Like many people, Catherine Merrick has had some extra time on her hands the past few weeks.
Merrick is the manager of the Record Exchange’s coffee shop and gift shop in Boise, but the store has temporarily closed its doors to the public in the wake of Gov. Brad Little’s statewide stay-home order due to the coronavirus.
Merrick is also a musician, and her band, AKA Belle, has recorded three albums and an EP. But that creative outlet has also been curtailed.
“Because we’re not allowed to gather in groups, we can’t really rehearse, which is another reason I have more time on my hands,” Merrick said.
And so …
“So, I’m filling my time with painting,” she said. “(The stay-home order) kind of forced me back into it.”
Merrick has always had an interest in painting. She studied art for a few years at Boise State. She painted a lot when her son, Gus, was an infant. But, in recent years, Merrick said she “was just kind of dabbling.
“But now, especially because I’m still in kind of a work mode, I wake up really early and nobody else is around.” she said. “So, to make use of my time, I’ll spend a couple of hours in the morning, when no one else is up. It’s very relaxing. I can while away the hours and kind of forget about the time. … I can get really focused and it feels like meditation.”
She recently posted a picture of a few of her finished paintings on Facebook.
Her friends quickly jumped in with offers to buy them.
“Sometimes, I look at my art and think, ‘Well, I like it, but I’m not sure if anybody else will like it,’” she said.
Now she knows that other people do appreciate her talent, and her friends were able to support her a little bit during some trying times.
Dr. Christopher Edwards, St. Luke’s Health System lead psychologist and a behavioral health provider in the Magic Valley, said Merrick’s story is a perfect example of turning a negative into a positive during the stay-home order.
And Edwards said many of us have the same opportunity.
“That might include hobbies that we used to enjoy doing, and it might mean cleaning out that closet that we’ve been meaning to clean out forever,” Dr. Edwards said. “We have some extra time to do some of those things that have been stressing us out for a long time.”
At the same time, he said it’s important that we all give ourselves a break, literally.
“It’s OK to sit down and do nothing,” Dr. Edwards said. “It’s OK to just sit and look at the grass grow. It’s almost like we have to give ourselves permission to do that, because we don’t do that very well. We’re sort of a workaholic community right now.”
Edwards said there is another important way people can use their extra time: by managing stress and staying healthy.
“Meditating and mindfulness activities are wonderful things,” he said. “We learn that mind-body connection. We learn that, ‘If I can keep my body calm, if I can learn to control my body and my breathing, it’s amazing how that also slows down my mind.’”
It’s also a great time to incorporate some exercise into our daily routine.
“Doing a 10-minute workout or something like that will help us physically and help us mentally,” Dr. Edwards said. “Then, if we can get in those habits now, when work starts back up again and we get back into our routine we’re already making time in our day to do those things. We can keep those healthy habits in our routine.”
Here are some other ideas to keep you and your family members occupied during the stay-home order.
The possibilities are endless, and chances are you have some extra time on your hands to come up with some more of your own.
Or, as Dr. Edwards might prescribe: Take a break and watch the grass grow.
Click here for more information about Idaho’s statewide stay-home order, including resources, a FAQ section and additional guidance for churches, golf courses and other areas.
Chris Langrill is a writer and copy editor for the St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing department.