Social distancing doesn't have to doom your weekends. We have ideas
(CNN) -- The novel coronavirus pandemic is upending our way of life. That includes our beloved weekends.
To prevent its spread, public health officials agree: Social distancing has become essential. That means we should limit our contact with people and avoid groups.
But social distancing doesn't mean your weekend is doomed. You just have to get a little creative.
"It may seem harsh to take these steps sometimes, but really what we're doing is protecting [vulnerable] people from becoming seriously ill," said Crystal Watson with the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "We can affect how this outbreak unfolds by taking these measures."
Here are some ideas of how to still make the most of your weekends:
For the cultural connoisseur
Your favorite museum may be closed. The mall is a ghost town. And movie theaters are shutting down -- plus, sitting within close proximity of other people in seats that aren't disinfected is a bad idea even for young, healthy people, Watson says.
No matter. Now is the time to binge all the culture you've dreamed of having enough time to consume.
Read everything. You always say you'll find the time to read more. Now is that time. You may not feel comfortable visiting libraries and bookstores, so download a bunch of e-books and audiobooks instead. Drag your friends into your literary abyss and create a virtual book club and video call each other to discuss.
If you're not sure which books to tackle first, consult with the New York Times Best Sellers list: New this week are Hilary Mantel's "The Mirror & the Light," the third entry in the Wolf Hall historical fiction series, and "Journey of the Pharaohs," the 17th book in the late Clive Cussler's Numa Files adventure series.
Celeste Ng's "Little Fires Everywhere" is a timely read -- a miniseries adaptation of the domestic drama recently premiered on Hulu. And if social distancing has amped up your anxiety, consider "First, We Make the Beast Beautiful," a nonfiction book about anxiety disorder from Sarah Wilson that'll soothe your soul.
Take a virtual museum tour. Miss the echoing halls and self-guided audio tours? Many museums offer a similar experience on your smart phone. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the Guggenheim Museum are only two of the diverse bunch that host online tours. Want to explore overseas? Google Arts & Culture has a collection of virtual walk-throughs for dozens of international museums, from Paris to New Delhi.
Pursue amateur film criticism. Social media was made for shouting your raw opinions into the void. Now that we're all stuck in that void, maybe someone will hear you. Write reviews on Facebook or Twitter. To exchange recommendations with your fellow cinephiles, join a site like Letterboxd, a social networking service for film geeks.
There's a ton to watch now: Disney+ released "Frozen II" and "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker." Universal will let fans pay $20 to watch films still in theaters, like "The Invisible Man" and "Emma." And isn't it finally time you watch "Parasite"?
Learn a language -- or just the basics. Learning a few phrases in another tongue will make you feel smart. Or inteligente. Or ????. Or erevu. Don't know Spanish, Japanese or Swahili yet? Get to studying.
Websites like Open Culture provide free lessons in foreign languages.
Bolster your vocabulary. Remember when reading the dictionary was a form of punishment? No longer. Flip through a thesaurus or take online quizzes to test your vocabulary, and gradually intumesce your personal lexicon and chevvy your kin with your verbosity.
Just in time! Merriam-Webster Dictionary is tweeting out "beautiful, obscure and quite useless" words while we're all plumbing the depths of social media. Haven't you been aching to throw out the word "filipendulous" during your next conference call?
For the nature buff
Surprise! Social distancing doesn't require you to become a shut-in.
Be in nature. It's your best bet of getting out of the house and keeping 6 feet of distance from other people, Watson says. Find an area where you won't encounter crowds. Breathe fresh air. Notice things about the world around you that you didn't see before.
If you live near a national park (lucky you!), now's a great time to visit. Parks that have remained open have waived all entry fees.
Start birdwatching. Coronavirus hasn't bothered the birds. Find out what species nest near you, dust off your binoculars if you've got 'em and download a birdwatching map. Sit in your backyard or near a window. You'll be surprised by how many you notice when you really look.
Audobon has an app to help you start birding based on your location. Let the offline tweeting begin.
Go on a secluded run. Yep, you can still exercise -- as long as you keep your distance from others. Keep your immune system strong and clear your mind.
For the foodie
You need not give up your love for all things gourmet.
Get takeout. A lot of independent restaurants are hurting right now. Support them by eating their food. Many restaurants are switching to takeout to keep their businesses afloat. CNN affiliate KABC reported takeout service Grubhub will stop collecting commission of up to $100 million to support independent restaurants that use their service. Just make sure you limit your contact with the delivery driver (though be polite) and wash your hands.
Make that recipe. It's been sitting among your bookmarked web pages -- and in the hungry corner of your brain -- for weeks. It's a challenge. It'll test you. But it'll taste damn good. It's time to make that difficult dessert or that day-long roast. You have all weekend to master and devour it.
Make them along with your favorite chefs. Check out Publix's online cooking classes or model meals after the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen squad -- then take comfort in knowing that they, too, are cooking from home for now.
Find new recipes. Read your cookbooks and pore over every culinary site on the internet. You've got the time, after all.
For the self-care folks
Your mental health is precious, especially during periods of social isolation. Take care of yourself and connect with your loved ones, Watson says.
Video chat. A lot. If you are alone, you don't need to feel alone. Juice your cellular data for all it's worth and video call the people you love.
Download Zoom, a video conferencing web app that lets you talk with multiple people at once. Host an Instagram Live session and chat with your adoring fans -- or chat with celebrities who host their own.
Meditate. Life is slowing down for a bit. Emptying your mind and centering your awareness no longer feels impossible -- and it may help you relax.
Nap. Why not?
You're sick of pacing up and down your home or watching the wallpaper. Keep your hands and brain busy.
Bring out the board games. Clue. The Game of Life. Scrabble. The classics are just as fun as you remember. Bask in the nostalgia. Get competitive.
Tackle a ginormous puzzle. It's gotta be challenging enough to keep you occupied, but not so challenging that it threatens to drive you mad.
Make art. Whether it's a page out of a coloring book or paint-by-numbers masterpiece, a knitted scarf or a piece of pottery, creating will ease your mind and keep your fingers nimble.
Do the tough stuff. If you've been putting off your taxes (now you have until July!) or completing that dreaded report, do it now and get it over with. Sorry.
Get handy. If something needs fixing around the house, whip out your toolkit and get to work. There's something about building that fills you with purpose.
For the sports fan
No sports -- now what? The season suspensions are tough, especially because they extend to nearly every televised and live sporting event under the sun.
Become an expert. Read up on your sport so that when your team starts playing again, you'll have even greater insight into the game. Bill Nowlin, who sits on the board of directors for the Society for American Baseball Research, told CNN his love of the game has been enhanced by a deeper understanding of the game.
Show your team some love. Your favorite players are likely as disappointed as you are that their season is on hold. Tweet them a positive message or send them a photo of you wearing team gear in solidarity. Better yet, support a charity that your favorite player loves -- that may mean more to them than anything.
Revisit an old game. You know the one -- the game you watched from your dad's shoulders years ago when the crowd felt electric. The game you watched on pins and needles until your team pulled a last-minute victory. The game that made you fall in love with the sport. If you have a subscription to a sport-specific streaming service, check if they have your favorite game. If not, YouTube has clips of a surprisingly large collection of games. Gregory Ramshaw, an associate professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management at Clemson University, told CNN he plans to spend the hiatus this way.
Watch sports docs. Sports documentaries provide helpful context about games of the past and present -- and more often than not, they're more emotionally challenging than a Pixar film. Grab the tissues and turn one on.
Or celebrate the return of ESPN8: The Ocho, the channel for sports-like cup stacking and robot fighting. The temp channel will take over ESPN 2 on Sunday.
Perhaps most important: Don't panic. Things could change quickly, Watson says, and guidelines for what we can and cannot do could get stricter as the outbreak spreads.
Protect your health and continue connecting with family and friends virtually if necessary. Weekends may look different for a while. Get through them together.
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