5 on a Friday: Back to School & More

August 20, 2021

1- Back to School was a reasonable success!

Day 1! Annabel is holding her summer project (a diorama).
Masks packed but not shown!

G did not nap (and of course fell asleep on the way home — but only for a few minutes). Her resistance to a reasonable bedtime (last night: 8 pm! Hooray!) has greatly lessened.

A seemed to like her new teachers + classmates, and the other two were happy to be reunited with many familiar faces from their old groups.

2- This has been a tough week, work-wise. Maybe I will feel better after I get a project done today that has been hanging over my head for weeks. But I am not sure. Morale is just kind of low all around the hospital and it is hard not to feel similarly, yet part of my job involves trying to address provider (and resident) wellness and it just feels really daunting and I feel . . . inadequate. Which is not a good feeling. Our healthcare system is at its highest peak of COVID admissions ever, >700 inpatients across its 6 hospitals.

3- The news cycle. It is time for me to purposefully turn away. I recognize that is immense privilege with the disasters currently occurring world wide, but I need a break from catastrophic climate change stories and apocalyptic/angry COVID op/eds. I will listen to my Up First and check out the paper edition of the local paper (Sun Sentinal – we subscribe to Sunday only!) and that will be enough for the next couple of weeks. I’m just . . .opting out.

4- The screen cycle. Similarly, I need to aggressively cut this, and I will be trying a Screen Sabbath tonight! Phone/screen shutdown after 6 pm. I will journal/list if I feel like it and read Malibu Rising and I will hang out with Josh. I will respond to literal emergencies only. The end.

5- Helpful podcast this week: Repair and Re-Parent with Dr Becky Kennedy from Forever 35.

Dr Becky Kennedy is a psychologist with a parenting focus and the crux of her work seems to be around understanding the underlying reasons for child behavior with the assumption that all children are inherently good and trying the best they can to deal with life at their own developmental level. This was a great ep.

Incidentally, they have been having a lot of planner talk on their podcast recently so I texted their open text line with a link to BLP and an offer to recommend planners, and Kate Spencer actually texted back (!!!!). We will see if she takes my recs (Planner Pad and Full Focus) to heart . . .


  • Reply Amy August 20, 2021 at 7:39 am

    Happy to see Planner Pad get a shoutout – I’ve been using it for a couple of years and it’s a GREAT planner for brain dumps/list junkies. Glad your back to school went smoothly!

    • Reply Cheryl August 21, 2021 at 8:54 am

      Ditto to the Planner Pad shoutout. I’ve long wondered what you think of this planner, Sarah. Maybe a review episode soon?

    • Reply Natasha August 21, 2021 at 1:43 pm

      Another Planner Pad lover here too!

  • Reply CBS August 20, 2021 at 8:01 am

    The news is so so grim, I’ve been trying to reduce my consumption as well. A book rec: I’m reading The Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead and it is very, very good. Beautifully written and immersive.

    • Reply Nelle T. August 20, 2021 at 9:44 am

      I just finished this book and it was incredible!

  • Reply Ashley G August 20, 2021 at 8:35 am

    Totally hear you on this. I’ve really been trying to limit my news consumption as well. Actually, ever since I read an NPR article a few months ago showing a great research project around how much more grim the US news is compared to other (not-for-profit) news outlets around the world. It was a very non-partisan article that dove more into the psychology side of the doom-scrolling phenomenon and why for-profit establishments have to be motivated by clicks. Obviously other countries weren’t painting sunny pictures of covid, climate change or the like, but the for-profit sites had a level of catastrophizing that the others didn’t. Plus, let’s be real. Me upsetting myself with the news changes exactly nothing. I’ll do what I can regardless of that. Actually, I’ll probably have more positive impact on those around me if I’m not so depressed.

    • Reply Elizabeth August 20, 2021 at 10:46 am

      Recently I have (finally) reached out and scheduled therapy for myself, along with received a go-ahead to go on an anti-depressant if I don’t feel therapy alone will cut it for what my doctor diagnosed as mild depression and anxiety. My personal circumstances are different from yours, but living as a parent of young children through this ongoing pandemic has been HARD for so many of us. And with the current news out of Afghanistan adding to the COVID news, this is all to say: it can just feel like too much! And that’s okay! A friend sent me this article which I highly recommend. To summarize, we often may feel guilty for not being able to take on all the world’s problems, but actually WE CANNOT take on all the world’s problems, nor should we try to. Maybe it will help you somewhat, as it helped me. Like it gives permission or even advocates pulling the plug on news consumption, etc.

      Also, your children are adorable in their uniforms. I love their first day of school smiles! When you see those smiles I hope you know, you’re getting it right.

      • Reply Linda August 20, 2021 at 11:10 am

        Thanks for posting that article Elizabeth. That really spoke to me today.

    • Reply Elizabeth August 20, 2021 at 10:50 am

      Sorry Ashley didn’t mean to post as a reply to you!! Technology bests me yet again. Sigh.

  • Reply C August 20, 2021 at 8:40 am

    Congrats on back to school!

    I’m curious to hear about your screen shabbat. We aren’t that observant, but we limit screen time/phones from Friday evening to Saturday evening to FaceTime and things like checking for weather alerts. It really decreases our stress and allows us to get away from news/mindless scrolling once a week. It is one of my favorite parts of being a modern Jew!

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns August 20, 2021 at 9:12 am

    I’d also recommend Dr. Becky’s podcast, “Good Inside.” It’s really good. I’ve re-listened to some of her episodes. They are very helpful for those w/ young kids. I even got my husband to listen to one and he agreed it was good (he is not a podcast listener so getting him to listen was a big deal!). I’ll have to listen to the episode you recommended.

    I’ve been limiting my news consumption, too, and recognize my privelege in being able to do so, but reading the news increases my anxiety and it doesn’t change what I am doing so it feels unnecessary and unhealthy. All I can do it focus on my behavior and donate to causes that help others who are hurting right now.

    Malibu Rising will be a good distraction for you! I finished it this week and it was so enjoyable. Now I’m reading, “Mother May I” which is very page turny but probably not a good book to read when you have a baby as it’s about the kidnapping of a baby. I NEVER read ahead or look at an ending, but I had to do that to see if they get the baby back as it was so stressful to read and I needed to mentally prepare myself for how the story would unfold! I probably should not have read this book but now I can’t put it down and need to know what happens/how the story unfolds!

    So sorry to hear how awful things are in FL. I can see how this is really hard on the morale of those in the medical community. It’s just been an endless source of stress and exhaustion for healthcare workers and it’s tough to keep going and not feel defeated/hopeless. I was able to get my 3rd covid vaccine this week since I’m immune compromised so that is making me feel better about being protected from delta. Things are still not too bad here in Minnesota and I’m really really hoping it stays that way.

  • Reply Linda August 20, 2021 at 9:53 am

    I’ve had a rough week too. The Delta variant is ravaging Oregon. We are at our highest case level since the pandemic started. We did pretty good for a long time with the restrictions we had but the last month has been crazy. Our county doesn’t have any open ICU beds and the governor called out the national guard to help staff hospitals. I’m a clinic RN so at least I’m not in the hospital but I help with testing and it has really increased. Our staffing is really bad and I work with an anti-vaxxer. So I understand the work pressure. My kids are grown so at least I don’t have to worry about school but I feel for all you parents.

  • Reply Elisabeth August 20, 2021 at 10:24 am

    Oh Sarah. Sorry to hear about the tough work environment. Between current COVID trajectories and the long-term stress of dealing with a global pandemic + the constant bombardment of other chilling news stories, it’s easy for it to all feel like too much. Obviously it’s a huge blessing if we aren’t impacted directly by the various disasters, but opting to not consume all the information is a self-preservation necessity for me. I get a 3x/week newsletter that covers the major news stories (takes 3 minutes to read 3x/week), but other than that I haven’t look at any news outlets. The horrors in Afghanistan + earthquake in Haiti last week just really pushed me over the edge.

    Hilariously, we had a provincial election this week and I had no idea that a new party won with a surprise majority. Usually I read multiple news sources daily, so it feels weird to be so out of the loop.

    Weird, but necessary. I know you’ve followed my blog a bit and the last few months have just levelled me! I’m trying SO hard to be intentional about what I add to my schedule. Even just those necessities sometimes feel like too much to handle but getting out of the negative headline loop the last week or so has definitely helped.

    Hope this weekend is refreshing and you can head in to next week with a fresh perspective (and really, really praying those COVID case numbers start a downward trend)!! And hooray for completing the first week of school.

  • Reply VSH August 20, 2021 at 11:11 am

    Hello from another dual-physician Montessori family! We have an older sister/little brother combo who are both in our Montessori (2nd yr Lower El, and 1st year Children’s house). I think Montessori is so amazing for active kids who have a harder time sitting still and “listening”. Our older child would be fine in any school, but we keep her there because I love the Montessori method, love the simplicity of 1 school, think she deserves what her brother gets too, and can afford it (with other tradeoffs).

    Wellness is so difficult right now. For my own wellness, I’m going to follow your lead and disconnect from the news. THANK YOU for highlighting our need to get out of survival mode. I’m concerned about our collective heightened cortisol levels for 18 months. Shed the guilt. Being miserable will do nothing to help anyone else right now. So there you go, you are impacting physician wellness outside your health system too!

  • Reply Erin August 20, 2021 at 11:44 am

    Agree with you on opting out of news. I’m unfollowing some news twitter accounts as well as reducing screen time in an attempt to reduce some anxiety.

    Regarding wellness and your role in your health system, please be gentle on yourself. While it’s important to help support providers and residents–and I say this with absolute respect to you and others in similar roles–healthcare providers and other frontline workers need MUCH more than wellness programs can currently provide (primarily, people to get vaccinated…). As a fellow researcher shared with me and others recently, healthcare workers cannot yoga or meditate their way out of pandemic stress. I hope this doesn’t come across as minimizing the importance of wellness in the workplace, but as a gentle reminder that you are but one person in an unsupportive US healthcare system during a pandemic.

  • Reply Jessica August 20, 2021 at 12:06 pm

    For me, it’s very true that action is the antidote to despair. If anyone here is distressed about climate news, I highly recommend calling your senators/representative (outside of business hours if you don’t want to talk to a human – or just submit a constituent comment online via their website) and emphasizing your support of a Clean Energy Standard and Clean Energy Tax Credits being included in the budget reconciliation bill that’s currently being negotiated. These are the measures being considered that will have the biggest impact in significantly reducing our emissions by 2030.

    This is the single biggest thing you can do right now about climate change, and it takes less time and feels better than reading one stressful article! If you think your congressperson will already support the bill, contact them anyways – they tally comments to know what parts of the bill to fight the hardest for. If you think your congressperson won’t support it, contact them anyways – if enough constituents disagree, they might not work as hard against it.

    Also, if you want to learn more but not in the distressing news cycle, I highly recommend the Volts newsletter/podcast. That’s where I learned most of this!

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