Cheryl Saunders, guest post about coronavirus: “We cannot control the world, but we can control where we put our focus”

Featured image: Australian Aboriginal artist Helen Milroy’s The Dance of Life (2006) reflects a multi-dimensional model of health and wellbeing from an Aboriginal perspective. All other art in this post is by Milroy.

My beloved daughter-in-law Cheryl Saunders  wrote the letter below to our family and friends in this time of coronavirus caution and, alas, panic. I was so struck by her wisdom, smarts, and practical advice, that I asked her if I could post it here and she said yes.

Cheryl and her family: my son Newton, granddaughter Aliya (almost 10), Kanye (12), and Cheryl

Cheryl is a Certified Health Education Specialist and has a bachelor’s degree from Weber State University, Utah, in Nutrition Education, Health Promotion, and Children and Family Studies. She is a certified ACE Fitness Instructor and Weight Management Specialist. Additionally, she has a Level-One APT Health Education Teaching License for middle and high school. She loves working with kids and currently works as a PE Teacher at a K-8th grade public school in Salt Lake City. She is certified in first aid, CPR, and food safety. In the summer—and depending on the situation with the coronavirus by then—Cheryl will be teaching healthy cooking classes for kids.

Here is Cheryl’s letter:

Hi Friends and Family,

I believe that the next couple of weeks are going to be very challenging and stressful for many of us. My family, like so many others, are cancelling vacations. We are trying to navigate through a series of new challenges all while coping with the stresses of doubt, fear, and confusion for the future.

Born from Country. The human tree shows that, from the Aboriginal perspective, our physical state cannot be entirely separated from the land itself. The headless appearance represents the grounding of the body in the earth rather than being controlled by the mind. At the end of its days, it returns to the earth to be incorporated into the next landscape, providing a continuity of existence forever.


Earlier today I was scanning my Pinterest feed and came across a quote that said “We cannot control the world around us, but we can control where we look and put our focus.” It made me stop and remember that even though we are in a time of uncertainty and stress, we shouldn’t forget to take care of our mental and physical health. My little family and I have put together some schedules and activities to make sure that we are focusing on caring for our mental and physical health. I thought I would share some of our ideas in case they are useful to any of you.

Australian Aboriginal artist Helen Milroy’s Living Life depicts the individual within our psychological landscape and acknowledges the rich two-way connections you make throughout life from every direction possible. Your inner core is supported and protected by collective layers of experience, knowledge, and wisdom and yet the individual is able to perceive for itself the external world and be autonomous in their decisions. The psychological struggles within are comforted by a collective consciousness, a cushion on which to rest.

Scheduling Time Each Day to Disconnect

My family does not want to the stress of the outside world take over our joy and well-being. Every day, we are blocking time for when we can check for updates and changes, but we are also turning off devices so we can be mindful and enjoy moments together as a family.

Community Strong Together depicts the social landscape from the Aboriginal perspective, with the family tree at the center: its many rings represent he presence of past generations. The contemporary family stands on the outer ring, linked together with their children and providing for them a place on which to stand.

Creating a Daily Schedule / Routine

We are creating a daily schedule so we can make sure that we are filling our time at home with the things we want to do over this downtime.

  • Exercise – My family is going to make sure that we exercise every day. We plan on going for walks, runs, bike rides, hiking, playing Wii games, and doing online exercise videos (youtube, Fiton phone app).
  • Personal / Self Care – We are scheduling time every day for personal alone time and self care. Some activities that my family enjoys are reading, writing in our journals, baking, meditation, manicures, pedicures, art, legos, puzzles, and card games.
  • Family Time – As a family, we have board games, outside exercise time, family meals, playing outside games like bocci, ladder ball, cornhole, paddle ball, soccer, volleyball, etc
  • Productivity / Work / School – My kids will have approximately 5 hours of school work every day. We are blocking out that time so we know it is dedicated to work only communications.

The Tree of Life depicts the Aboriginal spiritual landscape: it connects the inner core of the earth to the outer dimensions of the universe. In this realm, life and death center on the richness and intricacies of all of creation of which we form only a very small but essential and irreplaceable part in a never ending cycle.

  • Mental Health – Making sure we are disconnected from the news and social media. We are working on meditation, stretching, writing in our journals, and spending time outside.
  • Housework / Projects – We have decided to spend some time catching up on house projects that we have put off because of time restraints. We spent some time doing a deep clean in our home, but are not going to obsessively clean our space. We have decided that once a deep clean is done that we only need to do our regular cleaning cycle.

Healing, Ceremony and Law illustrates the cultural dimension of health. The life force flowing among the figures indicate the dynamic nature of culture. The campfire at the bottom center symbolizes the ritual incineration of our burdens so that smoke disperses them into universe.

I surely hope that all of you are safe and well. Hopefully, you will also take some time disconnect and take care of your health. If we can do anything for anyone, please let us know.


Cheryl Saunders, CHES ®