There are times in life when we all face considerable uncertainty and change. These moments are typical and expected. No matter how change happens, it forces us to reevaluate some, or all, of what we know about ourselves and the world.
During the COVID-19 crisis, many of us may find ourselves stressfully scrambling to discover how we operate in this new world. But it’s by turning to play that we can adjust to a new normal and learn where we fit in new situations.
I like to define play as a mindset that embraces curiosity, exploration, and learning through trial and error. This play mindset can be applied to everything in life including reinventing our schools, workplaces, and home life.
When we experience uncertainty and change, we may react with fear and anxiety. So to process our feelings in a more relaxed environment, free of potential consequences or judgement – try play.
Play can act as a kind of test period for the scenarios you imagine could happen.
Play allows us to imagine, communicate, problem-solve, experiment, collaborate, try and fail, think outside the box, and create, it helps us develop the cognitive skills we need to survive and thrive in the twenty-first century.
– The Dolphin Parent
Through play, children can symbolically act out ideas and complex situations in their world until they better understand them and how they feel about them. As adults, we’ve developed identities and theories about our world that may, from time to time, be disrupted. We may not play as children do, but allowing yourself to play with the idea of a new identity or solution can be a helpful way to process emotional feelings surrounding this change.
Play helps us reduce stress hormones in our bodies and can have physical effects on our health. Studies have also shown that it can lower blood pressure and boost immune function. All these outcomes help our bodies to better process uncertainty without harmful stress responses.
Play is the life source of innovation and creativity. When I say the word “play,” many adults may think of tag, sports, or other fun activities that children enjoy. However, consider how attending the theatre, learning a new instrument, or reading a book can feel like a kind of play.
Imaginative play can be truly transformative. When we imagine fantasy-based worlds, we bend the reality of our own lives and allow creativity to lead us to new ideas.– The Dolphin Parent
In times of uncertainty and change, allowing our minds to imagine new realities playfully can offer up hope, and even excitement, at the possibilities. We allow our creativity to run free, and this is where we can find solutions to problems that may have caused stress and felt impossible before.
By learning or relearning to play, we can try on new traits or hobbies before adopting them into our reality or identity. It also allows us to practice scenarios or skills before bringing them into the “real-life” realm that often causes stress.
For us to remain adaptable in an ever-changing world, continuing to play is vital. There’s no way to freeze our routines and ourselves in life because it always presents changes and shifts. These changes are outside of our control and can result in a great deal of stress — especially when we don’t see them coming.
Through play, we’re given a chance to process how we feel about changes and can imagine alternate outcomes and new situations. Play offers us the opportunity to experience the world with a beginner’s mind. In these states, we can imagine many hypothetical end-results to see how we may react and cope.
If your expected and familiar way of life is altered, play can help you reinvent yourself and your reality. If you’re interested in discussing the valuable aspects of play further, I’d love to speak with you.