It’s ironic that our May June issue traditionally features travel. For this year’s issue, we adapted. While we aren’t able to take exotic trips, we can look to expand our horizons in different ways. In this feature, we offer some ideas to beat cabin fever by traveling to our own backyards; finding inspiration virtually in the arts; as well as fun and educational resources for the children in our lives.
In these uncertain times, whether you’re safely sheltering at home or as an essential worker – taking on risk to your health; anxiety and stress are sure to exist. While what is happening in the world is beyond anyone’s control, you may find some ways to bolster your well being.
Gardening offers benefits in a variety of ways: it creates calm spaces, it creates a sense of order, and it can create a bounty for the table, be it flowers or vegetables. Even if you don’t have the supplies to plant flowers or vegetables during times of social restriction, you can still reap the benefits of gardening by getting outside and being active; perhaps weeding and clearing landscaping areas or preparing the soil for future planting.
According to Psychology Today’s Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D., “…studies have found evidence that being in green, or even being able to look out on a green landscape, is linked with…less anxiety and depression, better stress management, and many other positive effects.”
“Caring for a plant has particular value for people facing challenging personal circumstances beyond their control that negatively affect physical and emotional health,” said blogger Jolene Hansen at Gardentech.com.
Harvey Cotten, former chief operating officer for the Huntsville Botanical Garden described the creation of a Zen garden as a way to calm the senses, “A garden is a perfect place for reflection, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Life bombards us with stimuli that we must respond to right now. More and more we desire, nay, crave to unplug, get away, remove ourselves from the constant noise that surrounds us. A garden can be that place of respite for you. Creating a place to step away from all clutter of the world, to embrace the calming reality that nature can provide may be the best medication you can prescribe for yourself.
Carving out a quiet, shady spot in your garden where you can retire can be akin to going to your study, closing the door, putting on some soft jazz and curling up with a good book. The garden can provide the same relaxation you crave.”
Cotten continued, “When trying to relax, a background of green truly sets the tone. It begins to calm the senses almost immediately. Color can be provided by using varying shades of green and even incorporating plants with variegated foliage like Shady Lady Illicium, Variegated Soloman’s Seal or the many different hostas available with white or gold markings. While color stimulates the sense of sight, a Zen garden setting should involve the sense of smell to truly put one in the relaxation mode. Adding fragrance to the garden is easy with plants that have either fragrant foliage or flowers. Illicium has foliage that smells of licorice while rosemary is wonderful to have close by your seating area to help perfume the air with soothing aromas. The flowers of sweet shrub, sweet olive or gardenia will truly fill your surroundings with fragrances to calm the nerves and help remove the cares of the day.”
Cotten said of growing vegetables, “[Consider] a small vegetable garden in close proximity [to your home and outdoor dining space] and enjoy the satisfaction of picking fresh, home-grown squash, cucumbers or tomatoes and then cooking them up for dinner. Growing containers of fresh herbs that are readily accessible for picking truly enhance the flavors of any meal. The good news is that many vegetables can be grown in small spaces whether that be in raised beds, straw bales or even large containers. The trick is making it easy to get to – vegetable gardens need attention and having it way out in the back of the property often spells trouble. The distance becomes an obstacle, so it is better to grow a few things well and keep them close at hand in order to use as they ripen.”
Music is closely connected with emotions. It stands to reason then, that music can have a therapeutic effect on the stress and anxiety that may result from the uncertainty of these times. “Listening to music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds and bodies, especially slow, quiet classical music. This type of music can have a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones. Music, in short, can act as a powerful stress management tool in our lives,” said Jane Collingwood of psychcentral.com.
While creating art is beneficial for physical and emotional wellbeing, it has been proven that viewing art can have the same benefits, as well as boosting critical thinking skills. According to Koenraad Cuypers, a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, “A study discovered that there was a definite correlation between participating in cultural activities—like creating art or attending concerts—and having increased rates of good health, satisfaction with one’s life, and lower rates of anxiety and depression in both men and women. Furthermore, the study concluded that these benefits were found in people who both created or consumed the arts. That means that people who enjoy looking at art get the exact same health benefits as people who enjoy making art.”
Since going to a museum, concert or play may not be an option right away, a variety of resources exist to enrich and inspire you during times at home.
Virtual orchestras and choirs are popping up on YouTube and social media. Helena Asprou at ClassicFM.com made a list that includes these notable selections: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, from Socially Distant Orchestra; Grieg from the Arctic Philharmonic; Aaron Copland’s ‘Appalachian Spring’, from Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Burt Bacharach’s ‘Close To You’, from Couch Choir; Rutter from the Girl Choristers of Holy Trinity church, Guildford. Billboard.com has a running list of livestream and virtual concerts to watch during Coronavirus Crisis.
Broadway HD is offering a 7-day free trial with full-length shows available to stream including: 42nd Street; Kinky Boots; Miss Saigon; Oklahoma; Phantom of the Opera; Sweeny Todd; The King and I; The Sound of Music.
Museum Exhibitions and Tours:
Take a digital tour of the Louvre: Visit the museum’s exhibition rooms and galleries, contemplate the façades.
Jennifer Kite-Powell, Senior Contributor at Forbes.com notes, “The Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam let you virtually tour their collections. The Acropolis Museum’s virtual tour takes you through the Parthenon Gallery and the Archaic Acropolis Gallery from the comfort of your living room.
The Cleveland Museum of Art has virtual tours through its augmented reality (AR) ArtLens App. Through the museums’ collection cnline, users can access info and metadata for more than 61,000 artworks, through social media, and with video content.”
Children and Families
With the onset of the pandemic, the final terms of school are canceled, and students are learning from home. While the additional time parents and children are home together can contribute to bonding, adding an educational element can certainly contribute to stress.
Teachers are encouraging parents not to equate distance-learning with a full school day. Dr. Colette Poole-Boykin explained in a post on GMA.com, “Experts agree that just because children are in school for eight hours a day does not mean that they need eight hours of instruction at home. Research suggests a simple rule for figuring out how long children can stay focused: Multiply the child’s age by 2-5 minutes. So, if a child is 4 years old, he or she will be able to focus for 8 to 20 minutes, maximum.”
While some children have specific assignments to complete, other teachers promote learning through daily activities and fun online resources, especially for younger children. Throughout the health crisis, educational, artistic and entertaining resources for children and families have become available online, including some right here in Huntsville.
Huntsville Botanical Garden offers photos and videos of the Garden, as well as at-home-activities for kids.
Huntsville Museum of Art offers create at home projects for families.
livescience.com offers the following resources and more:
• Visit with butterflies in the San Diego Zoo’s Hidden Jungle greenhouse, through their butterfly cam livestream
• Tour marine sanctuaries and ocean habitats with a collection of virtual dives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
• Theater-lovers can browse a range of classroom activities from the legendary Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.
• San Francisco’s Exploratorium offers activities to help kids understand the science behind viruses, how they affect the human body, and how we can protect ourselves against infection.
• Scholastic launched a Learn at Home website with daily lessons that combine videos, stories and prompts for drawing and writing activities for all grade levels.
• Khan Academy, a free online learning resource offering lessons, exercises and quizzes, has daily schedules for organizing at-home learning for students ages 4 to 18 years. On weekdays, Khan Academy is also offering daily livestreams on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to help parents and educators best utilize the website’s tools and resources.
Crash Course is a YouTube channel offering engaging educational videos suitable for high school students. The channel features a wide range of subjects, from anatomy to world history.
• More than 2,500 museums around the world have made their collections accessible online through Google Arts and Culture; you can also use Google to access virtual tours of national parks in the U.S.
Children’s musical performer Jack Hartmann has free educational musical programming on his YouTube channel.
Parade.com’s list of 125 Things to Do with Kids During Coronavirus Quarantine includes:
• Watching the beluga whales at the Georgia Aquarium via webcam
• Watching the Cincinnati Zoo Livestream
• Check out Mars with a digital 360 degree camera
• Listen to Josh Gad (voice of Olaf) story reading on Twitter
• Listen to an astronaut read from space on Storytime From Space
• Take a virtual tour of a farm on Farm 360
• Explore Africa with African wildlife cam
• Watch Bill Nye the Science Guy and do a science experiment with him