By Yea Flicker, MA
As we move deeper into social distancing in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we are entering a phase of transition from in-person classes, meetings, and collaboration into the world of remote education and work. Here are my tips for staying healthy, balanced, and sane as we adjust to these changes.
1. Process your emotions and reach out to friends.
Right now many parents are concerned about how they will help their kids with their schoolwork while trying to work remotely; students are confused and worried about how their virtual or remote schooling will work; and the rapidly changing news updates are causing people to feel a sense of panic or anxiety. There are big and small things coming up for people right now, and it's okay to take a minute to acknowledge what you are thinking and feeling. Checking in with family members, having phone calls to process with your friends, journaling, and blogging are all good ways to release and process your emotions.
2. A new routine = new habits & new ways to use your space.
Remote learning and working means that for many of us, the hours of our day spent commuting to work and school are now going to be spent at home in our jammies. Take advantage of the opportunity to create some new habits with your new schedule. For example, if you haven't had time to exercise in the morning because of an early commute, now you might be able to go for a run before getting online. For students who have always had grab-and-go breakfasts in the rush out the door, now is a great time for them to take a turn cooking something hearty for themselves (and maybe for their parents and siblings too!)
Now is also a great time for students to clear off their desks or create a corner at the dining room table that will provide them with a comfortable space where they can settle into the new routine of virtual school. Students can print their new class schedules and tape them the wall so that they can have an at-a-glance source of information for courses without having to constantly check online.
3. Take "Brain Breaks" and "Bio Breaks."
There are two types of breaks that are important: "brain breaks" and "bio breaks." Brain breaks are moments when you give yourself some down time to decompress and rest before engaging in material that is going to require your attention and focus. A brain break from class or work might include some screen-free time, virtually checking in with friends, or playing with your pets for a few minutes. "Bio breaks" are the moments when you refuel and reset your body so that you can re-engage with what you are doing in an optimal condition. You can't focus if you're hungry or thirsty, or if you need to pee. Grab some water, make a snack, go for a brisk walk to get a bit of exercise, or try some free online exercise instruction from the comfort of your living room.
Students in virtual school mode may have 5-10 minutes in between classes. Encourage them to get up from the computer, stretch, step outside for a few minutes and have some screen-free down time before having to sit down and be in front of a computer for another hour+.
If you are working remotely and having teleconferences, take your earbuds out, clamshell your computer, turn your phone over and turn your attention to something else for a few minutes in between taking calls and sending emails.
4. Host virtual lunch tables and "water cooler" chats.
Students can get a two-fer with a brain and bio break by hosting a virtual lunch table through Google Hangouts. This is a great way for to connect with their friends mid-way through the virtual school day.
Work colleagues can do the same thing by bringing their water cooler chats, lunches, and coffee meetups online so that you can still benefit from the casual but meaningful social interactions that happen in faculty rooms, across lunch tables, and in coffee shops.
5. Self-care through new skill acquisition.
The time gained from having fewer outings and social gatherings means that you might have more spaciousness in your daily schedule. Have you been wanting to pick up a new skill? Now is a great time to finally learn how to play chess, knit or crochet, bake, cook, paint, sew, or take that guitar out of the closet. There are lots of resources online (many free) and more popping up every day with instructional videos, webinars, and virtual workshops. Learning a new skill may take some of the edge off the monotony of staying close to home.
Overall, I encourage folks to continue to connect with each other in any way you can at this time. It feels good to hear someone's voice over the phone or see a grandparent's face on a video chat. Remember, we are stronger together than we are alone. Take care of yourselves and each other!
Here is a link to my Virtual Teaching and Learning Resources page that I'll be updating frequently in order to provide parents and teachers with good resources for support.