Congresswoman Grace Meng Responds To Jewish Community

 Distance Learning. Synchronized and asynchronized classes. Zoom. Social distancing. Quarantine. Who knew that these words and concepts would become so important to our daily lives in the last few weeks? As schools have closed their buildings and moved to online classrooms, businesses have directed employees to work from home, rabbanim have stopped shul attendance, and everyone is being directed to stay home unless it’s critical, we are all living in a new reality of spending the bulk of our days in our homes with our families.

 

What we once knew as the norm is no longer that, but humans thrive on routine and normalcy. Right now, we need to reinforce normalcy in our lives, by creating a routine that works for us and our family. Every household may look different from one another and each individual’s routine may differ from others in their household.

As we all create our new routine, we recognize there may be challenges for everyone – young, old, and everywhere in between. Staying home all the time can sound like fun, but as we now have a taste of it, we recognize that it can get hard. Here are a few tips for staying physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy in this new normal.

1. Make a Schedule – Even with remote classroom learning or a calendar filled with online business meetings, your day may not feel structured because you are in one location at all times. Make a plan for your day, including wakeup, davening, school, breaks, snacks, relaxation, and bedtime. Start by assessing your usual routine and modifying it for the current circumstances. Working backwards from when you start school or work, make a wakeup time to get dressed, daven, and eat before you begin your day. Setting a tone for your day will help keep your head in the right space.

2. Keep a Set Bedtime – It’s easy to feel like we are on vacation and do away with bedtimes, especially for teens and adults. Unfortunately, doing so will result in an unhealthy setup for yourself. All of the normal bedtime recommendations are in place. Follow APA guidelines for how much sleep children through young adults should be getting per night and work that into your schedule. Technology has become our link to the outside world, so we are on it even more than usual. Devices should never charge in bedrooms. Families should create a central overnight charging location and devices should get turned off 30-60 minutes before bed. Keeping bedtime normal will help with the overall routine.

3. Clean Your Space – Just as you wouldn’t walk into a conference room or classroom with books stacked on the desk or food left around, so too can you demand respect from yourself for your learning space at home. It’s easy to stay messy in your room or at a desk. Take five minutes during the day and again at the end of every day to put away unused books, throw out garbage, and tidy up. Working in a clean space will make your learning better.

4. Keep Your Mind Busy – Without our commutes, and within the new school schedules, there is more time than usual before and after the “school day.” Wasting time on mindless activities is needed for breaks, but too much of that will harm our brains. Read a good book, play a board game, do crossword puzzles, complete a jigsaw puzzle, or play an instrument. Go online and learn a new skill. The options are endless on how to keep your mind busy.

5. Eat Healthful Foods – It’s so easy to eat poorly when you are home all day. Snacking can take on a whole new meaning when you aren’t paying attention. Make an effort to have three meals a day and drink plenty of water. Stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables so you have healthful options if fresh ones are hard to get.

6. Get Outside – Even if you are quarantined or self-distancing, there are ways to get fresh air and have a change of scenery. If you are quarantined, you can spend time in your backyard, and if you are self-distancing, you can go for a walk around your neighborhood. Fresh air has a positive effect on both body and mind.

7. Stay Fit Indoors – Working out releases endorphins, which trigger positive feelings. This can seriously help one’s health. Workout apps are available on all phones, plus there are an abundance of workout videos on YouTube and the like. Run up and down your stairs or go back to the basics with jumping jacks and pushups. Find a workout that you like and do it daily!

8Be Involved with Others Remotely – It’s important to stay connected to friends and family outside of your house. Talk to friends, not only through the written word of WhatsApp and texting, but through FaceTime and other visual apps. There are multiple free concerts, shiurim, and contests via Zoom. Contact your local nursing home and see if there are residents who would like to talk.

 An added note for parents of children and teens: Help your children accomplish these goals in two ways:

 1 - Communicate with them to help them make schedules, find healthful foods, exercise, etc. Listen to your children and hear how they want to set up their day. Communicate family expectations to them such as keeping their areas clean and getting outside once daily. Use the current situation to have family dinners and talk about what is working and what is not. Putting down strict rules with no explanation is not productive, but talking through the new situations and what you all want this to look like will be a tremendous benefit for all.

 2 - Be role models in how to stay healthy at a time like this. Schedule family time outside. Show your children that you are making time to stay healthy in mind and body and they will follow!

 Creating structure and routine while following healthful habits will help everyone navigate these trying times. As we get used to the new normal, we all hope and pray to be back to the old normal soon!


Tamar Sheffey, LCSW, is the Director of Guidance at Yeshiva University High School for Boys. She maintains a private practice in Teaneck. Tamar can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.