January 20, 2021

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5 Fun Things To Do When You Need a Break From Work

Clodagh Dooley shares the tops things she likes to do at home when she needs her mood lifted!

Intro

The hours can just roll into one when working from home. One thing I’ve even noticed is that if I sit at my laptop working for too long, I start developing headaches and my mood drops. Another thing about working from home is that the days can get repetitive. It’s good to have a routine which is similar to one you had before, of course. But that doesn’t mean you can’t spend a couple of hours doing something you wouldn’t normally do or may never have time to do. In fact, now is a good time to discover new hobbies or rekindle a love for old hobbies that have been forgotten. 

Research shows you’ll do better work if you take more downtime. The physical and mental benefits of taking some time away from work include improved sleep, a better headspace and increased creativity. So, with that in mind, I looked at some ways I could expand my mind, while also enjoying myself. 

I looked at activities everyone can do that: 

+ are free/or don’t cost too much money

+ are relaxing and fun

+ can help to stimulate creativity or learning

Here are my top five…

Learn new recipes

Being constantly on the go before lockdown, I always just cooked pretty much the same dinner every evening. From chicken, veg, and potatoes or pasta, to a simple stir-fry. And I often boldly grabbed convenience food when I really wasn’t in the mood to rustle up a nutritious meal. As well as always being in a rush, I was only cooking for myself when I was living in Dublin. This meant I just stuck with meals that needed limited ingredients, meals I could make up for one person. 

But now that I’m back in Offaly living with my family and have more time on my hands, I decided to get a bit more experimental at home with meals, cooking everything from scratch. I’m no Masterchef or anything, but I’ve been happy with how my creations like homemade lasagne, banana pancakes and scones have turned out. They’ve been well received by family members too! 

I follow a lot of different recipes from sites online, but I hate recipes that feature ingredients I never knew existed. My favourites are the SuperValu recipes on their site (supervalu.ie/real-food/recipe-finder) and the recipes on the Odlums site (odlums.ie/).

The SuperValu site has an incredible mix of recipes that have a reasonable cooking time and are easy to follow,. Not to mention, taste delicious. It’s where I got the lasagne recipe. Other recipes include main dishes like Sautéed Striploin Steak with Parmesan Sweet Potato Fries, and desserts like the No Bake S’mores Deep Pan Pie.

Odlums, on the other hand, feature all flour-based recipes, including bread, scones, pancakes and cupcakes. I know that flour is quite limited these days, but I find these recipes fun and easy to follow. It’s also a useful resource for baking simple scone or bread recipes with kids.

Finally, an account that is worth following on Instagram for her recipes, is Niamh O’Sullivan (@niamh_osullivan). Niamh is a digital creator/blogger and shares step-by-step recipe videos on her IGTV (Instagram video application). The final results are incredible! From Healthy Spice Bags and Loaded Nachos, to Cocoa Coffee Cake and Raspberry Oat Bars, the recipe videos will make you drool. Plus, the ingredients she uses are easy to find in supermarkets – you probably even have half of them in your cupboards. These are ideal recipes to make for garden get-togethers when restrictions start to ease.

I definitely won’t be returning to basic dinners after learning all these new, tasty recipes!

Join the TikTok revolution

Ok, I was sceptical about the video-sharing app, TikTok, at first. Another social media platform I do not need in my life, I told myself. Even after setting up an account and watching some videos on the app, I thought the whole concept was a little childish. I would never make a video on it. I was seeing hundreds of people doing the same TikTok dance routines over and over again. So I deleted the app from my phone. 

A week later, I saw a TikTok video someone had created about life in lockdown. The video was being shared around on Facebook, and it actually made me laugh out loud and gasp to myself ‘that’s so true!’. When I realised the video was made through TikTok, I re-downloaded the app and decided to give it a second chance. Within days, I found myself going back to the app and scrolling through all the videos, bypassing some dodgy or repetitive ones, and laughing wildly at the great ones. It was official, I was addicted. But the worst was yet to come!

The videos on TikTok can be hit and miss. One video might add no value to your life whatsoever, but you’ll come across some absolute gems which are very relatable to current situations and feelings. TikTok users like social media star Tadhg Fleming (@tadhgfleming) can instantly brighten up your day through funny content. And it’s times like this that you just need to have a laugh.   

People put so much effort into creating the content too. I know this because I tried creating videos. Yes, after saying that I definitely would not! But surprisingly, it can be fun to create videos. I love doing the impersonation videos. And the good thing about it is you don’t even have to make the videos public if you would prefer to keep them to yourself. However, if you create a quality video and you have it set to private, you may miss out on the opportunity to go viral! Chelsea Henchy (@chelsea_1302) from Co Offaly did an impersonation of Kevin Hart and it just blew up. The American stand-up comedian even shared it with his thousands of followers on Instagram

If you’re getting sick of seeing perfectly posed pictures on Instagram, then do check out TikTok. A lot of the videos are contrived, of course, but I think there’s just much more authenticity to what you’re seeing on TikTok. It’s more light-hearted and people don’t seem to care as much about how they look. It’s all just a bit of craic!

Get moving with Instagram workouts

Ok so a workout isn’t necessarily calming, but bear with me. 

If you told me before lockdown that I would be doing home workouts in a few weeks’ time and actually kind of enjoying them, I probably would have laughed in your face. But here we are – I even have my own workout mat now!

Not only is exercise good for the body, science says that it can boost endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in the body. I like to workout in the morning when possible, because then at least that’s some exercise done for the day. It also makes me feel a bit more alert. There’s even research that says morning exercise can shift your circadian rhythm, so that your body is naturally more alert in the morning and more tired in the evening. 

But there’s no point in doing a workout just because you feel you have to. It’s important to choose one you actually enjoy doing. If it feels less like a task, you’re more inclined to stick with it. I’m really loving fitness blogger and personal trainer Maeve Madden’s workout videos on Instagram at the moment (@maeve_madden). A friend recommended her to me and I started following her and taking part in her workouts last week. Maeve does a different workout live at 10:30am each day, focusing on a different area of the body. For example, Monday’s are ‘Lean Legs’ (which almost killed me!), Tuesday was HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and abs, and so on. What I like about her is that she brings a different kind of energy to her workouts. She’s a bubbly character and very motivating.

I’ve also seen a lot of people doing yoga on Instagram too. I’m going to start looking into that next week for something less energetic and more relaxing in the evening time. Some of the benefits of yoga include increased flexibility and studies have found that it may help improve spiritual wellbeing. So if anybody has any suggestions of good yoga videos to try out, feel free to send them my way!

Start a Goodreads challenge

There’s nothing I love more than curling up on the couch with a good book. I always read every night before going to sleep as a child and have fond memories of my mam reading to me. Then life got busy, and now books tend to get left aside, pages unread for months. Audio books are becoming popular for busy people. Personally, I think nothing beats having a physical book in front of me. 

Last year, I joined Goodreads (goodreads.com), the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. I signed up to their 2019 reading challenge, with the goal of reading at least one book a month. This, in fact, encouraged me to read more. There was a sense of satisfaction or achievement every time I had shelved a book I read, and begun a new one. The site tells you when you’re on track or if you’re a book behind reaching your goal. I found this motivating. You can also discover new books on Goodreads and add them to your ‘want to read’ list.

I would highly recommend joining Goodreads if you want to get back into reading books or even if you just want to start reading. I know a lot of people that say they don’t like reading. If you feel this is you, why not just give it a chance? There’s a genre and story out there for every interest, the same way there is for TV shows. 

And there are science-backed benefits of reading a book. Reading a book can change how we think about the world and we can learn new things from stories. Research also suggests that reading can work as a serious stress-buster. Get lost in a good book for an hour or two and I bet you will want to read more!

Paint a picture

I adored art when I was a young one. So much so that I considered doing an art course in college before I decided on media. I was given a small easel set a few years back as a Christmas gift which I never used. So the other day I decided to take it down from the attic and started painting. And it was such an amazing experience.

There’s something about painting which feels so therapeutic. Art has even been proven to be a mood-enhancing experience. It can activate the release of pleasure-related neurotransmitters in the brain.

For my paintings, I just Googled some nature images and started painting ones I liked. But you can think outside the box with this. You could set up a painting area outside on a sunny day and start painting the views around you. Think the scene from the film The Notebook, where Allie paints on a porch! Or, who remembers artist and presenter Don Conroy? I was obsessed with his ‘Draw with Don’ show as a child. Well, Don’s back and now has a YouTube channel of the same name. Check him out on Instagram (@donconroyartist).

Or, host a virtual Paint and Prosecco class with friends. Paint and Prosecco Dublin have home kits online to get you started (paintandprosecco.ie/product-category/home-kits/). They range from €30 to €37 and include paint, brushes and canvas. You can also invest in easels and paint supplies from sites online like artnhobby.ie.

Verdict

As well as doing these activities above, I try to fit in at least 20 minutes of journaling a day. I’m currently doing an excellent free writing course online, ran by my good friend and colleague, editor Kevin Flanagan. It’s called WRITE YOUR LIFE and during the sessions, Kevin has been teaching us a lot about the importance of expressive writing – putting your thoughts and feelings into words on paper. Keeping a journal or gratitude diary can be a powerful way to enhance overall wellbeing. I’ve definitely felt a sense of release and gratification by doing this. Email Kevin@becreative if you want to get involved in the writing community!

It’s easy to feel guilty if you’re doing anything other than work or cleaning at home. I’ve often felt like I’m not being productive if I’m not doing any work. But I am being productive by doing the activities I’ve listed above. I’ve definitely learned a lot during lockdown by doing them, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like it. And I’ve enjoyed the processes!

It’s important to do what makes you happy during this difficult time, and not just do something to make yourself feel more productive either though. If you want to light a candle, put on a face mask and simply lie down on your bed for an hour or two, then do that. Every day is a different day and these things to do are just suggestions of ways you can add some variety into your day. Do let me know what you think of them.

We also did a list of the Top 5 Things to do with Kids at Home, read it by clicking here

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