Guest Columnist

Possible silver linings in the COVID-19 pandemic

Menomonee Falls resident Maureen Lewis leads an outdoor morning exercise routine for neighbors on her street on Friday,
Menomonee Falls resident Maureen Lewis leads an outdoor morning exercise routine for neighbors on her street on Friday, March 27, 2020. Maureen stands in the street so participants can see her from their driveways while observing social distancing. The workout includes light stretches and exercises for 10 to 15 minutes. (Scott Ash/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

What a change a few weeks have brought to people worldwide! It’s easy to let anxiety and fear overcome even the most resilient among us. But, often accompanying catastrophes come opportunities. That certainly is the case now with millions of adults and their kids unexpectedly confined together with schools and workplaces shuttered because of COVID-19.

With so many families accustomed to a grab and go lifestyle and with members constantly going to and from activities and duties it will take adjustment to switch into a lifestyle similar to years past when families worked more closely together.

Opportunities now abound for multigenerational cooperation and learning. It’s enforced home school. And with schools shuttered learning opportunities abound.

Consider these possibilities:

• Build something. Spring is arriving in the Northern Hemisphere. Working together to construct a bird house is a way for adults to help kids learn how to follow plans, apply math, learn hand tool use, and practice safety. Many plans can be downloaded from the internet and only scrap wood and common tools are needed to create a birdhouse. Set a wren house up in the backyard near a window. These common birds arrive in Iowa in mid to late April and soon begin nesting. They are a joy to watch, and they eat tons of mosquitoes.

• Cook a special meal. In today’s normally hectic world of fast food, take out, and pop in the oven ready-made meals, far too few people experience the joy of creating one from scratch. Now there’s time together to create a meal the old-fashioned way. Cooking helps kids learn practical skills and information like measuring, chemistry, and the origin and history of ingredients. It’s hard to beat a delicious meal created through family cooperation.

• Plan and plant a garden. Producing food in the yard eases uncertainty and is fun. An amazing quantity of healthy vegetables can be grown in even a tiny space. Planting time for radishes, lettuce, and other early crops is coming soon, making March the best month to plan what and where to plant.

• Declutter and clean. Can’t go to work? Now’s the time to tackle long deferred projects. Clutter is an enemy of efficiency. Rarely used stuff gets in the way and challenging times teaches us what items really are important. Confinement is an ideal time to declutter and clean the house, car, and yard.

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• Read, watch, and listen. Limit watching TV or checking your mobile device. The bad news produces an overabundance of the stress hormones. Confinement is an opportunity to open the book long ignored, watch inspiring and fun videos, and listen to inspiring talks and music that enter the home electronically without microbes.

• Enjoy nature. Even families living in urban apartments are surrounded by nature. Sit on the balcony, walk a nearby trail, or observe the antics of wildlife, even if that’s only sparrows or pigeons. The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology quickly assembled some bird related free bird related activities. Check out https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/how-to-make-these-next-few-weeks-a-little-easier-courtesy-of-birds/ . Remember, rambling in the woods with kids requires no special adult knowledge to spot an array of fascinating things to see and enjoy.

• Go outside. Nature and sunshine are healing balms. The Japanese term is Shinrin-yoku — forest bathing. This term does not solely refer to being in a forest. Any place outdoors can comfort, calm, and center us so we are more resilient. Thus, we can more effectively face this uncertain time and help others, too. We have many parks, trails, and quiet areas to stroll or sit to gather our strength.

• Laugh. Yup! The retirement account is down. The TV is filled with bad news. Threats seem everywhere. But laughter IS the best of medicines. Laughter releases calming hormones and stimulates positive neurotransmitters that help us through difficult times. Think DOSE. Dopamine — bliss and pleasure, focus and appetite control. Oxytocin — emotional attachment. Serotonin — improves sleep, self-esteem, relieves depression and worrying. Endorphins — Mood elevating and a natural pain killer.

Perhaps no attribute is more useful now than a hearty sense of humor.

Let’s all make the best of these trying times and seize the opportunity this disease is providing to strengthen families and recognize those things most important.

Marion and Rich Patterson own Winding Pathways LLC. windingpathways.com

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