April 2020 Newsletter
Even the happiest of households are feeling the recent and unexpected challenges of financial uncertainty, shared small spaces, and the loss of former rituals and routines. However, a small shift in perspective may allow this unprecedented time to serve as a powerful opportunity to come together as a household and develop new and improved ways of being with each other. While you cannot control the pandemic, you can stay at home, wash your hands and focus on what you can: each other.
1. Practice Compassion
Given the stress of recent events, grant each other some additional grace, kindness and forgiveness as you navigate the changing COVID-19 landscape together. We are all experiencing heightened levels of uncertainty and facing unique disruptions to our daily lives. Validating each other’s feelings and offering an extra dose of patience is critical.
To practice extra kindness and compassion perhaps have each house member brainstorm one way to do something nice for another housemate: watch someone else’s favorite show, bake their favorite meal or play their favorite game. Couples may consider establishing new rules or rituals to help them navigate living and working together. For instance, partners could choose to safely place frustrations on a list which is addressed at the end of each week, or even create two “one free pass per day” cards to hand to each other after something uncharacteristically mean was said or done.
If your household has some extra bandwidth, there are a number of ways to show compassion for others who are experiencing increased difficulty during this time. Consider volunteering to shop for a vulnerable neighbor or donating to an organization offering critical assistance. Involve children by enlisting them to write letters, draw pictures or help decide which local businesses (like their favorite ice cream shop) to support to during this time.
2. Find Opportunities to Break Routine
Look for opportunities to do things that perhaps you could not or did not do in your daily lives before COVID-19. Creating a quarantine bucket list, either separately or together, is a creative way to brainstorm the many opportunities that exist during this unique time. Sharing your lists and supporting each other as you cross each item off is a great way to bond.
For instance, families could consider planning weekly themed dinners where everyone is encouraged to dress the part. Roommates could take turns hiding a random household object, and if it goes undiscovered, the other could take responsibility for a household chore. Couples may choose to establish nightly reconciliation walks during which they stroll around their neighborhood, apologize for any missteps and hit an emotional reset button for the evening.
Creatively tackling seasonal activities during isolation is another way to break routine and fight boredom. Although gathering with others may not be possible, there are many spring activities that can be done from home. Consider remotely watching baby animals via the San Diego Zoo’s livestream, enjoying a picnic in your own backyard, cooking festive spring dishes, camping in your living room, chalking your driveway with positive messages or setting up a mini golf course at home.
3. Exercise Together
Benefit your physical health, your mental wellbeing and your relationships by working out together. Although many gyms and workout studios have temporarily closed, there is no dearth of ways to move your body from home. From family-friendly online workout resources, like these Disney inspired workouts, to virtual group classes and equipment-free workout apps, there is an abundance of online wellness resources available.
Every minute of movement counts, so adding physical activity to things you already do together, like performing body weight exercises while watching your household’s favorite show, is another great way to exercise as a team. Or, put on some music and dance together. Plus, studies have shown that boosting your heartrate alongside others can help boost happiness and strengthen emotional bonds.
4. Share Good News or a Daily “High, Low and Haha”
Mr. Rogers said his mother responded to scary news by telling him, “Look for the helpers.” Now, more than ever, sharing a piece of good news every day is a great way to foster positive connection. When you share positive thoughts and experiences with others, it serves to elevate everyone’s mood.
One of the easiest ways to make sharing good parts of your day routine is to get in the habit of going over one daily high, low and funny moment with each other. Whether at dinner or sometime before bed, sharing daily highs, lows and hahas helps build empathy, understanding and emotional connection. Ensure that when your partner, roommate or family share their daily high, low and haha moments, you make them feel appreciated and supported by being present, leaning in and making eye contact.
5. Do Them a Daily Favor or Pay Them A Daily Compliment
Doing someone in your home a favor is a great way to foster positivity and connection, especially if it is something thoughtful that makes your partner’s, roommate’s or family’s life easier. Checking something off of their to-do list, by doing the dishes, feeding the family pet, or even just watching their favorite show with them, can show them how appreciative you are. To create an atmosphere of appreciation among siblings consider jotting down any acts of kindness you notice between your kids, or that they report to you, and read those excerpts every night at dinner.
Paying compliments to your partner, roommate or family is another way to show how much you appreciate them every day. You can say something nice about their values, their passions, their looks or how they make you feel. For children, it can be helpful to provide sentence starters like, “Today, I appreciated that Mom…” or “This week, it made me feel happy when Dad…”. Whether you communicate in person or by handwritten notes, sharing positive thoughts and emotions with each other can bring more positivity into any household and spark meaningful communication.
6. Get Outside Together
The ability to go outside and get some fresh air has never been so important. Safely enjoying some sunshine and green space with others from your home can help you feel more in touch with them. Not to mention, research has shown that regularly spending time in nature can boost mood and reduce depressive feelings.
Going for a walk or lounging outside is also a wonderful opportunity to strike up conversation. Consider taking a moment to share positive and honest COVID-19 updates with children, using these conversations startersthat have nothing to do with the coronavirus, or simply asking your loved ones about their daydreams or visions for the future.
7. Work on a Fight You Keep Having
Openly communicating and setting healthy boundaries can help keep a household running smoothly. If one contentious topic keeps coming up again and again, consider setting aside time to talk through things constructively and extinguish the argument. It can be helpful to set guidelines for the conversation so you know how to proceed if things escalate unproductively.
Creating a roommate agreement is another great way to communicate effectively and prevent routines fights. Consider including things that are important to each other, like how chores are divided up or what food, if any, you would like to share. By agreeing to listen, understand and compromise, you show one another that you are willing to approach the issue in the most mature way possible.
8. Learn Something Together
Trying a new activity together can help build connection and make you feel like a team. Research has shown that jointly participating in an exciting physical challenge or activity can foster more satisfying relationships and even strengthen bonds. While adhering to social distancing guidelines, consider trying a new workout, taking on a new project, cooking a new recipe, reading a new book together or even decluttering as a team.
You may also consider enrolling in one of the many online classes available during this time, or even learning something new about each other. Jointly taking a personality test, like the Enneagram Assessment or Love Languages Quiz, is a great way to learn more about yourself and the ways you interact with those around you.
9. Take Turns Making Playlists
Especially if before COVID-19 you listened to music as you got ready for work or during your daily commute, consider adding music back into your routine at home by taking turns creating playlists for each other to listen to separately or enjoy together. Not only is sharing playlists a great way to foster connection and learn more about each other, but researchers have also shown that listening to just one song has the ability to drastically boost mood. Families with children might consider creating a nightly playlist as a family in which each member of the household gets to contribute their favorite song.
If you have similar taste in music, swapping playlists or creating one to enjoy together is a great way to discover new songs and artists. Alternatively, if you hear a song that’s better suited to your partner’s, roommate’s or family member’s taste, sending it their way is a great way to show you are thinking about them.
10. Do Fun Things Without Them
You do not have to be together all the time to be close. While sharing meaningful time as a household can help you grow closer, studies have shown that being bored together does the opposite. Consider designating specific times of the day or the week for members of your home to focus on their own activities.
Alternatively, families are finding creative ways to signal to each other that they need some time to themselves, like designating recognizable articles of clothing to serve as coronavirus invisibility cloaks. Wearing such an item signals to everyone else that they should refrain from starting conversations and give that person some much-needed space to invest in their own self-care, hobbies and passions while still under the same shared roof.
The earliest recorded pandemic occurred almost 2,450 years ago during the Pelopennesian War. In 430 B.C., a disease suspected to have been typhoid fever, passed through Athens, Libya, Ethiopia and Egypt killing as much as two-thirds of their respective populations. The symptoms included fever, thirst, bloody throat, red skin and legions.
Tell us about your choice to specialize in psychiatry and describe your current practice.
During my third year psychiatry rotation at Harvard Medical School, I really enjoyed both the challenges and satisfaction of treating individuals with behavioral health issues. As a psychiatry resident at UCLA, I became especially interested in affective disorders and anxiety disorders and as Chief Resident of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic, I worked with psychologists, therapists and other residents to help treat these disorders with both pharmacotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. I have been fortunate to have the opportunities during my career to work in both administrative roles as medical director of hospitals and large outpatient clinics while continuing my passion of seeing and treating patients suffering from mental health issues. I have just co-authored a book “Overcoming Dyslexia – an updated edition” (now available on Amazon) and am so excited to be working and seeing patients as part of the Neuro Wellness Spa team.
When and how should someone seek treatment for anxiety?
Everyone has a small degree of anxiety throughout their life which is often situational to a specific stressor and can be quite normal. When it becomes a concern is when the anxiety becomes disabling or interferes with a person’s ability to function to their fullest. Anxiety disorders can also be comorbid with other diagnoses such as substance use, depression and bipolar disorder. While anxiety disorders are often seen as one homogenous set of symptoms they actually can be conceptualized as falling into several different classifications – Panic Attacks, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder each with their own distinct presenting symptomatology. It is important to make an appointment with a trained mental health professional or medical provider to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.
Everyone is worrying about the coronavirus pandemic, but everyone I know is healthy. Should I worry?
I think it is appropriate to continue to follow the federal and state guidelines and wear masks while outside, practice social distancing and be diligent about hand washing to prevent the spread of this virus. However, I also think it is important to ensure that while practicing these safety guidelines, people are attuned to their mental health and wellbeing as the feeling of loss of control, isolation and loneliness can also exacerbate anxiety and depression. Essential services such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) are still being scheduled and with technology such as telemedicine, individuals can continue to talk and be seen by their mental health providers through these challenging and difficult times.
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