Throughout my childhood, I rode horses and competed in horse shows (if you’ve ever seen the wonderful movie Best in Show, you’ll have a fairly good idea of what the horse-show world is like—just swap out the dogs for horses in your mind’s eye).  In a nutshell, the horses and riders go around an arena with the action dictated by the calls of a judge. While I felt a rhythm once my horse was well into a trot or a canter, the transitions between gaits—say from a walk to a canter or down to a trot from a canter—were a source of huge anxiety for me as I knew they were usually the point at which things could possibly go sideways in a class if I made a mistake or if my horse and I were struggling with communicating on a given day.  In other words, my success depended upon on how I handled myself and my horse in those moments of transition.

Understandably, I have found that the shift to online classes has been a rough one for many of the girls I work with, and I’ve noticed it has a lot to do with transitions—or really the lack thereof.  I have had a whole lot of girls on my hands who have tried to get all their academic work for the day done in one sitting, and it’s been leaving them feeling strung out, exhausted, anxious, and overwhelmed.  The more I thought about what was going on, the more I appreciated where they were coming from—not only was it that the quicker they got their work done, the more free time they’d have, but also that the natural transitions in their day have disappeared.  No longer is there a car or bus ride to and from school or a bell signaling time to get up and move to the next class or lunch. And all that lost transition time is so valuable for so many reasons.

As a result, I find myself having lots of conversations about chunking time and tasks towards completing a goal/assignment and encouraging all my clients to build lots of breaks into their day.  One tried and true method I talk about is creating a to-do list and then breaking each task into the smallest, most manageable pieces until you’ve reached a palatable starting point. Another, based upon The Pomodoro Technique ®, is to set a timer for a chunk of work time (perhaps 30 minutes or so) followed by a timed break of about 5 minutes spent away from the space where you have been working (and also away from all the screens).  I also encourage girls to incorporate things that speak to their five senses during their breaks, perhaps a bite of something delicious or a dance like nobody’s watching to your favorite tune.

And finally, as one of my trainers used to so wonderfully do when he would say, “That’ll do, pig,” as he pat my horse on the rump when we came out of the arena at the end of a class, please take some time at the end of the day to recognize what a beautiful job you are doing through all of this, regardless of the color of the ribbon, the grade on the paper, or what does or doesn’t get done at the end of the day.