Here we go…
Overwhelmed. Unsure. Anxious. Uncertain. Fearful. Irritable maybe?
No matter how you are feeling, one thing is for sure…you aren’t alone. We have all spent the last 6 months in this new world trying to wrap our heads around the constant changes. It’s forced us to rethink just about everything. The roller coaster of emotions has left many of us completely exhausted. A pandemic, racial tension, political debating, and everything else feels like too much some days.
Before I go on, let me introduce myself. I’m Linsey Covert– a forever educator with experience as a former teacher, school counselor, career counselor, private therapist, higher education director around social and emotional program research and for the last 4 plus years, proud Founder/CEO of TEAMology LLC. TEAMology is an innovative ed tech startup that has backing of over 15 years of research and development from Penn State University and has a vision to build content, curriculum and technology to strengthen and simplify social wellness for our youth. It’s a big huge job that my team and I take seriously. But we have so much fun doing it!
We are living in a world that reminds us everyday the importance of relationships, connection and being emotionally and mentally healthy. And now we are stuck. We are stuck trying to understand how to teach our youth virtually or semi-virtually. We are stuck trying to understand how we can get back to some kind of normalcy in sports, activities and social interactions. We are stuck trying to figure out how to work and juggle our kids’ school schedules. We are stuck trying to get through the day to day not knowing how things might change tomorrow. But, we seem to all agree that social & emotional wellness are critical pieces for our kids AND us.
Usually my focus is on kids. But right now it’s important for all of us, especially those who are parents or working with kids, to make sure we are taking care of ourselves so we can take care of those who need us most. Think of the flight attendant reminding you to put your oxygen mask on first. If you don’t have oxygen, you can’t do what needs to be done for your kids.
So what do we do in these unprecedented times to get through? No, what can we do to thrive through? I’ve had this question pop in my mind a million times and I’ve had people reach out to ask my opinion. I want to assure you that I don’t have all of the answers and I actually may not even have the right ones. But here are a few things to keep in mind as you continue to navigate these challenging waters. I hope there’s a small bite of something you can take away.
1- Communicate…communicate…and then over communicate (effectively!)
Communication is one of the most effective ways to build and strengthen relationships, reduce stress, and ultimately lay groundwork for expectations. Daily check ins with kids, loved ones, and colleagues are essential for keeping spirits up and making sure everyone is getting what they need.
2- Control your controllables
Doing a mental inventory on what is in and out of your control is a helpful way to prioritize where to put your mental and emotional energy. It can be tough to not spend our energy on worrying about things we can’t control but ultimately, the outcome is wasted time and effort on something you couldn’t do anything about. It’s important to talk with and help kids with this concept as well.
3- Be wise about the company you are keeping
“They” say we are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time and energy. Take a few minutes to think about who those 5 people are in your life. What do they represent and how do they make you feel in your life? Right now, it’s important to surround yourself with people who lift you up, highlight your strengths and offer meaningful conversation and guidance.
4- Learn something new
Learning something new actually stimulates neurons in the brain which forms more neural pathways and allows electrical impulses to travel faster across them. The result? You learn better and actually reduce the likelihood of dementia. Novel experiences also give us a rush of dopamine- your feel good neurotransmitter. Learning better and feeling better result from learning something new! Start small if you want to…but now is a great time to grow through new experiences and opportunities.
5- Celebrate the small things
I can’t emphasize this enough. Little successes are important to stop and take a moment to celebrate. Those small celebrations give hope and provide us ways to get through these challenging times. We live in such a fast paced and high demanding society…take time to stop and celebrate you and those around you. It’s definitely important to include your kids in this as they begin to navigate a new world of virtual learning. Celebrate the good days, tell them you are proud of them and lift them up to keep them going!
6- Move your body
This isn’t anything you haven’t heard. I’m sure you all recognize the importance of health and fitness and we hear it from everywhere, right? But you shouldn’t be just moving your body to get in or stay in shape. Of course the physical benefits are important, but did you know that regular aerobic exercise reduces anxiety by making your brain’s “fight or flight” less reactive? It also reduces depressive symptoms and has been found to be as effective as medication and psychotherapies. Please note, I am NOT advocating for you to drop your medications or appointments with a counselor! I’m simply suggesting that if you haven’t prioritized exercise or moving your body in the past, now might be a good time to give it a try. The way you move can have a deep effect on the way you think and feel!
7- Ask for help
One of the best pieces of advice I can share is to be humble through this chapter of life. Ask for help when you need it. Too often, we over task ourselves and burn out simply by not communicating our needs and not asking for the help we need. Mr. Rogers says it best, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” It is an understatement to say scary things are in the news. Scary things are all over the news and we are tuned into the media more than ever have before. So, when things get overwhelming and scary…lean on your helpers. Hopefully they are in the company you are keeping 😉
8- Drink lots of water
Yet another suggestion that most of us have heard many times…drink lots of water. While hydration is important for our physical health, it also helps us to think more clearly. Dehydration quickly affects how we feel and think. Even mild dehydration has an impact on our mood. So make sure you are drinking your fair share of water and take notice of how it changes your feelings and mood.
9- Be resilient
If you know anything about TEAMology, you know that we focus on 6 foundations…one of them being resiliency. The ability to bounce back and get through adversity is invaluable. It’s a life tool that provides a balance during stressful and overwhelming times. It protects us from developing harmful and difficult mental and emotional health issues. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of building your resilience on a regular basis. Resilience can and absolutely should be taught and practiced throughout your life.
So here’s to the challenges that lie ahead. Life is a little harder than we are used to, but lean into it. Lean into the opportunities that come with the difficulties. Lean into learning new things, figuring it out and making the best of it. Help your kids lean in too…and be mindful that they are watching, listening and learning how to manage all of this through you.
Until next time…