How to Maintain Mental Health While Distance Learning
By Adam Parker, School Psychologist
The classroom full of laughter, joking and group time on the carpet has been replaced with news in the background, too many people in the house, and the voices of Zoom, FacetTime and Skype. The question that arises is how do we keep our mental health in a good place during such a time of uncertainty? Below are some ideas to help stay connected socially while we are physically distanced.
While we are isolated in our homes, we still have the ability to connect with our peers, friends and co-workers through video calls like Facetime, Skype, and Zoom. While being on the playground isn’t a reality right now, card games, virtually seeing each other, and playing video games together are still possible. For children, being able to connect with their peers is going to be extremely important during this time, and thanks to the Internet they will be able to do this. You can brainstorm some topics and questions with your child that might help them connect with their friends over the phone. Ask things like, “What are five things you’ve been able to do during your time at home?” or, “Have you played any fun games with your family lately?”
For adults, carving out time to video call with friends will be important for your social and mental health as well. Being able to video call with friends, family members, and colleagues is a nice luxury to have in a time of isolation like this. You’re still able to have a Friday night happy hour, make a cheese board, and talk about your dish while connecting with friends. When we think about what our previous social time looked like, it is possible to recreate many of those things with our phone propped up or the camera on our laptop facing us.
Creating a Schedule
Even though the day doesn’t look like it used to right now, getting into a routine is still important. It is important to wake up when you normally would, take a shower, eat breakfast, and then start on pre-planned blocks you’ve created for yourself. Maybe a few days a week the dress code at home is pajamas and that’s ok, but make sure you have some structure around your day. A quick and easy schedule for students might look like this:
- 9 a.m. — Wake up, shower and eat breakfast
- 10 a.m. — Exercise (could be a walk or some dancing)
- 11 a.m. — Academics
- 12 p.m. — Lunch
- 12:30 p.m. — Chores
- 1 p.m.— Quiet Time (Puzzles, reading, relaxing)
- 2 p.m. — Academics
- 3 p.m. — Outside time
- 5 p.m. — Dinner
- 6- p.m. — Free time
The idea is to follow some sort of routine that adds structure and allows your children to get the most out of their day. The same structure can be used for parents — knowing that you still have a routine will help make your days more productive and keep you from spending the entire day watching TV shows.
There is quite a bit of research on how positive exercise is for our mental health. Overcoming the hurdle to start exercise can be tough, but afterwards, we are always left feeling better. Exercise can be walking around your block, riding a bike, or doing a workout class on your phone or TV. Even though gyms are not open, there still many activities that can get our endorphins flowing and help us to stay healthy and happy.
Limit Your Intake of Social Media and News
Being at home and being so dependent on our devices for our connection to the outside world can be a wonderful tool, but there are adverse effects to relying too much on our technology. Balance will be crucial for parents and kids around their social media intake. The news is filled with upsetting numbers about the crisis. Trying to limit the amount of news you listen to as much as possible will open up more time to be productive.
It is important to remember that this isn’t what we’re used to and it’s ok to feel angry, scared, mad, nervous or any range of feelings. We are all learning as we go and remembering to maintain healthy habits will assist in our ability to stay mentally healthy. Will there be some days where you just want to eat ice cream, wear pajamas, and not shower? Sure, but making sure we don’t make that a habit will be what keeps us happy and productive. Remembering that our friends and support are still just a phone call away is also important. If you or your child is feeling any negative feelings, have a list of people you can confide in.
Enjoy This Gift of Time
There is a lot of time in the day. The extra gifts of not commuting, not being in meetings, and getting to roll out of bed and right into your office should not be taken for granted.
Enjoy the ability to spend more time with your family, learn how to draw a cartoon character, or pick up an instrument.
There are so many things that we can try now that we are “stuck in our homes” and making the most of it will be something we look back on and will be grateful for.
You’ve got this!
My name is Adam Parker and I am a School Psychologist who has a passion for making learning fun. I’ve used music, sports, and nature to help students feel comfortable to share their feelings. Lately I have been creating daily social-emotional videos and songs for students during these uncertain times. I like to bring fun back to school!
To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.
K-12 Product Support for Remote Learning:
Our Support for Remote Learning page provides a collection of resources that will help you navigate and refamiliarize yourself with our digital products.
Program support for Out-of-School Learning:
Remote & Distance Learning Support | McGraw-Hill
Find resources on remote learning for McGraw-Hill customers, ranging from digital product support to COVID-19 updates…
Program support for Community & Parents: