The COVID-19 Pandemic has been an informing moment in time for me. When life changed in March of 2020, my family and I got onto the emotional rollercoaster that the world was on. My kids/family were relying on me to understand this situation and use my skills to make my household/life run as smoothly as possible. I spent nights reshaping, planning, and learning how to manage learning, working from home, creating stability amid chaos, and find balance. I had to do things that were completely new and get comfortable with online learning resources for my children as well as becoming an expert in similar resources to be the best professor I could be for NYMC.
Days blurred, stress-levels increased, and tensions were high. My comfort zone based on my usual routine was gone. I had to lean in. I found growth and connection in my own mind and body, and also in the way my relationships with friends, family, and colleagues evolved. Everyone relied on each other for support and we came together to work collaboratively and to creatively navigate this new landscape. The faculty in the Speech Department met regularly and often to discuss how to pivot our program to a digital format in the best possible ways for the students. Not only did we need to figure out how to teach but we also needed to learn how to conduct evaluation and intervention sessions remotely. We researched solutions and we executed them. We honed our clinical practice to meet the new online landscape.
As I reflect back on life in 2020, and the lessons I’ve learned, here is what I can share:
- Connection, communication, and listening are the most important qualities for me in my relationships with my children & family, as well as with my colleagues. I feel a responsibility as a speech-language pathologist to communicate effectively, connect with my patients and students, and listen well. During the early weeks of the pandemic, the noise in my own head and stress from the situation affected my communicative abilities and made it difficult for me to attend and listen to the people around me. I realized I need to take time to quiet the noise, and focus on the important individuals around me (my family, my colleagues, my students, and my friends). I also continually need to practice my active listening skills.
- Perfection is not reality…I learned to recognize that doing my best is the gold standard for myself and I can make mistakes and not have the answers all figured out and it will be okay. Being a work-in-progress is my life’s work and I am getting more comfortable with that reality.
- Self-care is vital. Making sure I am grounded and taking the time to care for my mind and body allows for me to be present for my family as well as for my students. I have taken time to organize my daily calendar to allow for exercise, meditation, or outdoor time to give me the space to care for myself.
- Have fun as much as possible. Finding joy and silver linings is easy for me but not for everyone else. I try and highlight the positive moments and remind myself to be grateful and internalize those times. The energy shift is palpable when my children laugh, when my students are tracking with me as we discuss concepts, and when I get to connect with my friends and colleagues. That energy fuels me.
- Gratitude…feel it, know it, say it. The people who walk into the fire and help us survive are an inspiration to me. I am so grateful for the essential workers (including some in my immediate family) who make the world keep turning and for their strength and guidance. Gratitude helps me offset the stress because I can quickly visualize what I can and cannot control and accept that to varying degrees…People that are stepping up during this time like essential healthcare workers have made it easy for me to write this blog post and share some tips that made a challenging time more manageable. I am also grateful for the moments when I can enjoy a hot cup of coffee early in the morning before the rest of my house stirs and the day begins.
Life is always a crazy ride. This year has made it even crazier. As we steamroll into holiday season, I am reminded to look at where we’ve come as a collective group. By focusing on gratitude and taking some moments for self-care and disconnecting from school/professional responsibilities as needed, may be a way to cope with the heaviness of the collective loss experienced individually and by the world. Recognizing my own good fortune is not lost on me and gives me renewed sense of purpose to devote my energy to fostering a love of life and learning in my home and with my students that I serve at NYMC.
Lauren Alter, MS, CCC-SLP, TSSLD is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology at New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York. Lauren began her studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, earning a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Human Development and Family Studies, with a focus on Child Development. She went on to earn her masters in Speech-Language Pathology at New York Medical College. She has worked in a variety of settings and with a range of populations in New York and in London, UK. Her clinical focus is primarily in pediatric diagnostics and intervention. Lauren currently teaches the Diagnostic Methods and Clinical Processes Course as well as a Seminar in Counseling.