The Structure of Being at Home

by Dr. Will Henson

Educators across the country remain home at this time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Being at home brings up its own set of challenges in terms of how we structure our time, how we structure our kids’ time, and how we get things accomplished. In a typical week, structure is imposed from outside: we have a specific time to be at work, for the kids to be at school, for appointments, and so on. We can effectively run on autopilot, and get lost and distracted in the busyness of everyday life.

Being home with no appointments, little structure, and few distractions brings up its own set of challenges.  In this post I want to talk a little bit about the lack of structure in our lives.

Structure is a way we organize our lives. It does a couple of things for people.  First, it provides a framework for getting stuff done. If we have a schedule, or a to-do list, it gives us focus, and purpose.  I’m not saying not to have fun, but be intentional in what you want to accomplish. You don’t have to over-achieve, either.  You can simply have a goal to enjoy being at home, to set the right tone in your house, or even to finish watching that series you love.  Just be intentional about it.

Second, structure is also about self-regulation, or how we manage our thoughts and emotions. When things are not routine and predictable we may feel uneasy and look for ways to soothe ourselves that are not constructive, like eating, zoning out on tech, or withdrawing from our loved ones. Be aware of what you are doing and why. Is it because it needs to be done (that’s okay), or because you want to do it (that’s okay too!), or is it because you are bored, tired, or anxious? If it’s the latter, stop and re-center. Consider shifting your focus to something grounding and important.

I suggest having a list of things you want to get done each day. Some people feel that is too much pressure, but it can be a simple list. Also build in time for relaxation and calm, and being present with family or friends. Having both priorities can help you feel like you’re staying on track and accomplishing things, while also ensuring that you are not completely checked out and absorbed in the act of staying busy. It’s a balancing act, but an important one. And each day offers a new opportunity to find the balance.

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