Ten Tips for Social and Emotional Wellness During #SchoolClosures

We’ve all been forced to adjust very quickly to a new way of living. Many of you are learning remotely or online in some way. For some, that starts this week. Others have been learning online for what seems like a while now.  Regardless, we wanted to share some strategies for navigating this new world.

At Green Ivy Educational Consulting, we work with  many students in school districts around the United States, and we’ve seen firsthand how districts are doing things differently from one another. One thing all schools have in common? They are doing the very best with the resources they have under stressful circumstances… please make sure to thank your teachers and school administrators.

We’ll have specific strategies for learning in an asynchronous (you get assignments to do at your pace) or synchronous (you tune into a livestream at the same time as everyone else) learning environment. Stay tuned – and feel free to subscribe to our newsletter here for regular updates.

1. Create a consistent morning routine. Even if you no longer have to commute or even put on proper shoes (slipper socks for the win!), creating a regular morning routine with 3-5 basic tasks help your body get ready for the day – especially when you may still have work to complete. Think about 3-5 tasks that would work for your morning routine – for me, it is making my bed, walking my dogs, doing yoga, taking a shower, getting dressed and having my morning vitamins. Morning routines could also include making breakfast, drinking tea, writing in a journal, reading the paper (but limit news consumption if it makes you anxious), and saying hello to friends virtually.

2. Schedule work, rest, and movement into your day. So many of our most basic routines have been upended in a matter of days – and most of us are still just trying to get things together. I suggest compartmentalizing your day into three major buckets – work, movement and rest. For instance, if you have to complete your assignments on your own (and don’t have to tune into a regular livestream of class) consider getting up and doing your morning routine and movement until 10 am, doing work between 10 am and 3 pm, and resting (which includes relaxing, reading, hobbies, board games, Netflix, whatever) after 4 pm.  Be flexible, and create the time-blocks of work based on when you are most productive and/or have fixed obligations, such as an online class that meets at a certain time.

3. Utilize time-management strategies to complete assigned tasks.
I absolutely agree that many of us are in shock,and I want you to be gentle with yourself if you need a break. If you are trying to get work done, though, it is a good idea to compartmentalize work periods of time. Start with a 25 minute block to focus on one thing. Turn off/block distractions in whatever way works best for you (we’ll share strategies!). If, at the end of 25 minutes, you’re fully engaged, feel free to keep going! But, if you need a break – take a 5-10 minute break to get up, walk around, go to the bathroom, etc. Every two hours, take a full half hour to get outside (if that is an option) or do something other than look at a screen. Given that so much work now involves looking at tech devices, it is important to pace yourself during the day.


4. Communication! Communication! Communication! If you haven’t learned how to write a proper email to a teacher or administrator or family friend (free of abbreviations and shorthand) now is your shining moment. Things that used to be easy to clear up in person or in class will now require email or extra communication. Make sure to take your time, and reread your messages before sending. Keep messages short, but show gratitude and appreciation. Address your teachers however you did during the year (Dear Ms. Jenkins, Dear Dr. Gibbons etc) and sign off in a way that expresses appreciation (Thank you for your time and efforts. Sincerely, …) 

5. Let’s Move! Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign makes sense during these times of pausing, sheltering, and staying indoors. Even if you can’t go to the gym or outdoor spaces, there’s lots that can be done indoors! Different apps, including the 7-minute workout app, make it fun to move throughout the day. There are yoga studios offering free and low-cost online classes, and the Peloton app (with a bunch of different types of classes) has a free 90 day offer. Hopefully our world is in a much healthier place overall in 90 days, and we’re keeping up with our mental, physical and emotional health in the meantime. 

6. Consistent sleep is key, and bedtime routines can help. This change in routine and rhythm, and the uncertainty of it all, has been a shock to everyone’s system. While riding out stormy periods (and this pandemic certainly feels like a storm of epic proportions), it can be easy to forget that sleep acts as an emotional detox – which is why if you can get a good night’s sleep after a particularly stressful day, you may feel less overwhelmed after getting up. This great TED talk from Dr. Matt Walker, entitled ‘Sleep is your superpower’, sums it up.

The challenge is, of course, that our sleep quality can suffer when we feel stressed or anxious. Here’s a tip: Remember when you were a little kid and your parents made you brush your teeth, get in your PJs, read a book, and ??? Turns out, bedtime routines signal to our body that it is time for rest. Now more than ever, making sure you get restful sleep is key to overall wellness.

7. Mindfulness can help reduce anxiety and stress. Mindfulness focuses on being intentional in the present moment, and shifting your awareness to what you can control – like your breathing. Many times when we are stressed or overwhelmed, we don’t take deep breaths. Taking 10-15 deep breaths can make a meaningful difference. Intentional time to stop, breathe, regroup, and reset is one way to practice self-compassion and self-kindness and make you more resilient in these unique times. 

For some people, meditation apps like 10 Percent Happier or Calm or Headspace can help you develop a regular practice. For others, writing in a journal or having a cup of tea on the couch and taking deep breaths can make a difference. Experiment to find what works for you – we’ve all got plenty of time!

8. Stay authentically connected with friends and family – and have fun! In times like these, social media and technology can truly help promote your overall wellness. Even if you aren’t able to physically see your friends (#socialdistancing and #stayhome) here’s where social media wellness really makes a difference. Stay connected in ways that are engaging and energizing—that could be a group Zoom dance party (DJ Nice’s Instagram Live “Homeschool” was amazing) or playing online Scrabble or word games with friends can be a fun distraction. 

If you live with family members, find ways to connect that you might not have had time for otherwise. Group craft project? Sunday baking routine? Board games? Family movie night? Send us your favorite strategies.

AND – don’t forget about your pets. Animals are wonderful companions, especially in uncertain times. So if you haven’t been able to spend time with your dog or cat or gerbil or chickens, now is your moment.

9. Take up a hobby. Or devote yourself to learning something new. Now’s the time to get curious and creative. Want to learn a new language? There’s an app (or several) for that. How about making the perfect cinnamon swirl bread? Those of you who spent hours commuting or juggling multiple sports and after school activities now have a whole lot more time to pursue things you might not have been able to do otherwise. Read interesting books for fun. Write letters to a friend. Make short movies. Improve your piano skills or dance moves.

10. Finally, don’t feel obligated to do anything (or everything). Be gentle with yourself and those around you, online and in-real-life. There’s no one right way to do any of this, and we’re all doing our best. Some days might be better than others. We’re all navigating some unusual times, and people process and react differently. What works for one person is not going to work for the rest. Take time to check in with those you care about, pause, take time to reflect, slow down and focus on being kind to yourself and to others. 

To learn more about my work, please visit anahomayoun.com or www.greenivyed.com.

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