Coping During a Pandemic: Lessons Learned From a Banana-Shaped Game

By Fran Mendelowitz, LCSW

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Bananagrams: How can a little game the size of a banana offer so many big lessons about life?

When we open this appealing, banana-shaped container of 144 letter tiles, we find a fast-paced word game requiring players to create grids of intersecting words with tiles they have randomly selected. During the course of the game,players are consistently forced to give up the grid of words that they’ve been creating to accommodate new letters. Players often have to regroup and start over, forming new grids with their new letters.The first player to finish their grid with no tiles left when there are no longer any tiles in the center “bunch” shouts, “Bananas!” and wins.

Aside from providing loads of fun, the Bananagrams challenge of creating one connected grid out of 21 randomly chosen letters calls upon creativity, flexibility and a problem-solving mindset.

These traits rely on an open-minded outlook and offer important lessons for managing life. They are especially helpful in managing life during challenging times like these.

Let’s take a closer look at the ways in which Bananagrams teaches fruitful lessons that can guide us through life during a global pandemic.

Bananagrams teaches us to:

  • Learn to let go: Even if we’ve worked long and hard pulling together a particular project, designing a perfect event or creating an exotic vacation, it’s important to find ways to let go. This is easier said than done as letting go requires a lot of flexibility. To successfully let go, it’s important to spend some time acknowledging what we’ve lost and “feeling the feels” of our unrealized expectations.
  • Be open to new possibilities and develop a problem-solving mindset: Once we’ve processed the loss of our unrealized expectations, we can begin to create space for new possibilities and new opportunities. We can use our energies, skills and talents to solve problems.
  • Work with what we have: Being called upon to make the best of what we’ve been given has been highlighted since the onset of the pandemic. Since so many of us have been locked down in our homes, we’ve had to make the best of our living situations. The creation of innovative home offices (in closets, parts of living rooms and bedrooms) has been enlightening. The ability to move almost everything to an online format has also been inspiring. Classrooms, board rooms, conferences, birthday parties, holiday celebrations, religious ceremonies and significant rites of passage have all been transformed and presented virtually. With unemployment growing exponentially, some have found adaptive ways to generate income and create new revenue streams.
  • Get creative: We don’t always have the precise materials that we need in the moment, but we might surprise ourselves by creatively improvising with the things that we do have available. Piggy-backing on, “working with what we’ve been given,” the pandemic has provided fertile ground for getting creative. We’ve used water bottles as weights, boxes as desks and cars as offices, to name just a few examples.

Regardless of our economic, social, or personal situation, the pandemic has required all of us to cope with loss, remain flexible and adapt to our new reality.

The challenging and fun-filled game of Bananagrams is a reminder that each of us possesses the traits to create new interconnected grids with whatever we have. Tapping into our innate flexibility, creativity and problem-solving mindset will help us to persevere through these unprecedented arduous and uncertain times.

About the authorFran Mendelowitz, LCSW is a psychotherapist in Bellmore, NY and Founder of InterACT NY © Contact Fran at: [email protected] website:

WRITTEN BYFrancine Mendelowitz

Fran maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Bellmore, New York. She is also Founder of InterACT NY, using dramatic enactments to teach audiences.

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