Skip to Main Content

Overcoming boredom & restlessness

It’s not uncommon to, during certain seasons of our lives, feel bored and restless. Even those of us who are overworked and overstressed at work and home may find ourselves with little to look forward to and nothing rewarding to do in the precious free time we have.

In this STAND Tip, we review four skills that can be helpful for combating boredom and restlessness.

Stay active — even when you don’t feel like it

When we are under stress, activities that are important to us or bring us joy often feel more difficult to do and less rewarding when we do them. As a result, we tend to stop doing the things that are good for us — including giving up our hobbies and self-care activities. Although it makes sense that we make these choices when we are stressed out, it actually increases our feelings of boredom and restlessness.

So, even when you don’t feel like it, it’s important that you continue these activitiesTry not to give in to negative thinking and feelings. Does this sound familiar? “I’ve been meaning to read that book, but I probably won’t be able to focus on it, so I’ll just stay on my phone.” We challenge you to stop mindlessly scrolling through social media and see if you can immerse yourself in that book.

Even if you aren’t getting as much joy out of your hobbies and activities, there still are benefits to spending time doing them. It’s like exercising, eating right, getting enough sleep and spending time outdoors — these activities are helpful for your physical and mental health, even when you don’t feel like doing them or even enjoy them.

On your own: Think about the thoughts and feelings that tend to stop you from doing things that you used to enjoy. Is it helpful for you in the long term to listen to these thoughts? If not, what can you say and do when these thoughts come up to help you break out of this negative cycle?

Get in touch with your values

When we have free time, we often go on “autopilot” and follow a routine without thinking about why we are doing these activities. When these routines are disrupted, we often stumble without an idea of what to do instead. One helpful exercise to use is the values assessment exercise to understand why we enjoy certain activities. Then, we can identify alternative activities that can be equally stimulating and enjoyable while bringing more meaning into our lives.

On your own: Check in with a values assessment

STAND Tip: Get in touch with your values

Shift your focus to what you actually can control

Thinking that there’s “no point” to doing anything anymore can make us feel more restless and bored. A good way to combat this mindset is to focus on things that you do have control over in your life. For example, no amount of scrolling through social media is going to make any restlessness go away or situation change, but learning a new skill, trying out a new hobby or reaching out to a loved one might help you take your mind off negative thoughts and give you a feeling of accomplishment and productivity. We reviewed the positive aspects of keeping a Special Projects list in another STAND Tip about managing worry, and the importance of defining those projects into bite-sized pieces to make it easier to start right away. Often, the hardest part is taking those first steps. Once we begin a task, we get absorbed in it and can see it through to the end. And crossing something off that list can give us a sense of accomplishment and remind us that there are some things we can control.

On your own: Create or update your Special Projects list

STAND Tip: Managing worry over an unsolvable problem

Practice generosity

When we are feeling restless and bored, it’s helpful to shift focus from our own thoughts and feelings to the needs and experiences of others. When we act reach out and help others without an expectation of anything in return, this action turns our focus away from ourselves. We have the chance to feel good about what we did, we may get positive feedback from the recipient, we create good will, and we can even cause a ripple effect where the person we helped chooses to help others.

On your own: Create a list of people who you might help

Try out one of the strategies when you are feeling bored or restless

Restlessness and boredom are normal sometimes, given the common routines we fall into or regular habits and environments. Now, you have four techniques you might try out to make sure these feelings do not stop you from engaging in positive, meaningful and rewarding activities.

Also, remember that when you are feeling restless and bored, there may be other reasons behind it, like feeling worried, lonely or overwhelmed. For help dealing with these difficult experiences, check out other STAND Tips.

Downloadable resources to use on your own

Information Sheet

Overcoming Boredom & Restlessness

Pre-Work Lists

Engaging Activities

Special Projects

People to Help

Fillable Activities

Values Assessment

Practice Generosity