Being an Occupational Therapist for Rehab Resources, I usually work in an acute hospital. Due to Governor DeWine’s Emergency Rules and the subsequent discontinuation of elective surgeries, I was laid off at the end of March. My world was quickly changing and everyday presented a new challenge. I have 5 children. One had to complete her junior year of high school via remote learning at home. I have a son who was attending Miami University as a piano performance major and living off campus. Early on, we moved him home with his electric piano. My husband, a United Methodist pastor, also became displaced with work. Abruptly, we went from a daily routine of no one being at home to four of us, 24/7… our new normal.
As our living arrangements changed, so did our mental and physical states. Our son and daughter had to navigate on-line learning and performing. We are blessed to have space in our home to provide a quiet environment and distance. Not all my friends had that luxury. I have one friend who had to manage caring for 3 children under the age of 4 while providing a learning environment for 4 other children. To say she had a challenge is an understatement.
Our daily lives became disrupted. Eating, sleeping, work, and leisure patterns changed. What we knew to be true changed. My husband had to figure out how the church could continue its mission. I had to figure out how to spend my time. I cooked meals and cleaned. I also spent a lot of time watching TV.
My husband and I began to take walks in the evening, greeting neighbors with whom we had never really talked with before. The fresh air and exercise helped. Family dinner was a must! We tended to linger over the meal. We asked each other about how we were coping and managing this new normal. I must say my husband and I had a harder time than the kids. They were used to technology as a way of staying in touch with friends with on-line chats and gaming. I looked for new routines by checking the unemployment website, news, Netflix, Wine with DeWine, calls to my parents, granddaughter, children and making dinner. I also began having video calls with my small group from church.
As I began gaining control of our new normal, I noticed some family members were continuing to struggle, especially with the lack of contact. Both young and old were equally impacted. We set up some family Zoom calls and played games. This helped. I learned the days when I was intentional about tasks for others were the days I experienced better mental health. Being both a sewer and a doer, I started making masks for my family. This not only became a form of self-care, but it gave me purpose for my days. Still, it has not been perfect or easy.
When I was called back to work, my boss asked our team to think of projects outside the box and foster connections. One thing I could do at home was to make masks. The team embraced the idea! While some cut fabric, others pinned, and others sewed. It was truly a group effort. These masks could be used not only to help our partners on the front lines, but to demonstrate that our team was supporting them in any way that we could. This new-found purpose has driven me to look beyond myself and how I can support others in healthcare.
After making over 500 masks with the team from Rehab Resources, I am now focusing on enhancing my skills as an Occupational Therapist by taking CEUs and sharing insightful articles. What better way to begin that journey than to increase education on how to care for yourself during this pandemic? Here is one of my favorites:
What I learned during the Stay-at-Home order: be intentional about your tasks; reach out to others; and be kind to yourself and others. I choose to wear a mask; try to adhere to physical distance guidelines; and speak kind words to those I see.
May you find purpose in your new normal.
Kim Royer, OT/L