Although the holy book of psychology has yet to name a disorder specifically caused by the sheer boredom of doing nothing, it is only a matter of time before the very first research on this disorder will be conducted, possibly, right here in this country.
With the growing number of hartals, oborodhs and other threats to safety, more and more people are stuck at home. And what do they do within the confines of their own walls? They watch the news day and night (possibly because they’ve watched every movie and every TV show including the re-runs) where they see destruction and chaos happening right outside their homes. When the news is overwhelming, they think (obsessively) about piling office work, school work, failing businesses, failing relationships that have now become long distance. The list is endless.
And this results in sky-high stress levels. Stress can have severe physical effects such as rising blood pressure, increased heart rate, blocked blood flow and reduced stomach activity. Emotional changes follow, and these include anxiety, fear, frustration, anger and in the long run, depression. Those with heart disease or cancer may find their conditions worsening due to increased stress.
On a behavioural level, excruciating boredom can lead to psychological disorders such as lack of impulse control (for example obsessive compulsive disorder). This can lead to overeating, binge eating, drug abuse and alcohol abuse for some. Others may adopt ritualistic behaviours such as repeated cleaning, washing and organising. Boredom in some studies has also been associated with mortality, so in rare cases, you can literally be bored to death.
Family ties and close relationships are also negatively affected when subjected to the same company in a confined space day in and out. The resulting strain and ill feeling may be a major contributor to stress. If one lives alone, home becomes like a solitary confinement cell in prison, and this can also cause stress, sleeplessness, insecurity and the anxiety of being trapped alone with one’s thoughts.
So what could be the solution? Keep busy. Do as much work as possible from home. Read the news but don’t obsess over it. Listening to music can help de-stress, so taking a few hours off each day to listen to music is helpful. Make lists of things that need doing but you never get around to because of your hectic schedule and start doing them. Take naps. Reading a good book always helps take your mind off your surroundings. Try not to get into heated political debates or into discussing the future of the country with your fellow inmates, err… I mean housemates. Send out long overdue emails, get in touch with people. Try your hand at cooking — it’s a major de-stressor. Exercise, take a walk around your house or the rooftop (if possible). If you cannot sleep, don’t take sleeping pills or lie around focusing on depressing thoughts. Get up, walk around, do something to tire yourself out and then try again. Eat healthy; eating junk will only make you feel worse. Take care of yourself, wash your hair, give yourself a manicure and pedicure, put on a facemask and try to relax. Start a blog about how to keep sane in a lockdown situation. Plan a vacation. Heck, go somewhere out of the country if you can afford it. If you have nothing else to do, stalk people on Facebook; at least it kills time.
It is important to stay focused on the positives, appreciate that you are safe in your home and not inside a burning bus. Keep reminding yourself that you’ve been through worse, and that this too, will pass.
Anika Hossain is a reporter for the Features section of The Daily Star. She believes she can relate to those with mental health issues as she has worked as a residential counsellor in an asylum a few years ago.