The Role of Play During Isolation

The Role of Play During Isoloation in Westmoreland County PA
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I think it’s time to play 

During this global pandemic, the world has been in some state of lockdown for weeks, sometimes months now, meaning many struggling with addiction are again living with families full-time. It’s scary enough to not know how or when we might regain some semblance of normal life during this pandemic; add an addict in need of a fix to the mix and many of us are worrying ourselves into heightened states of anxiety, depression, or worse. 

So how do we escape when there is literally no escape? 

The standard advice about exercise, getting enough rest, and eating well is sound, and we should all be practicing physical self-care. But what about mental self-care? Free meditation apps can help those disciplined enough to start a daily meditation practice, but if you’re like me, your racing mind may need something different—read, more intense—to provide the breaks necessary to maintain mental health. When living with the stress of addiction as well as the current global crisis, we need to give our brains a mental vacation. But how? 

Do you remember as a child, when you would be playing—doing something you loved—and time would just melt away? As kids, we immerse ourselves in joyful experiences, losing our worries in play. As adults, we believe we should put away play. After all, we have more important things to think about, right?  

Well now, more than ever, we need to lose ourselves in some version of play. Play allows us to focus on something enjoyable that absorbs us, turning the mind away from focusing on fear. Our options may be limited (my ideal version of play involves a trip to Disney World), but there are ways to introduce play into our days that will relieve our worry; at least temporarily.

Do you have a puzzle hidden in a closet? Jigsaw puzzles are just one example of an absorbing task that engages both left and right brain functions. Puzzles can improve your problem-solving skills and short-term memory, among other benefits. Getting lost in a good puzzle (or crossword, or Sudoku) lets your subconscious continue to work on challenges under the radar while you have a little fun. So, dig out that puzzle you have hidden away—and start with the edges first! 

Have you baked anything lately? We may all be spending too much time staring into the refrigerator, but baking, especially things you don’t usually attempt, like bread, is another way to give your brain a time-out from worry. Plus, your home will be filled with comforting smells—another brain soother. It’s another respite for your mind—not to mention you can eat your results!

I loved to draw as a child. I could sit for hours in our family basement, playing records (yes, I’m that old!) and drawing. I’d lose all track of time and before I realized, my mother was calling me up to bed. Many schools are offering free classes online. Take an introduction to drawing class. Or find some colored pencils or discarded crayons in your junk drawer (there’s something in there to start!) and order an adult coloring book.  

The website offers a free version if you’d like to start to learn a different language. I’ve recently gone back to see how much French I remember from high school, and it’s much more than I thought!

In these challenging times, those dealing with addiction have been dealt a double sucker-punch. Be sure you’re treating your mind well by building in breaks to distract from worry.

Access your inner child, act like a kid and play. Your mind will thank you. 

Mary Fran Bontempo is a 2x TEDx speaker, author and humorist. Visit her at

Her latest book, “The 15 Minute Master—How to Make Everything Better 15 Minutes at a Time,” can be found on Amazon.