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Coping with COVID Boredom

by Dan Madden, O.S.A.

A recent Sunday NYTimes Review article ponders whether the lockdown-induced frustration and under-stimulated, restless energy in the absence of activity might simply be boredom, and not, as some suggest, depression. Clinical depression, of course, needs to be treated seriously and in a different manner. Lockdown boredom looks more like anxiousness.

So what does general, Covid-related boredom signify? 

As the author argues, a consumer culture effectively offers various outlets to serve as an escape from boredom. Take away our activities, positions, and social events, and we are left, starkly, with ourselves, which, we are coming to realize, causes anxiousness.

For the first time we have to face up to ourselves, without the distraction of activity (though there is always something to watch or scroll through) that had, pre-pandemic, provided meaning for our now on-the-couch lives. We are finding that the longer the pandemic continues, the more we feel the frustration and anxiety for purposeful activity.

The author names this longing and stirring energy in the midst of inactivity as restless desire. And he suggests it’s a good thing, for it presents an opportunity for self-reflection, a chance to listen to what is happening in the heart:

  • Am I doing what I am supposed to be doing in my life?
  • Is there anything missing in how I’ve been living my life thus far?
  • What do I feel myself being drawn to, and am I being called to make a change?

Framing it this way, restlessness, instead of a symptom of boredom to be numbed, is a deeply human, and therefore spiritual, element of who we are. So, instead of seeking ways to escape boredom, it becomes a means of embracing our inherent restless desire, which, as St. Augustine expresses, ultimately finds rest in relationship with the God who created us restless so that we long for him (The Confessions 1, 1).

Editors Note:  To learn more about restlessness and the Augustinian way of life, click here.
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