By Becca Jones, MA LPC – Director of Counseling & Wellness.
In response to the global pandemic, the landscape of our daily lives has changed drastically and rapidly. The onslaught of bad news, lack of connection, and isolation has a far-reaching impact. For many, it has created a sense of helplessness. I believe this helplessness comes from the uncertainty of our circumstance combined with the loss of structure. In the face of uncertainty, we often cling to structure and organization, much of which we have lost as the boundaries of space, where we work, attend school, socialize, and live, have been blended into the same place, our homes. Even now I sit at my dining room table, which moonlights as a conference room table, work space, and arts and crafts station for my daughter, I am aware of my worlds, the way in which I spend my time, blending into one. This fundamental shift in structure is the cause for much anxiety and can lead to a sense of helplessness.
Restore Agency with a Healthy Mind Platter
As the structure of our days shifts, the concept of time becomes very important. How we spend our time and organize our days can help restore the necessary elements of agency, the ability to change our circumstances, and create stability. Dr. Dan Siegel and David Rock (2011) identified seven essential daily tasks, ways in which to spend your time, in order to promote a healthy mind. These elements of what they call the healthy mind platter include focus time, playtime, connecting time, physical time, time-in, downtime, and sleep time. Focus time is goal-oriented time aimed at solving problems. Playtime invites the creative part of us to explore and be spontaneous. Connecting time can be both with the natural world around us and with other people, aimed at honoring the relational nature of our minds. Physical time engages our embodied selves by moving, while time-in is about introspective reflection. Downtime refers to the non-directive time where our brains can relax, and sleep is the ever-important gift to our minds where we can integrate and synthesize the events of the day with a healthy night’s rest.
Create a Daily Schedule
The ways in which I can meet the needs of this more balanced, healthy mind may have changed, but it brings me back to the value of being able to create a daily schedule and engage in the communities I am a part of. For some of you, this will be to continue to engage in the classroom. The structure of learning can help to foster a sense of agency by returning the ability to engage in focus time, connecting time, time-in, and even playtime. In times of high anxiety, we often resort to the tyranny of the urgent, disregarding the need to learn, explore, and grow, and I believe that it is time for an intentional focus on more structured, balanced use of time. It is through engaging the learning process that I can be reminded of the resilience of the human mind and humankind. I hope you will join me as I find pockets of engagement, even in times of high anxiety.
Consider utilizing a resource for creating a schedule. This tool can help you to add some structure to your daily life and hopefully increase a sense of agency. Look into adding each element of the Healthy Mind Platter as you can in order to promote overall health and wellness.
Siegel, D. & Rock, D (2011). The Healthy Mind Platter. Dr. Dan Siegel. https://www.drdansiegel.com/re