JEDDAH: As the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to change people’s lives, some have decided to be proactive and pick up new hobbies to cope with the crisis.
Arab News spoke to a number of Saudi youths who have transformed their free time into something positive to cure their quarantine blues.
Many attested that it was easy to get swept up in anxiety during the self-isolation period but suggested some things people could do to mitigate the worst of its effects.
Razan Sijeeni, graphic design lecturer from Jeddah, chose gardening as an escape. Feeling a need to connect to the earth, she began to research.
Sijeeni began to take an interest in plants a few years back, buying a simple potted one from IKEA to decorate her office, or learning more about the environment sweet potatoes needed in order to thrive.
“I began researching quite a lot, visiting gardening nurseries and purchasing little plants like jasmine, basil and aloe vera back when curfew began after 6 p.m.,” she told Arab News.
Sijeeni was surprised to see her small plants survive longer the more she took care of them.
“Gardening is a very therapeutic process, and watching something come to life through your care has been extremely rewarding,” she said.
“At some point, one of the flowers I had planted some two months prior bloomed; I’d completely forgotten about it. I saw it across my balcony and did a double take because just the night before, there had been nothing there at all.”
Gardening has given Sijeeni much to reflect on. She said it has given her a chance to give back to nature “on a very small scale.” The task is also time consuming, so it takes her mind off the quarantine-induced anxiety.
“Gardening also teaches you a lot about patience and about yourself. The life of a plant is much like the life cycle of a person. There are moments of glory, where you’re blooming and shining, and then there are very dark moments. It’s the natural order of things,” she said.
Even after strict curfew hours were implemented throughout the Kingdom, Sijeeni did not abandon her new hobby.
She began using vegetables and fruits, eggshells, and potato and banana peels to recreate healthy soil at home.
A tip she gives to all those interested in gardening is to use cinnamon as it seems to prevent the growth of fungus on plants.
Gardening is a very therapeutic process, and watching something come to life through your care has been extremely rewarding.
Razan Sijeeni, Graphic design lecturer
“Plants don’t just die out. If you’re careful with them when they start to wither, you can work on them, trimming their dead leaves and watering them. You might find that they surprise you,” Sijeeni added.
Nora Al-Nahi, a 28-year-old Saudi from Jeddah who works in the training department at a local company, began to use a diary for sketching and journaling.
“It’s been a blessing,” she told Arab News. “I’ve always needed time to sit down and release my inner artist, and now I have plenty of it.”
Al-Nahi used to draw a lot as a teenager, but growing up came with increased responsibilities, and soon enough university and work got in the way of her artistic endeavors.
“I finally put to use a sketchbook a friend got me for my birthday a few years ago, and I doodle in it and create characters. I then use my other journal to decorate it with scrap photos or stickers I’d collected over time,” she said.
Writing her emotions down, whether positive or negative, has helped Al-Nahi to relax.
“It’s a form of self-expression. It brings out emotions I didn’t even know I was bottling up and holding on to. It really is therapeutic,” she added.
Mona Sulaiman, 22, picked up a few coloring books and began adding color to each page little by little. The English major student said that the task distracted her from everything that was happening.
“I just wanted something to keep me busy. I had no idea it would turn into a full-blown hobby. It has consumed my life. I began testing watercolors, mixing and matching various coloring and dotting styles,” she said.
She added: “It definitely helps lessen my anxiety, and it’s a really fun activity to share with younger siblings or between parents and children.”