Today I was thinking about what it would take to keep myself and my family healthy, whole body healthy, during these stressful, anxious, and isolating times. My daughter, who is 15 years old now, just began her new normal of being at home all day. And since her first thought was "Whoopee... vacation," it came as a great shock today when I laid out what our daily routine would be starting Monday (I'm not completely evil.) But it wasn't just her desire to sit in bed and do media all day that made me realize we needed some structure. Since my husband started working from home a little over a week ago we have blown through our crisis inventory (bought at Costco just before the real mayhem started) of cookies and chips. Meanwhile, I've been missing my Barre classes and feeling guilty for not replacing them with any other form of exercise. If this was the new normal something was going to have to change, and fast!
Years ago I helped teach a class at my church for new moms in how to keep our whole being healthy. And, while covid-19 is a long way from new motherhood, the daily life impacts do have some similarities that I think could help inform what we can do now to stay balanced. Central to the class was the idea that to be healthy we had to keep three areas of our life in balance, our physical, mental and psychological/spiritual health. I want to take each of these and describe some ways we are choosing to create space for them in our small (very small) world right now.
This is what my daughter said when I told her we would be including 30 min of exercise in our daily routine from here on out.... "Thank God. I hate exercise but if I take the bike at least I can get away from you and Dad for a bit." To be fair... I'd just laid out my plan and she wasn't super happy with me. At the same time... well, I can already see the writing on the wall with all of us sniping at each other. So I added taking breaks from each other to my 'psychological' balance checklist and moved on. I like her idea of the bike ride... but here are some other options I gave her:
- Running the stairs in our house
- Yoga - try these beginner poses
- TV exercise workouts
- Walking the neighborhood with or without the dog
My usual activity is much more intense than any of these... but the most important thing is that it is doable and enjoyable enough to become part of the routine.
Given equal access requirements school is not offering online learning for the students. Mostly the school is treating this as a vacation. Not only is this a bad idea because we have no idea how long this will really last (and much as I'd love to think vacation is the new normal... I'm not that naive) but it also creates that free for all mentality that actually adds to stress and anxiety - things we need less, rather than more, of right now. My husband is finding mornings are the best and easiest time for getting real work done... so no more sleeping in, starting Monday the alarm goes off and he finds a quiet spot to work. My job of driving and sourcing has just decreased immensely. I suddenly find I have time to write again and I want to model mental activity for my daughter, so here I am posting again. And my daughter...although she may complain, her brain is a symphony of activity that requires lots more instruments than just youtube video to survive. If I clear the space for her I know she will actually enjoy digging in to her learning on her own. Her new normal routine will include two hours of textbook/school work (two different subjects) plus I've asked her to learn how to do something new by the time life as we know it resumes. examples
- Reciting a memorized poem
- Playing (well) a new song on her piano
- Researching a new topic to discuss with friends/family
- Learning to knit or sew or cook or garden
- Learning a new style of art she hasn't practiced before
Walking away from this time with a sense of mastery over something new may make it feel less like a loss and more like a gift of time.
I believe this will be the most challenging area to keep balanced of the three. Psychologically we need human interaction and community in order to feel good. The greatest sacrifice we must make right now is in this area. No more cinema, concerts, sporting events, even the daily interaction I get from grocery store or Starbucks visits is limited. So what can we do to keep a sense of being connected to those around us. Maybe a better way to think of it is what can we do to reach out to others. This is one of the reasons we psychologically require interaction... it is because it gives us a chance to support and think of someone other than ourselves. Although in person reaching out goes against the need for isolation/containment... there are other ways we can spread a sense of community.
- I love this video clip of the balcony happy hour /singing in Italy... happening daily now at 6:00 pm. Italylink. Can we do a front porch type version?
- A daily email to a friend.... especially someone I haven't written in a while. Not to share covid complaints, but to share important memories from our relationship and catch up on what has been happening in our heart and mind since we last talked.
- Same for phone calls. Let's vent a little about covid-19... share our 'horror stories' and then move on the the little things that happened in our day that we are grateful for.
- And on this line... gratitude logs in general are the very best way to stay psychologically healthy.
- For me, prayer. And since my church is not doing mass anymore I know I will be missing some of the Lenten traditions that give me a sense of belonging and spiritual focus. Our church has left their doors open for individual visits so I will be taking advantage of these.
- I am so very grateful to have a community on Twitter that I follow who work hard to understand world events. They also are great at bringing light to trying times through humor and concern. I'm going to bring some ideas to that community for how we can broaden even more this connection. Tomorrow I plan to invite my twitter friends to start a virtual book club. We will choose a book, read it, and then use the #title to congregate on a set day and discuss. I'll lead with some questions and that is all it usually takes to get these folks and all the ones who follow them, to join in a discussion. Imagine if all of us were talking about the same book at the same time. What a sense of shared connection. Feel free to join in by following me @dwilsted.
I know I have over-stayed my welcome in this long post... so I will end it here with the promise of more to come soon. I am so grateful to all my virtual friends out there and hope and pray that your way through these times will be healthy and light.