• Elephas Counselling

Structure for sanity ... something positive emerges from home-schooling

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

As our third lockdown began, I found myself anxiously scribbling down the timetable for my two secondary school age children in preparation for the first day of remote learning. I wasn’t looking forward to it; my sporadic efforts with homeschooling last year were met with big sighs and resistance. But this time around, they are both in the same school (hats off to those parents juggling multiple timetables!) and their amazing teachers are giving us what arguably we all really need at the moment, a bit of #structure.

As I drew out columns with names, times and subjects and set multiple alarms on my phone in order to supervise the transitions (and make lunch at the correct time!), I found myself adding an extra column for myself with a task to do during each of their lessons. This gave me a slice of that lovely structure too and rather unexpectedly, it’s made a world of difference to my days.

As a #counsellor trying to build a private practise, I have a lot of set-up admin to do and I’ve been avoiding it like a coronavirus; most of my working life has been in front of a computer and sitting at a desk feels annoying now, somehow. So, #procrastination kicks in; time is wasted scrolling through social media, constantly checking the News App (really not recommended right now) or the easy wins are completed whilst the more challenging tasks are carried forward for weeks on end. Having a timed schedule written down at the beginning of each day seems to keep me accountable and creates the pleasure of ticking things off with an actual pen when completed, and who doesn’t love doing that?

More important than getting those challenging tasks finally done however, is that I’m noticing the #timetable helps with my mental wellbeing. My children go to their Dad’s for remote learning two days a week and recently I had a free day on my own, stretching ahead of me without responsibilities (I know this sounds magical to most #parents, but hear me out!). Due to rather heavy client work the day before, I began with some indulgent laziness (involving that addictive social media scrolling); but after a couple of hours, realised I was starting to feel aimless and blue. It was dark and drizzly outside, the world is strange and scary right now and there’s no clear end to it all. I had ideas of how to fill my day but not much was actually happening.

So, I turned all the home school phone alarms back on, scribbled out a plan for the rest of the day and immediately felt so much better; I had #purpose and a timetable to stick to :-)

Having structure in our lives is difficult for many of us at the moment. A lot of families have been thrown into chaos, working from home alongside supervising remote learning for their children. Others are incredibly isolated, furloughed from work with the task of trying to fill their day whilst living alone.

We’ve been told what we should try and do to protect our mental health right now; connect with others, practise self care, keep busy, but sometimes you can wake up in the morning floundering, not knowing where to start and the day runs away with you.

#Timetabling your day can work in most situations; stressed #homeschooling parents trying to juggle too much at the same time could plan doing their best at one task and then leaving it behind and moving on when the timetable says so. A home worker could use it to plan a more productive day if they find they are constantly distracted by new emails and ‘quick win’ tasks. A #retired couple or #furloughed worker could schedule in exercise, reading, or a phone call to a friend. I plan in a mixture of things that ensure I’m looking after myself and our home, as well as the tasks that move me forward with my goals, if only in a small way.

I’ve used time blocking methods before when my life was a crazy whirlwind of office work, #university, counselling placements and essay writing (as well as trying to fit in that lovely thing we used to call a social life!). I’m very prone to over-scheduling and feeling guilty if I don’t get through it all. When talking about making changes with my clients, I usually advise to start small and manageable. So, if you think timetabling or scheduling your day could help you too, perhaps try it very loosely at first, especially if you’ve been struggling with depression or anxiety and just getting out of bed is a challenge.

I appreciate structure doesn’t suit everyone and we all have our own ways of keeping on top of our mental #wellbeing, but if what I've written gives anyone who is struggling without their usual #routines some ideas, help or inspiration, I’ll be very happy!

Karen, Elephas Counselling

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