noun. a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.
verb. the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.
What does that word even mean anymore? Were our lives ‘normal’ before this? Will they be ‘normal’ again? In diversity language we replace ‘normalising’ with ‘usualising’. What will a usual day look and feel like in our future?
What have we lost control of? What have we lost? If we switch a deficit mindset to an abundance mindset. What have we gained control of? What have we gained?
We went into lockdown on Thursday 19th March. Today it is Friday 19th June. 3 months. 13 weeks. 91 days. 2,184 hours. 131,040 minutes. 7,862,400 seconds. A quarter of our year has been spent in a bizarre way. I have been alive for 495 months, so 3 months for me is not a big chunk of my life. For children it is.
So what is it that we need to recover from?
Emotional fatigue… Stress… Trauma… Grief… Bereavement… Loss… There has been an emotional burden to the last few months as our professional and our personal lives have turned topsy-turvy. We can anticipate, but we do not yet know the extent of the toll the last few months has taken on us all. We do not know how it will manifest. I am anticipating people feeling anxious, struggling in busy and noisy places, struggling with leave the house, avoiding social interactions, having sensory overload. New things will trigger new reactions. In my weekly peer support circles we start each session with a word to capture how we are feeling. The word ‘Rollercoaster’ has come up a lot. The emotional rollercoaster, the corona-coaster.
There has been a lot of talk about the recovery curriculum for schools. Intentional and meaningful activity to help our pupils and our students to process how they are feeling.
We cannot assume everyone has had the same experience or are feeling the same emotions so this work will need to be carefully curated and personalised. But what about the staff? What will the recovery curriculum look like for them? How will we support the mental health and the wellbeing of the adults who will be supporting the mental health and wellbeing of the children? How will we give our leaders the space and the time, to process and to recuperate? What resources do we need in place to enable this to happen over the summer before the new academic year starts?
As an English teacher I love words and in my conversations about recovery with my circles over the last few weeks it has struck me that there has been a pattern of words that keep coming up:
Ready… Realise… Re-balance… Reboot… Re-capture… Receipt… Recognise…
Re-connect… Recover… Recuperate… Recycle… Re-energise… Reflect…
Re-frame… Refresh… Regain… Regress… Re-ignite… Rejuvenate… Relationships…
Relax… Reminder… Repeat… Replace… Replenish… Reproduce… Reset… Resilience… Resist… Resolve… Resonate… Resource… Respite… Rest… Restore… Re-tell… Retrieval… Retrograde…
A prefix, occurring originally in loanwords from Latin, used with the meaning “again” or “again and again” to indicate repetition, or with the meaning “back” or “backward” to indicate withdrawal or backward motion: regenerate; refurbish; retype; retrace; revert.
I am mentally preparing myself that no sooner have we resurfaced and resumed our ‘normal’ lives that lockdown will be reinstated and our current existence will be repeated and isolation expectations will be reinforced. I think we need to be realistic and recognise that this will return.
So, for me, recovery is about taking stock. Recovery is about reflecting. Recovery is about processing our experiences and emotions. This time we could not plan, we could not prepare. We did not have the coping strategies – we have had to develop them. Next time we will have the tools and the resources in place. We will be be better prepared. We will have made a plan. We will know that we are stronger and more resilient that we thought we were. We will also know where our resources are.
“We don’t have to do all of it all alone. We were never meant to”.