I must admit, I am writing this list of advice in part so someone will admonish me if I am not following it. It is hard to create new habits. Harder still to develop boundaries with technology when it is one of the few ways we can feel connected to each other during this time. When drafting advice for distance learning, I kept coming back to the health and wellness concerns and struggles I am having sitting in front of my computer right now. But health and wellness advice IS advice for distance learning. Also, as Brad Rotheberger succinctly put it, “school is not the most important thing right now, safety is.”
Health and wellbeing are always first, yet we don’t always put them first. In the name of some goal, some addiction, some socially accepted practice we sometimes put them second, third, or last on our list. I’ll give you some examples from my own life. Sometimes I will check my email in bed. Gasp. I know that isn’t good for my sleep, my brain or my sense of wellness. No one needs me to be checking my email at 5:30 in the morning because the baby is up. Sometimes I binge watch a TV show instead of getting outside. Sometimes I eat a lot of chocolate (but there are antioxidants, so it’s healthy, right?).
Holderness’ mission speaks of cultivating the “mind, body and spirit”; in our stated purpose we have never seen them as distinct entities. So my “advice for distance learning” is largely about body and spirit. If we take care of these things, we will support the endeavors of the mind. But please remember, school is not the most important thing right now. These are in no particular order. Also, please be kind to yourself. If you are anything like me, you will read this list and go “gosh, I really am failing at this” in fact, you are doing great. Do just a bit better tomorrow and a bit better after that.
1. Practice good hygiene, especially Monday through Friday.
Brush your teeth after you eat breakfast (and at night too, please).
Change your clothes, even if it is into a new pair of sweatpants. PJ’s through lunch are for Saturdays and Sundays, making them special days.
Get dressed up for dinner on Friday night or Saturday night, it welcomes our two-day weekend.
Confession: One Wednesday I realized I had yet to brush my teeth. My routine is to do it the last thing before I leave in the morning so I don’t have coffee breath. As I was continuing to sip coffee all morning, I forgot.
2. Get moving, even to a new chair.
Even if it is only a 15-minute yoga practice from your teeny floor space in your bedroom, moving your body is important.
If you can get outside do! Rain or shine. A study I read years ago has stuck with me on this point. A researcher was confused by the fact that Finns were so much happier in the winter than others living in the far reaches of the northern hemisphere (e.g. Alaskans and Russians). She found two pieces of advice from her research in Finland: 1) get outside every day no matter the weather and 2) there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. I went for a walk in the rain on Monday and it was glorious.
Change your position. Move your computer to a place where you can stand during a class, read on the floor on your belly, sit with your legs folded on a blanket outside. Don’t sit in the same position for too long.
Confession: When working on the schedule staring at my computer over break I realized I had yet to even leave the Rathbun apartment all day, despite it being a beautiful day. So I took Josie for an evening stroll at 6 pm.
3. Be kind and grateful.
Small acts of gratitude have been shown to improve overall health and well being. Find ways to thank the people in your life, even if you can’t see them. Write them a note (that you will mail when you get stamps, or send them a picture of it).
Reach out to others, chances are if you are feeling low someone else is too.
Find ways to say thank you without saying anything at all. Do the dishes, volunteer to make dinner, vacuum the entire house, put socks on your hands and dust while dancing to your favorite playlist, reorganize that junk drawer.
Be kind to yourself, you are feeling feelings, acknowledge them and don’t be frustrated with them. Feel them and then try to move forward.
Confession: Writing cards and sending thank yous is always something I aspire to do, but I rarely make the time for. I still haven’t written one during this time besides thinking about it a lot. Someone hold me to this! Also, Mr. Carrigan cleans the house a lot, I am going to beat him to vacuuming one of these days!
4. Find a screen-free project.
Start writing in a journal (and join the writing club!)
Learn to bake bread (and join the cooking club!)
Doodle for an hour.
Read a great book (or five)
Take up sewing or knitting if you have the supplies.
Create a scavenger hunt for a younger sibling or a parent :)
Play a game or a board game.
Confession: My habit has increasingly become Instagram. It is a great escape at times, but I find myself hitting the “15 more minutes” button about 15 times a day (an exaggeration I am sure, but I don’t even want to check!). I just ordered some watercolors.
5. Strive for better Tech Hygiene (none of us will be great at this right now, it's for work and it's how we feel connected, but we can try.)
Don’t charge your phone within arms reach at night (better yet, get it out of the bedroom).
Have a family or contest with your friends to lower your “pick-ups” number each day (yes, I know you will have to “pick it up” to tell your friends the number of “pick-ups”).
Don’t look at a screen right before bed, if you have to, make it a TV screen watching something with someone else and not a personal device.
Work on developing a bedtime routine that doesn’t include your phone. For example, plug in your phone then brush your teeth, wash your face, change into PJs, get into bed, read a book/magazine or do a meditation.
Listen don’t look. If you can listen to your news, (the NPR app is great), or listen to an audio book (Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers plays like a great podcast) do it. It will help you feel informed and connected without straining your eyes, and you can do it on the move!
Confession: My screen-time is way up and it doesn’t even sync with my computer. I am working on this. The phone is moving out of the bedroom tonight!
I write this letter with a heavy heart and as a call to action. The senseless killing of George Floyd and the countless black men and women who have needlessly died before him continually expose the deep fractures of our society made manifest by racism and injustice. In our outrage and pain, the Holderness School community stands in solidarity with our students and alumni of color, the black community, and with the peaceful protestors across the country.
The works of art on the walls of this digital gallery were made by Holderness School students representing grades 9-12 in various photography and studio art classes throughout the 2019-2020 school year.
Some of the images are an observation and illustration of the incredible complexity and significance of the time we live in; some pieces are commentary about pollution and climate change while other pieces are simply beautiful and pleasing to view. They all have merit and purpose.
The artwork also illustrates the interests and concerns of young artists figuring out their role in the world. Their work is sincere and candid and shows the depth of talent in the visual arts here at Holderness School. These students are extremely creative, intelligent, mature, and most of all, capable of creating insightful artwork with substance and significance.