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Engagement in the Age of Social Distancing and Quarantine

By: Danielle Rowland, OTD, OTR/L

April is Occupational Therapy Month! When most people hear the term therapy they think of exercise. While exercise may be involved during occupational therapy treatment, that is not typically the end goal. Occupational Therapy strives to promote the health and wellbeing of all individuals through engagement in daily activities (occupations) that are meaningful and necessary for leading productive lives. This means addressing not only the physical aspects of a person, but also their mental and spiritual wellbeing.

It is more important now than ever to engage in occupation that is meaningful and fulfilling. While it is necessary to engage in social distancing, isolation, and quarantine, it is also imperative that we are all participating in self-care. I have heard many conversations and comments regarding increased levels of fear, anxiety, anger, and depression, among other emotions. These are completely normal feelings to be experiencing at this time. However, it is important not to let those feeling control our daily lives. Below I will discuss the importance of engagement in occupation and some ideas to improve self-care strategies for all ages!

As I touched upon above, occupation is any activity/task during our day that we need to do, want to do, or are expected to do. Although our daily routines have likely changed in this season of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still important to engage in occupation, maybe just in an alternate way. Below I outline some ideas that might be helpful to curb the effects of social isolation. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but perhaps it will spark creativity and foster engagement!

Children:

Although school is currently cancelled, many kids still have assignments and online learning. Kids thrive when they have a routine to follow. It is important to keep a schedule daily to ensure school work is being completed but also so kids are allowed to expend energy, be creative, and play. I recommend adding a time for exercise to your kid’s schedule. Exercise is not only good for physical health, but also mental wellbeing.

Other ideas: cooking/baking, crafts (Pinterest is your friend right now!), reading, board games, gardening, bike riding, roller blading, jump roping, etc.

Of utmost importance is discussing the current state of our world, the pandemic, and the future with our children. They too have increased anxiety/stress as a result of their “normal” being disrupted, as well as being able to sense these emotions in the adults around them. Kids need our time, an opportunity to talk, and touch to feel safe and loved.

Parents:

The schedule is important for you too! This means enforcing recess! As much as kids need to move, parents do too. Take frequent “wiggle breaks” to improve attention and focus for both parents and kids. There are many resources online for sensory ideas and how to incorporate them into one’s routine.

Adults:

Many people are now working from home. It is important to keep a schedule as much as possible. Be sure to include exercise into your day. Exercise is essential for good mental health. Additionally, engaging in regular (electronic) social gatherings is important in an effort to stay connected with family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. There are many people creating e-Bible studies, book clubs, and even exercise groups. Some families are even joining each other for a virtual movie night.

Sleep is an area that is also very important. While working from home it may be easy to stay up later at night, but keep in mind that good sleep habits are needed for optimal performance on work activities and for mental wellness.

Some other ideas or activities available at this time include: puzzles, virtual museum and aquarium tours, online scavenger hunts, participating in the neighborhood bear hunt or rainbow hunt, make a time capsule, chalk your sidewalk or a neighbor’s, start a journal, or take up a new hobby.

Hopefully these ideas will help to improve engagement in occupation despite participation in social distancing.

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