Remember banana seat bikes and running through a lawn sprinkler? Simple, doable, and maybe even fun. This year, in particular, no matter where you are in the world, it’s likely that you’ll be having one of these homegrown summers.
Let’s take a quick look back at the past spring. This last school semester has undoubtedly been one for the record books, with pass/fail as a new metric. We succeeded on some fronts and failed on others. Some kids had almost no interaction with their teachers during the big lockdown, while others have been online more than ever and flourished in that environment. On the upside, almost everyone is getting more sleep. The craziness of this semester will fade as we move into the light of summer, which leads us to the following questions:
Season 2 of Covid-19 is upon us. How do we manage this new normal? How do we find out “how” and not be defeated this summer?
As an educator, I’ve been focused on helping families get their new home schedules in order during Covid-19 by figuring out their “how.” How does everyone live together 24/7, learn, work, and stay healthy? I’ve been running workshops and collecting feedback from more than 50 parents in a school district outside of Seattle, with the goal of figuring out how to make life at home manageable and, dare I say, enjoyable.
Three themes have emerged among parents around figuring out the “how.”
- Prioritize self-care. It sounds like a cliché, but it is a good reminder: put your oxygen mask on first.
- Connect with intention. Responsive communication is key. Our output as parents sets the tone and energy for the household.
- Find your own balance. Whatever the living arrangement, each of us has to strike the right chord to achieve household harmony.
The importance of physical and mental health is in the public eye like never before. So how can we work to feel our best in trying times? Let’s break it down.
First, the physical. Exercise. It doesn’t require a gym membership. Go for a walk or a bike ride with the whole family. Stretch on the living room floor. Keep the fridge stocked with healthy options. If you need some inspiration, check out some youtube fitness videos. You’re sure to find something that works for you. Finally, keep in mind that the endorphin release of exercise is also good for mental health.
And speaking of mental health, we’ll look at that more with our next two themes.
Connect with intention
Let’s face it: we’re all a little on edge these days. Global trauma is reaching a head, and we’re standing at the intersection of pain and opportunity. It’s easy to react without thinking, which can turn little issues into big ones. Mindful connections will help with our mental health, especially in these inflammatory times. Tone, temperament, and actions all have a big impact on a situation. So when issues arise in our daily lives, how do we proceed?
Reactions are inherently subconscious and automatic. With so much upheaval taking place around us, we have the opportunity to pause, become more educated, and really think through our positions. You see something on social media, read an article, watch the news. Someone says something striking. It’s easy to respond with the first sharp, underhanded comment that comes to mind. But consider what it might feel like to respond to a comment with some purpose. Imagine it.
To respond instead of react is to pause before opening your mouth. The pause invites composure and intention. How can you steer the smallest interactions in your day toward a positive outcome? What are you saying, and what are you conveying, consciously or not, with your word choice and tone? This takes practice. Meditation is incredible for changing subconscious messaging. It’s important to make space in your head to become aware and to think about what you really want to do or say before acting or speaking. Responsiveness builds up the positive and reduces the negative.
Find your own balance
Finally, bring it all together with a daily practice tailored to you. Practice makes patterns; practice makes permanent. When life is chaotic, routines keep us moving, so make sure that your routines are healthy ones. Add intention, so that you’re going where you want to go. Give the “should” in your head the opportunity to become a reality. Start where you are. If all you have is a minute in the morning, take that minute to do something that will help support your well-being.
Routines, however flexible, work. We’re looking at a stretch of 90-odd long and hazy days. How can you anchor the endlessness of summer? New rituals, home projects, and shared reading are all connective. Revisit what works for everyone. At my house, we are journaling. Despite their initial complaints, the kids invariably want to share, and writing has become a family thing. Yay! That’s big. It’s a start. It’s positive and moving us in the right direction.
We’re social creatures, and now more than ever we need to reach out, support one another and spread much-needed love. Get a buddy, because accountability matters. Consider quaran-teaming with another family that aligns with yours. Kids need buddies, too.
So how do you manage the next season of Covid-19? Think in threes: physical health, mental clarity, and balance. Three connects the dichotomy of two and encourages a common purpose. Three’s significance is universal. And it’s a fast track for finding your “how.” Two days into working on this triad and things will look and feel strong.
The struggle is real, but so is the opportunity. Finding your “how” will make this season memorable and productive. The skills you learn and employ will be useful going forward, regardless of the new normal. We would love for you to share what’s working for you and your family below.
Tanya Knudsen is an educator and graduate student in Creativity and Change Leadership at SUNY Buffalo State. She lives in Seattle, where she helps families create their “how” at home during Covid-19. She is a mentor for a local high school’s Sustainability Ambassadors group and is aiming to establish a zero-waste kitchen in her own home. Tanya is also a Peloton enthusiast.