- Julie Baron, LCSW-C
Week 1 of Coronavirus shut down was for many a welcome relief of daily responsibilities and tasks. For teens especially, staying up late, sleeping in, chatting with friends, and plugging into screens of choice became the rhythm. By week 2 parents started getting frustrated at this passive state and the many teens I spoke with were feeling bored, restless, and unproductive (though still enjoying sleeping in). As we contemplate continued physical school closures for the foreseeable weeks ahead, it’s time to implement restructuring.
Some schools have been better than others at providing online learning opportunities. The resources range from regular daily school schedule video classrooms (some private schools), to a few virtual lessons (either daily or weekly) with assignments to be completed independently, to nothing at all (public schools at least in our area have yet to operationalize what distance learning looks like). Regardless, all of us are coping with a mostly unfamiliar state….a lot more time on our hands.
So how in a world where we are used to having external forces structure our time, do we begin to impose self-structuring? It is challenging. Here are some strategies to begin your #Restructuring:
Regulate your Sleep!: While it is temping to let your body and brain’s inclinations run the show, if left up to many teens, they would stay up until 3am and sleep until 2pm. While that does fulfill the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommended amount of sleep for teens, it is a recipe for sleep cycle dysregulation. It is important to keep sleep cycles relatively close to normally expected routines. We will return to life as we knew it before Corona and that will mean getting up earlier and functioning through out the daylight. I suggest finding a middle path that allows for some staying up later (think midnight or 1am) and sleeping later, though with a full day ahead (like 9 or 10am).
Think Categories: We engage in various areas of functioning in our lives: Academic/Learning/Work, Exercise/Movement, Self-Care (emotionally and physically), Social Engagement, Creativity, Organizing/Other Maintenance Tasks, and Leisure (down time). Brainstorm a list of things to do in each of these categories (that you can do while #social distancing). Instead of mulling around thinking about what you should be doing and feeling overwhelmed, you will have some things identified that you can choose from.
Plan Your Day: The night before, think about what things in various categories you want to get accomplished the next day. You can schedule by times, or general parts of the day (morning, mid-morning, afternoon, late afternoon, evening). Try to engage in activities from at least 3 or 4 categories and get healthy meals each day and good sleep each night.
Find Opportunities: Start by seeking a sense of purpose and meaning. What is valuable to you? While you may not be able to do all the things you usually have to do (school/work), take advantage of this time to do the things you always want to do and never have time. Clean out, rearrange or organize your room (do it part by part), desk, or garage. Create a new space in your home (workout, art studio, meditation space, etc). Music makes these tasks more fun! Read a book from the stack you never have time to and wish you did. Learn a new skill (teens teach your parents a new skill- I’m working on NBA2K). Try practicing an instrument, mindfulness, yoga, listening to an interesting podcast or do a craft or creative project. Join a movement, contribute to a cause (there are lots of free ways to do this on social media), volunteer your time (there are many people in need right now and political campaigns out there who would love your help!), or watch a movie you missed and have wanted to see. While you have the time on your hands now, don’t squander. It won’t last!