on Shudder.

I’m a horror movie buff. You’d think that my genuine passion for jump scares would have rubbed off on my loved ones by now… but no such luck. If I want to get my fill of practical effects and bright red corn syrup, I have to do that on my own time—and what is quarantine if not time to yourself! Even if you don’t share my tastes, I’m sure you’ve got some movies or TV shows that fill you with a totally private, unshared enthusiasm. If you’re waiting to binge-watch something, start now. Fan of the classics? Spend some time exploring the Criterion Channel. There’s never been a better time to sink three hours into Seven Samurai.

Subscribe to the Criterion Channel for $10.99/month

20. Connect with someone who has a skill that makes you jealous

It's time to get over phone shyness once and for all.

Yes, this might sound like I’m giving you a nightmare homework assignment, but hear me out—getting on the phone to talk about the cool stuff someone else has been doing can be amazingly rewarding. We all have skills, jobs, or hobbies that make us light up with envy (if you don’t, don’t tell me), and this is the ideal time to start translating that envy into attainable goals. You don’t need to accomplish anything right now, but if you’ve been carrying a torch for a skill or a piece of professional expertise that feels just out of reach, you’ll thank yourself for taking this downtime to finally think it through. Always wanted to get into long-distance swimming, or graphic design, or community theater? Thinking about a career change or a new gig? Ask around, post on Facebook, and get yourself on the phone with someone who has the know-how.

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