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The Healthy Mind Platter with Aspen's In-Home Family Support: Part Four

If you’re not working in an essential service role outside of the house, homes have become the place for everything. That unique sanctuary you had designed for your own personal needs now has to function as your workplace, a school, gym and place of rest. It has now become the place your children are expected to enhance their learning and YOU are the person expected to support them in maintaining their focus to do so. How? How can you be expected to be a good worker, parent, teacher, homemaker (and person!) all at one time? How do you focus your time?

Welcome to the 4th installment of Dr. Seigel’s Healthy Mind Platter; Focus Time. Our brains are wired to crave challenge, so setting tasks or goals each day, or even week, feeds our innate need to feel accomplished. So, how do you continue to fit in your full work shift, support your child’s full school day, maintain the house and fit in some personal time? Short answer: you don’t. You set intentions for the day and be kind to yourself as you navigate this new norm.

SET YOUR GOALS

Dr. Seigel outlines that focus needs to be more about setting intentional goals, over attempting to recreate your former life during this time of crisis. It is humanly impossible to commit undivided focus to taking on multiple roles you are not accustomed to taking, in a place not conducive to regularly accommodate them. So, start small and begin by setting tasks you wish to complete for the day.

So how do you do this? Be SMART of course!

  • Set SMART goals – the goals you set for yourself must be SMART goals in order to be attainable. That is that goals must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Be very clear about what you are looking to accomplish. For instance, setting the goal of “complete taxes” can be quite overwhelming of a goal, but what tasks specifically are you looking to accomplish to contribute to this? Perhaps you need to download the software or book an appointment with an accountant? Perhaps the receipts or paperwork need to be compiled? These larger goals can be broken down into smaller, more attainable tasks.
    Setting SMART goals
  • Determine your intentions and expectations - Tasks or goals can be set for the week, the night before, or perhaps first thing in the morning when you have more of a sense of your body’s needs. It is easy to formulate a list of all the tasks that need to be complete for work or school. Those are the concrete items that first come to mind when making a “to-do” list and can feel overwhelming. But what about setting aside intentional time for yourself? What about going for that solo walk or committing to sit down and engage in some leisurely reading? These aspects are just as, if not more important to your well-being to then be able to focus on the more concrete expectations.
  • Make it visual - It is important to physically document your intentions down on a list, planner or app, because nothing beats that feeling of satisfaction of being able to cross your accomplishments off of a list.

Here are some examples of ways you can document your goals and intentions:

CREATE A ROUTINE

So now you’ve created your intentions for the day, it’s important to now fit them into a loose routine. If you have children in the home (or even if you don’t!) routine provides us with a sense of predictability and control of our environment. There have been sample routines and schedules floating around the internet, but it’s important to come up with a routine that works best for you and your household’s needs.

  • Understand your own internal clock – If you feel as though you function much better after a morning of mindfulness practice, then schedule your day to set your work meetings or tasks for afterwards. You’ll be much more focused and able to complete more work during that time than if you’re forcing your brain to focus when you’re not mentally able to.
  • Know the needs of those around you - If you have children who are grumpy in the mornings, then getting them up at the crack of dawn to complete their daily school assignments is probably not the best idea. It’s understandable that you’d want their new routine to mimic that of their prior one, but let’s face it, by creating a schedule that incorporates the natural internal clocks of your family, you’ll have more focused children, which in turn supports your ability to focus on your own tasks.
  • Schedule your day around your household needs - If you are taking on the role of teacher at your house as well, then making a routine that incorporates the needs of everyone in your home is important. As much as it would be ideal to have young children complete their school work independently as you schedule in your work time, keep in mind that the young ones will most likely require your assistance to complete their work and navigate the world of virtual learning (have you sat and watched a 7 year old type? It’s painful!), so scheduling important meetings or moments requiring your undivided attention during young children’s school time would not be ideal. Of course, if your children are older and more independent in their studies, then scheduling in your focused work time during those instances may work best for you.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF

As mentioned, scheduling is important, but it’s also important to ensure you are kind to yourself during these times. You are coping and doing your best. Some days your intentions and goals may need to be more personally focused over doing what you feel is expected of you. You may realize that some days you have the ability to accomplish a lot of work, where other days you need to practice more self-compassion. Take advantage of the pockets of motivation as they arise and recognize that it will vary from day to day. There are also some days you might not have it in you to play the role of teacher. In these instances, there are educational websites below you could utilize during “school time” or you can always take advantage of a child’s most effective educational tool; free play. Take the time you need to refresh, regroup and reenergize your mind and recognize that those in your household will require the same. And don’t forget to follow the tips from the previous Healthy Mind Platter posts to further enhance your mind and increase productivity.

Stay tuned to our next installment of Dan Siegel’s Healthy Mind Platter as we cover Connecting Time!