- Ricka Robb Kohnstamm
Which healthy tools can differentiate today from tomorrow?
For people who are quarantining because they have been exposed to COVID, or are immune-compromised and waiting for surgery or chemo to start, or who are staying inside to protect a long awaited pregnancy,
or staying secluded in anticipation of the announcement from the chancellor requiring them to move out of the bubble and back into the in-person classroom -- I hear you.
The new, highly restricted lifestyle feels smothering.
One day runs into the next and it is easy for our protective minds to swirl out of control - "What if things never get back to normal!" "What happens if I never feel good again?" "What happens if I get COVID and have to spend the holidays all alone?"
Now, soothe that frightened mind with the elements of your day that felt healthy before the pandemic began - structure, purpose, movement, doing for others, and learning.
And use these same things to anchor yourself to the here and now, one element at a time.
Structure Take charge of your sleep schedule by waking up and going to sleep (without technology) at the same time each week day. Change it on weekends if that feels familiar and helpful. Start the morning with familiar rituals like coffee or prayer or writing in your journal. Wake up your living space, take a shower, get dressed in real clothes. Start and end your "work" at the same time each weekday and vary that on weekends.
Purpose Keep a list of "must dos" and "when I get to it" tasks and choose three things to start with each day. Some will be fun, others not - but they all work to fill the "purpose" bucket. Give your lecture to the freshmen biology students, write that thank you note that has been waiting, wash out the cat pan, write the proposal for the new account, start to plan the Thanksgiving meal (and decide what to do instead of watching the Westminster Dog Show), schedule the doctors' appointments. Notice how nice it feels to check things off of the list.
Movement Move outside as often as you can and absorb the extra benefits of sunlight and nature. Give yourself a movement challenge - 50 pull-ups a day for 50 days. Or something much less demanding like gentle, rhythmic swaying to music each morning before coffee. Everyone can do some movement. Everyone. Notice, repeat.
Doing for others Stretch to find ways to "do" for others every day. Offer to supervise the math homework for a week, empty the dishwater (even though it's not your job), or take your "doing" outside of the house and sell things for a less-tech-inclined neighbor on FB Marketplace, mentor a student in Uganda (highly recommended) or put your back into raising money for an organization you care about. Face out, towards others, and give freely. Every single day. And notice how that anchors you to the present moment.
Learning Remember what it felt like as a child when you learned to read? You can stir up that healthy energy again by challenging yourself to learn something new - the discipline required creates purpose and structure as value-adds. Learn a new language or commit to reading biographies of all the presidents from Washington on up. Or commit to listening to the podcast series "To See Each Other" to expand your current understanding of politics. Notice what it feels like to be an active learner. Repeat.
Even when one day flows into the other and our minds become unanchored, there are powerful, evidence-based way to pull ourselves back into the here and now. And as the days get shorter and darker, this is a very, very good time to start.
We have choice. Actions, aligned with values, support optimal health.