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Finding ways to stay productive vital to health

Penning a column titled “Home Matters,” I’m called to speak to our new normal at home — the place that has literally become our epicenter of life since Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a “stay at home” directive to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Finding new and creative ways to stay mentally and physically healthy at home will be critical to us getting through this pandemic with minimal damage.

Since Italians have been at this longer than we have, I reached out to my family and friends there. Serena Nicastro in Bari has been in her apartment since March 9. It wasn’t surprising to learn that food is at the top of her stay busy list. “We’re making homemade bread and pasta and baking cakes.” She explains that people are really turning loose in the kitchen and watching a lot of cooking shows.

I asked how folks are staying fit while enjoying this fabulous food. The Italian lifestyle includes a lot of walking, but unlike us, they’re not permitted outdoors except for essentials.

“I’ve been doing calisthenics at home; filling 2-liter bottles and using them as weights,” Nicastro said.

“We talk to each other from across the balconies. … We sing the national anthem, which brings us a sense of hope.”

Nicastro explains that people are learning to do things they’ve never done or haven’t had the time to do before, like sewing, writing music or learning a new language. “We find new ways every day to manage total boredom.”

Here in Boulder City, Christa May, a sixth-grade English teacher at Garrett Junior High School, shared her experience about how to manage life at home. A wife and mother of two daughters, May describes how boundaries have become blurred.

“Home is now my classroom and office. Being a mom overlaps with being a teacher and a wife.”

What’s helping her manage this uncharted territory, is accepting what she’s not in control of and allowing for flexibility.

“I’m normally an extremely scheduled person, but we have to stay flexible and not beat ourselves up if we don’t stick to exactly what’s scheduled.”

Adjustments like bedtimes, time on the Internet and watching TV have shifted for May’s family, which is a part of staying flexible. “But avoid information overload,” she warns. Staying informed is one thing, but going down the COVID-19 rabbit hole of rumors and conspiracy is an unproductive stressor.

A household imperative is getting outdoors for some Vitamin D. May arranges picnics with her daughters and their friends on their lawn, 10 feet across from one another. Her family has also been taking road trips. “It’s a perfect time to enjoy the beautiful springtime desert.”

Zoom calls (a video conferencing service) with family and friends are great way to connect in groups. May and her family and friends living afar ask themselves, “What took us so long to do this?”

Social interaction is crucial to maintain mental health. May reassures it’s OK to take moments to mourn the physical connection we’re missing so terribly. The teacher in May also points out that we’re living a history lesson — and we’ll share with our children and grandchildren what we did to get through these days. Hopefully they’ll be stories we can be proud of.

Understandably, crafting and DIY projects are on the rise. Boulder City resident Jeny Reed Breeden has figured out how to take her crafting passion and uplift local families while maintaining the stay at home directive. Her Facebook group, “Get Your Craft On,” a community she created five years ago, can no longer meet so she’s been leaving crafting kits right on her doorstep for members to take home. She calls these kits “Warm Fuzzy, ’cause that’s the feeling you get when you look at them once they’re done.”

These kits are keeping her busy, but more, Breeden’s promoting positivity. Like Breeden’s page says: “Spread joy today, pass it on and keep smiling.” It’s a message we can all live by, these days more than ever.

Norma Vally is a seasoned veteran of home improvement; her career includes four seasons as host of Discovery Home Channel’s Emmy-nominated series “Toolbelt Diva.” A columnist and author, Vally splits her time in Southern Nevada, Los Angeles and New York City. Follow her on Facebook at Norma Vally “Toolbelt Diva” and visit her at www.NormaVally.com. Email Norma@NormaVally.com.

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