5 Ways to Leverage Social Distancing for Personal Growth:

Almost every adversity we face in life will bring unique opportunities to grow. Presently, our situation involves a global pandemic. The COVID-19 ordeal now calls for: extreme social distancing, abstaining from sporting, dining, leisure, and religious events, and an almost “house arrest” like lifestyle with no apparent end in sight. Naturally, this kind of new normal brings anxiety and stress.

Do you believe personal growth will spring forth from this trial? Here are five ways you can pursue growth opportunities today:

1) INVEST IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS:

Use this time to invest in the relationships that matter most. Harvard University recently finished an 80-year study on human happiness. They concluded that satisfying and healthy relationships contribute to lasting happiness more than any other variable. Think about that.

Harvard did not find that financial security, attending sporting events, winning at work, or traveling the world made people ultimately happy. They found that happiness is all about relationships. Many people are stuck at home with a spouse and kids right now. If that describes your situation, here lies your opportunity! Even if you are not physically with your loved ones, what is holding you back from leveraging technology to talk, chat, zoom, skype, text, and write to them? Why not use this time and today’s technology to make the relationships that matter most to you healthier and more satisfying?

You might read through a relationship book, go through a digital resource, or simply make time to listen to each other. We live in a fast-paced world. Don’t waste this opportunity to go deeper and connect intentionally with your spouse, partner, children, parents, and close friends. This is your moment to invest in your relationships.

2) MAKE A NEW DAILY SCHEDULE:

My wife and I have three kids under 10 years old. Almost overnight we’ve had to transition from a conventional lifestyle in which we sent our kids to school, we went to work, ate family dinner, and ended the evening in front of a screen. With the recent closing of schools in our area, we’re getting a crash course in homeschooling and juggling roles and responsibilities.

I once read a parenting book recently that warned against using the “power tools of anger, fear, and shame” to alter your children’s behavior. The author suggested using those methods may produce temporary results, but rarely any long-term growth in kids. I politely agreed with this advice, but let me tell you, “Wow, have I wanted to break out the power tools this week with my kids!” Three kids bouncing off the walls with two overwhelmed parents (both trying to work from home, learn new skills, invest in our relationship, and put food on the table), this is not easy!

To my wife’s credit, she helped us develop a daily family schedule, and it has been a game-changer. As an Event Planner by trade, my wife initiated this sanity-saving regiment several days ago. It has paid off big time! The idea is relatively straightforward. Kids, like adults, thrive with routine. This is especially true when transitioning to a new way of life that involves a sudden loss of control. COVID 19 has taken away many of the freedoms we previously enjoyed. In response, we composed a new family schedule. Feel free to use our schedule as a starting point from which to develop your own based on your values and life variables.

Our New Daily Schedule

6:00–7:00 am Mom & Dad Time (Getting up before the kids when possible allows some time for us to get in the right frame of mind, get ready for the day and be positive when the kids wake up, this is easy to skip but worth doing)

7:00–8:30 am Breakfast, Morning Lists & Free Time (mom and dad alternate making breakfast; morning lists includes getting dressed, making the bed, brushing teeth and clearing dishes; kids can draw, read, play Legos, dolls, etc.)

8:30–9:00 am Individual or group reflection time (Bible reading, prayer, journaling, prayer, etc. Our youngest watch an educational show on Right Now Media, we meet as a family when it is over to share what we read or did briefly)

9:00–10:00 am E-Learning School Time block one

10:00–11:00 am Mom or Dad’s Exercise Time; Kid’s Free Time (kids can draw, read, play Legos, watch the approved show on iPad; parents can switch off supervision as needed)

11:00–Noon– E-Learning School Time block 2 on weekends this is outdoor play (we have a fenced-in backyard, but the kids sometimes prefer to ride bikes which require supervision)

Noon — 1:00 pm Lunch

1:00–1:30 pm Chores (pick age-appropriate chores that parents first teach how to do)

1:30–3:30 pm Quiet Time (Our 3-year-old still naps, our 7 and 9 year-olds have one-hour quiet play followed by 1-hour Video Games — parents time to work from home)

3:30–4:00 pm Mom’s Choice Time + Snack (board game, baths, work on a family service project, reading, FaceTime friends, etc.)

4:00–5:00 pm Outdoor Play/Family Walk (We’ve come to enjoy this family walk despite the cold temps in our area as it gives us fresh air, a break from the house and exercise)

5:00–6:00 pm Dinner (We try to use this to share about how we are all feeling and think/pray for another family or friend who is on our mind in this season where we can’t visit)

6:00–8:00 pm Family Movie/Game Night (We rotate which family member gets to pick either a movie or game we play — see Disney Plus, Common Sense Media https://www.commonsensemedia.org, etc.)

8:00–8:30 pm Tuck-Ins (Mom, Dad or both and yes 8:00 pm because parents will go crazy with free-range bedtime + full day of homeschooling for amateurs)

8:30–10:00 pm Mom and Time (With a relatively early bedtime goal mom and dad can finish up emails for work, watch the news, plan for tomorrow, connect and get to bed early to face tomorrow)

3) SAY THE WORDS THAT MATTER MOST: It’s true. Social distancing does not need to include relationship negligence, and we can even schedule this as a priority. A third way you can leverage this season for personal growth is to express the most vital messages to the people you care about. Dr. Ira Byock, in his fascinating book, “The Four Things that Matter Most.” argues that four straightforward phrases have the power to enhance our overall emotional wellness. What are these magical phrases?

They are: “Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you.” Consider for a moment how you will look back on these weeks several years from now. What if your primary memory is not of the many inconveniences but rather something like: “That was the inconvenience that pushed me to finally speak out-loud what my loved one needed to hear for years.” You can leverage this opportunity to speak the words that matter most to those you love. What do you have to lose, and what do you have to gain?

4) TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY: The truth is, we can fill every waking hour of this evolving trial with News, Netflix, and Nintendo. Additionally, we can turn to comfort foods, our favorite couch, and alcohol to numb the anxiety that comes with this kind of ordeal. On the flip side, we can “self-soothe” by running ourselves ragged in our own homes with long put-off projects, remote workaholism, and hyper-organizing. Neither a sedentary lifestyle of indulgence nor a hyperactive regiment will help our physical bodies thrive.

Consider that the Coronavirus Pandemic may be just the kind of opportunity your neglected physical health has been waiting for. Today I’m on day eight of a 14-day body cleanse regimen that includes eating better, exercising, and taking herbs and supplements. I’m avoiding the kinds of foods that make me feel better momentarily but leave me with no energy and a poor mood eventually. I’m also limiting my alcohol use to only one day a week (my cheat day for food as well). My family and I are also taking a daily walk outside (for as long as government protocol allows it). These are things you too can implement. Those who know me well know that I’m far from a health nut. The truth is I love comfort food and binge-watching shows. So, if I can do it, you can as well.

Why should you use this time to purify and strengthen your body? For starters, I feel great physically today, and I’ve only been intentionally making changes for seven days. Additionally, as the virus becomes more contagious, you may contract it. If that happens, would you rather fight it as a more well-rested, more adequately nourished, and more physically fit person? Of course, you would! Who wouldn’t want the home field advantage of fighting off a virus (with no known vaccine) with a healthier body?

No doubt, there are challenges to overcome. There is no shortage of decent workouts for every ability online. We live in an age where all one needs is a living room floor, an internet connection, and the smallest amount of motivation to get a decent work out. Just imagine how it will feel when you emerge from this house-arrest-like tribulation, feeling physically more energetic and resilient than when you started? Your clothes now fit better; you’ve established a handful of healthy habits and learned to avoid the common pitfalls of being a homebody. Even more surprising, you’ve also started to enjoy that morning spinach, blueberry, protein shake! The fact is you can and should upgrade your physical health over the next few weeks. It is easier than you think, and you’ll be glad you did it.

5) DEVELOP ONE NEW SKILL OR COMPLETE ONE MINOR PROJECT: There are so many minor skills that most people wish they took the time to develop. There is also no shortage of small projects that would make our lives run more smoothly if we stopped putting them off. The primary reason we do put these things off is a lack of time. We run too fast. Guess what? The Government has given many of us a great excuse to slow down and learn that skill or complete that project we’ve been putting off for years. Examples to get you thinking:

- Learn to organize better your closet, garage, kitchen, or kid’s toy area. — Learn to draw, play the guitar, or write more effectively. — Learn to cook a specific type of meal you or a loved one enjoy. — Research online different ways to have a personal quiet time that may include things like journaling, prayer, Scripture, meditation, and breathing exercises. — Learn about the different genres of the Bible (I recommend Making Sense of the Bible by David Whitehead) — Learn to tie two different types of fishing knots. — Learn how to make a budget (Dave Ramsey has a wealth of material online). — Develop an annual home maintenance checklist. — Find a tutorial on YouTube on the features of your smartphone or laptop. — Research 1–3 podcasts that are new to you and start listening. — Make a list of the shows you’ve watched on streaming devices in the last few years that have made your life better vs. worse. Choose new shows with that information in mind. — Make a list of five books you have always felt you should read someday. Start with the shortest one and work your way up the file to the longest. — Purchase an audible account or free audiobook account through your library card online and start by listening to a short book that will make you a more positive person. — Research two future vacations (make one a quick getaway and one a more extended trip).

Nobody knows which skill or project is best suited for you better than you (or possibly your spouse). With that in mind, pick a few possibilities and commit to one. Taking responsibility for our lives includes becoming a life-long “learn it all” who is not afraid of tackling a long put-off project now and then. Few activities make human beings feel better than the satisfaction of learning a new skill or crossing something off our to-do list that has been there for too long.

The opportunity before us is monumental. We can become paralyzed with fear or we can leverage the challenges of social distancing and COVID -19 towards personal growth. You know which path to take. May you find the courage to take the first step today.

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Mike Lotzer

Mike Lotzer is the Co-Founder Salute to Relationships and Mourning Story. He is the Lead Pastor of Mercy Road Church, an Army Veteran, husband and father.