Group Care Foster Care

A Season To “Step” It Up

Rhonda Wright

Over the past 5-6 weeks, our routines have taken a dramatic turn.

As we have all begun practicing a previously unheard-of activity called “shelter in place” throughout April for GA and even still continuing in certain states around the country our daily routines have been upended. This has brought a new experience that would be described differently by each reader.

For some, the changes have been minimal and maybe even pleasant. For others, the changes are drastic and devastating. Most of us fall somewhere within that continuum. Personalities, employment, family dynamics, and lifestyle pre-COVID are all contributing factors regarding how we are affected by our new normal.

Though many differences exist in how we are perceiving and coping with this season of life, there are some universals in our lives. We all need various strategies to move through this time in a healthy manner. As a part of WinShape, we are blessed to have weekly devotionals, prayer forums, Godly team leaders and messages directly from the Cathy family to provide spiritual support and direction.

Despite this foundational guidance, we are still faced with the day to day in our homes. It is rarely the big life events that create the most difficulty, but rather the daily frustrations within the walls of our homes – the people we love, unloading the dishwasher again, changing yet another diaper, that snarky look from our teenager and the way our spouse…. well, you fill in the blank there.

In summary, the hardest thing about life is that it is so daily. So, what are some practical and helpful efforts that could be applied to your new lifestyle? Without creating an exhaustive or exhausting list here, let’s explore one option – physical activity.

“You observe a lot by watching” – Yogi Berra

As a college student, I was involved in a fitness dance group in effort to fight that “Freshman 15.” The weight control benefits were as expected, and the pounds stayed off. What I hadn’t anticipated were the effects it had on me in another area. The workouts left me emotionally energized.

It seemed I was overall happier after workouts and better able to manage the stress surrounding the upcoming test or paper due the following day. This intrigue would later influence me in choosing my thesis topic in graduate school. My research design involved evaluating movement therapy with a population in a mental health facility suffering from schizophrenia and an elderly population in a nursing home suffering from dementia. The results demonstrating immediate increases in positive interactions with peers and staff were easily observable.

Years later – in my next life as a homeschooling mother – there were those days. “Stop doing that with your pencil,” one child would say. “I was just writing,” would be the testy response. “No, you’re not, you’re doing that thing again”.

Sometimes a child, or some children, might need an eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart conversation. Other times, what everyone needed was, “Pencils down, everyone outside for a relay in the backyard.” Whatever the activity we chose, the results were undeniable; attitudes were more positive, and life quickly became a bit smoother.

Fast forward to earlier this year. As a part of WinShape Homes’ 2020 Key Initiatives, we hosted a group of school social workers for a day at the Chick-fil-A Support Center to promote Group Care awareness.

Three staff members spoke, shared information and videos, and facilitated a Q & A session. Our last act for the day was led by the wellness team. They led with, “Everybody up!” Bright green bands and stress balls were passed out as the leaders gave various movement instructions. The room exploded with energy. Participants began making eye contact, laughing and engaging with each other on a more positive level than any other time during the day.

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it” – Plato

Scientific studies have repeatedly documented not only the physical benefits but also the emotional and mental benefits of exercise. Certain changes occur in body chemistry during and following physical activity. The release of dopamine (a motivation enhancer), serotonin (a mood stabilizer), norepinephrine (an attention booster), as well as brain derived neurotrophic factors are linked to growth and neuroplasticity. All are known to be released during exercise.

As a result, physical activity has been recognized as a viable treatment for depression, anxiety, stress, ADHD and PTSD.

“For some people [exercise] works as well as pharmaceutical antidepressants,” says Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

“To everything there is a season…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance!” – Ecclesiastes 3

Well- known speaker Brené Brown recently shared tips for navigating anxiety during the coronavirus and stated the following: “As the wave of pandemic travels through the U.S. and we start to lose people that we see every day and know every day, it’s going to be grief on top of grief, on top of grief. And the only things I can tell you for sure that I believe work — and I think there’s good science behind this — is we have to move our bodies. Because we store trauma and grief and anxiety in our bodies. We have to exercise. We have to walk. We have to do yoga. We have to move our bodies.”

So, whatever works for you and your family, create a self-care plan, pick an activity and work out that stress and anxiety!