The Paradox Of Being Stressed By Nothing.

Our trouble with being alone; why boredom creates stress.

James E. McGinley, PhD
3 min readMay 9, 2022


Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

The challenges of the pandemic included mandated lockdowns and quarantines. We found ourselves alone and deprived of access to many things we enjoyed. Instead of enjoying some peace and quiet, many people found the seclusion stressful.


We typically think of being stressed as something that is happening to us. That means it is actively present and we must respond to it. However, stress can include things that are absent as well.

As an addiction counselor, I have heard people complain about the boredom of abstinence from drugs and alcohol. It is a common trigger for relapse. We can’t seem to handle the absence of our routine activities. Like an overactive child, we just can’t sit still.

It would seem like we would enjoy a little bit of nothingness in our lives and a break from so many demands. But that is not always the case.

Boredom creates stress.

When we have unwanted solitude or inactivity in our lives, it creates a sense of boredom, loss, or deprived access.

Boredom is more than simply not having anything to do.

A bored individual wants to be stimulated, but for whatever reason, cannot connect to their desired environment or desired activity. The unfulfilled desire for satisfying activity leads to feelings of stress. The reaction can cover a wide range of responses. A bored individual may be lethargic and feel a loss of energy. Or, they may become hyperactive, perhaps pacing or nervously trying to be busy to release energy.

Boredom can influence our thought patterns.

Research has found that when people are chronically bored, they disengage from satisfying activities and are more likely focus their thoughts in a negative and repetitive cycle. Research has also found that chronic boredom and depression tend to be related.

The causes of boredom hold the secret to its resolution.

We are either bored because what we are doing does not hold our attention or we are bored because what we are doing does not have meaning. This is why we can be busy, and…



James E. McGinley, PhD

James McGinley, PhD is a professor, author, certified life coach, and licensed counselor.