In this series we acknowledge that "disasters do not wait until we are fully prepared", that many leaders are learning as they go, and we extend our hope that though sharing perspectives you may find some easier ways to create a new rhythm at this time. Part 3 is a reflection by two of ICTG's interns about life as college students away from campus, and their current rhythms, pacing, and nourishment.
Read a reflection on home life in What’s Working For Me Right Now - Part 1 here.
Read Part 2, A Minister's Reflection, on the Congregational Blog, here.
As college students, we are asked to adapt quickly to new challenges, constantly being assessed on our critical thinking and problem solving skills. But then came COVID-19 and our well developed habits felt obsolete. Nobody was given the chance to take Quarantine 101. While we are all feeling the aches and pains of adjusting to this new way of living, it’s tempting to forget our strengths.
We must remember: we are not strangers to change. Everyday, whether consciously or subconsciously, we are adapting to changes around us. Even though the shock of this transition is on a much larger scale, the both of us have been encouraged to see the creativity in how our peers are “making it work”. With the extra time we each have right now, we have the opportunity to self-assess how to intentionally care for our individual needs. With our intricately unique human needs, we will all need different practices to ensure health amidst social distancing and the disruption to our sense of normal.
We must remember: we are not strangers to change.
Getting active and putting my body to use during this time. It is easy to feel useless during this time. When we are sitting inside for so many hours a day, it can become numbing and leave us out of tune with our own bodies. Staying active, especially in a way that brings joy to you individually, can be so helpful! For me, it has been working well to do home workouts outside in the sun when it’s shining. Lately, I often find myself feeling like there is nothing but time, and I can quickly fall into the habit of putting off doing things that make me feel productive and energized. On days where I’m lacking the positive energy to get up and be active, it helps to ask a friend to join me in a workout. This can even be done over zoom or facetime! Setting up an accountability system with friends has kept me both motivated and made movement even more enjoyable. Not only does working out improve my mental health, but it gives me a way to cherish my body and still feel empowered when so much of the world makes me feel powerless right now. ~Jackie
We will all need different practices to ensure health amidst social distancing and the disruption to our sense of normal.
Making “pauses” a part of my WFH routine. Now that all class time, schoolwork, and internship tasks have been moved to an online platform, I could realistically spend all day with my eyes glued to a screen. At school, such screen overload was usually interrupted by physically moving from space to space. Classrooms were for instruction, coffee shops were for homework, and my apartment was for meals and socializing with friends. But when you are stuck inside your house all day, time isn’t governed by space. The first week or so at home, every room in my house became a work zone - a potential place for me to be more productive. What once were areas of rest and calm, became bombarded by technology and COVID-19 email updates. I was constantly plugged into a world outside my home, without ever being present in the environment around me. So, I hit pause. By the second week, I started leaving my laptop and phone in my bedroom, literally shutting the door, and walking away for an hour. Slowly but surely, I’ve relaxed into more of a routine, incorporating these pauses throughout my day. My morning cup of coffee does not need to be a productive hour of my life - it just needs to be a cup of coffee, and that’s okay. ~Megan
When you are stuck inside your house all day, time isn’t governed by space.
Connection with others, and also with myself. Something I have had to assess in myself with this shift in daily living is that I am very outgoing and I thrive when I have a lot of social interaction. This is of course difficult and many of us are feeling the effects of lacking social engagement. Luckily, I am living with six of my friends in my home in Santa Barbara. It has been a blessing to engage with my friends and spend time together, whether it’s working out together, playing board games, investing in new TV shows we can talk about, or cooking communal meals. Finding ways to remind ourselves of how connected we truly are is crucial right now. If you have the privilege of being quarantined with other people, setting up ways to intentionally engage with them is important during this time. And, if we are gifted with the privilege of wifi and technology, scheduling social events over zoom and setting up phone calls to check in with loved ones can remind us of how many deep connections we have in this time. Further, we can get creative and invest time in finding ways to still spread love to the people in our lives such as writing letters or putting together care packages.
On the other side of this, when we are stuck functioning in small spaces with other people it can be difficult to keep up with the equally important engagement of connection with ourselves. It took me some time to recognize that I really needed time to myself. Especially with the weight of so much being changed and out of our control, I found myself wanting to do nothing more than distract in the first few weeks of quarantine. I quickly found myself feeling disconnected and out of tune with my own feelings about the world around me. It can be easy to avoid introspection about our current situation, because so much of what is going on is difficult to process. While it is overwhelming to sit with, it has been extremely helpful for me to use practices such as journaling and going for walks alone to breathe, process my thoughts, and find my center. ~Jackie
My internship with ICTG has been an opportunity for me to continue caring for those affected by COVID-19, even remotely from my home.
Commemorating and Celebrating in new ways. As my college graduation quickly approaches, this was not how I imagined spending the last month of my time as an undergraduate student. We’ve entered a season of rapid transition, which can feel confusing, daunting, and beyond our scope of preparedness. For a little while, I was searching for how to make it be “the same”. How could I make it be as special as I had always imagined? This proved to be a frustrating exercise. So instead of focusing on the questions I didn’t know how to answer, the problems I had no solution for, I turned my attention to what I am equipped to do in this season. I tried to get creative with how I could make the most of this special time in life. I began watching movies with my roommate over Facetime and joining big Zoom calls my senior girls Bible study. I began a shared Google Drive for all of my friends to organize our favorite photos and memories from each year of college, so we can create a keepsake book afterwards. I mailed out letters of encouragement and started a book club with the kids I’ve spent years relating to through a nonprofit in Santa Barbara. I found ways to still make this month a meaningful time in my life. I also made peace with letting go of my old expectations and embracing new ways to remember and honor this time. ~Megan
Not seeing this time as a “waste”.
For those of us who thrive when we can fuel our ambitions and work towards goals, this time likely feels frustrating and depriving. With all sense of normalcy changing, and the productivity of the entire world slowing down, it is easy to feel like we are living in nothing but a waiting period. But our lives are continuing! For me, making new goals specific to being at home has been life giving. I have decided to take up new hobbies that I have not had the time to try, such as mastering rollerblading and improving my cooking skills! Having new challenges to get better at gives me something to look forward to. I also created a Quarantine Bucket List, filled with goals, other new things I want to try, and creative ideas of things to do at home. ~Jackie
In ten years time, how will we remember the weeks we spent in social isolation? If we are in good health, in a safe home, with plenty of food and toilet paper - we have much to be grateful for! There are many in our country, and certainly across the world, who are not in such an advantageous position. Although I grieve and mourn the loss of being at school right now, I am also grateful to be healthy and at home with my family. And in honor of others who have lost their lives or those they love because of COVID-19, I have chosen to not see this time period as a “waste.” I have chosen to view it as an opportunity to grow in love, compassion, and care for those who are hurting. My internship with ICTG has been an opportunity for me to continue caring for those affected by COVID-19, even remotely from my home. I’ve been able to connect with families in Ventura County, listen to National VOAD phone calls and the Santa Barbara Community Wellness Team calls, as well as assist in updating our COVID-19 resource page. Whether it’s better loving those directly in our home, or supporting nonprofits and medical professionals remotely, there are a number of ways we can all come together to support one another. ~Megan
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Megan Davis is currently a fourth year student at Westmont College, earning a Bachelors of Science in Psychology with a minor in Religious Studies. She has a keen interest in developmental psychology and it’s relationship with trauma and resilience, especially in children and youth. When she is not studying fundamentals of counseling, or analyzing Paul’s letters to the church, you can find her in the East Side of Santa Barbara eating a taco and hanging out with a crew of kids.
Jackie George is in her fourth year at Westmont College, earning a B.A. in Psychology. She is passionate about the psychology behind connectedness and vulnerability, especially in regards to how these impact resilience and post-trauma healing. Her variety of cultural experiences have influenced her passion to better understand others and how we can support one another in a way that empowers all individuals.
This post, written by Institute intern Libby Baker, originally was published on March 7, 2017, on the ICTG blog.
Rev. Dr. Kate Wiebe and Doug Ranck, along with the many other ICTG blog contributors, have already noted that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are widespread across all racial groups and socioeconomic strata. The ACE study's concluding results, executed by CDC- Kaiser Permanente in 1997, presents staggering research that pessimistically foreshadows the future for youth experiencing abuse, neglect, or other household challenges. The CDC describes ACEs more broadly as traumas relating to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, emotional or physical neglect, and household challenges such as violence, substance abuse, mental illness, incarcerated family member, or divorce in the home.
ACEs follow a dose-response pattern, which means that the symptoms are directly correlated to the frequency of exposure to the stressor. Therefore if a child experiences multiple ACEs, they are at a higher risk for an exhaustive list of physical and emotional health issues such as substance or alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, suicide, and heart disease to name a few. With the prevalence of ACEs and their unavoidable consequences, it begs the response of grace and compassion rather than one of punishment from educators, Sunday school teachers, and youth ministers.
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, doctor and research advocate for childhood adverse experiences, states that "toxic stress is the changes that happen in the body as a result of being exposed to high doses of adversity in childhood." Both children and adults are exposed to stress each day in which our fight or flight hormones are activated regularly. These hormones are innately good because they instigate our reactions to possible threats or dangerous situations. In the unfortunate circumstance in which a child experiences chronic stress on a daily basis, the fight or flight hormones become fixated in a continuous loop and fail to be appropriately metabolized. Dr. Harris suggests that the frequency of stress leads to a physical reshaping of the brain. When students encounter high amounts of stress, the neocortex of the brain, the part responsible for impulse control, is impacted. Children begin to lose control of their emotions and behaviors because what was once stabilizing their various feelings is now under acute toxic pressure. Children will react to both minor and major threats with vigilance, disrupting a child's daily rhythm.
The ACE study demands an educated response to how we interact and engage with the youth in our communities. As a future educator and past student participant in church youth group, I have been interested in researching how schools are responding to the trauma in children. Schools around the nation are adjusting their programs and systems to cater to their youth who are survivors of trauma.
Crocker College Preparatory School in New Orleans is one such school recognizing the effects of trauma. Crocker Prep understands the unique consequences of ACEs and intentionally seeks to help traumatized youth in classroom settings. The teachers are more informed about ACEs and seek to understand students who misbehave or have outbursts as "sad, not bad." School administrators and teachers at Crocker Prep have altered their disciplinary system in order to uproot the true problem rather than offering punitive measures to an event or instance they could not control. They found that detentions and suspensions for behavioral violations were not effective because the misbehavior was not the problem, but rather the trauma at its origin. The number of detentions and suspensions dramatically decreased over the school year in which the new rules took enactment and grades significantly increased among the students. Teachers and parents noticed students complaining less frequently about physical pains or trouble sleeping when their trauma was more directly attended to and teachers took note that students were more present in class and were not withdrawing from class activities. Like schools, congregations looking to become more trauma-sensitive must adopt the similar measures to meet the emotional needs of their youth.
Re-framing the way we view and understand troubled youth calls for a gracious and compassionate response. While working with troubled youth may be frustrating and discouraging, grace and compassion can help us reconstruct the ways we address, process, and talk about bad behavior. Compassion shifts questions like, “What is wrong with this kid?” to “What happened to this kid?” The different language transforms how we understand our youths' stories and marks the desire to express compassion before pressing judgment. “What happened to this kid” is a question that demonstrates that the trauma is responsible for the misbehavior and is not an identifier of character. Trauma has the physiological power to dictate emotion and physical action and it is our responsibility as educators, youth pastors, and Sunday school leaders to teach students, with grace and compassion, how to regain control over their behavior.
2. Katy Reckdahl, "A new movement to treat troubled children as ‘sad, not bad.'" The Hechinger Report
3. Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, "Stress Factor" Video, and "How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime" Ted Talk
4. Melissa Hellmann, "This Town Adopted Trauma-Informed Care—And Saw a Decrease in Crime and Suspension Rates," Yes! Magazine
5. Bruce Perry, "The Brain Science Behind Student Trauma," Education Weekly
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