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Veronda and family

Many of us have had to adjust to a ‘new normal’ whether learning to work from home, tutoring our children or using technology platforms to meet virtually. Some of us have also had to juggle our schedules AND those of our children or other loved ones. The coronavirus pandemic has stretched us in ways we never imagined. With vaccines now becoming increasingly available to anyone who wants one, there’s not only a collective sigh of relief but much anticipated light at the end of a dark, frustrating, and sometimes lonely tunnel.

Veronda Jackson, program manager for a local nonprofit and mother of four, still gets teary-eyed when she reflects on those initial months of the pandemic when everything shut down.

“I was overwhelmed—working full time and helping my children stay on top of their studies was exhausting. And, because I was cooking more with the kids at home all day, I began gaining weight and feeling miserable about myself. If it were not for my faith and my church community, I don’t think I would have been able to get through this,” Jackson said.

With children ranging in age from 3 to 17 years old, for the past year Jackson’s days began before 7 a.m. and often ran into the wee hours of night.

“When my church started holding daily virtual prayer calls at 6 a.m., I made a commitment to get up even earlier. Having that time of prayer and sharing every morning became a lifeline for me,” she said.

Thankfully, Jackson’s employer also helped by allowing her the flexibility of working from home, enabling her to get work done while her three year old was napping and at night when the children were in bed.

“My youngest had just started preschool prior to the pandemic so getting her into a daily virtual routine took some effort. She would have a meltdown then I would have one. It wasn’t pretty,” Jackson said.

As the founder of a group called Dream Loud, another saving grace for Jackson was getting together virtually during the pandemic. The group formed to share their dreams and goals, and to provide an accountability platform for each other.

Throughout the pandemic, Jackson remembered the adage, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ so she made time for self-care through faith, relationships and family fun. At one point she even packed the kids up, took a chance on travel and flew to Las Vegas for a week, since the children could continue school virtually. Throughout the pandemic Jackson and her family have thrived, survived, and will soon celebrate her daughter’s high school graduation. Recognizing, accepting, and adjusting to their ‘new normal’ was key to their survival. Jackson’s understanding of the need for and taking steps toward self-care were also critical. Her strategies for self-care are in line with what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends, which are:

• Find new ways to safely connect with family and friends, get support, and share feelings.
• Take breaks to relax and unwind through yoga, music, gardening or new hobbies.
• Treat yourself to healthy foods and get enough sleep.
• Take care of your body and get moving to lessen fatigue, anxiety or sadness.

To make a lasting gift to health research, consider joining the NIH’s ALL OF US Research Program. ALL OF US is building one of the largest and most diverse health research databases in the world. Let’s make sure we’re all included by visiting JOINALLOFUS.org and clicking JOIN NOW, or contacting the ALL OF US office at the Medical College of Wisconsin at (414) 955-2689 or email allofus@mcw.edu

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