As various phases of “reopening” are reached, I know many people are confused, ambivalent, and overwhelmed by the prospect of things “going back to normal.” This is only reasonable. We have some guidance from officials, like suggestions from governors and the CDC about group gatherings, and of course wearing a mask and washing your hands, but the reality is that safety cannot be guaranteed right now. So, how do we begin to leave our homes and re-enter the world with that knowledge?
1) Use Wise Mind
A concept from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) the concept of wise mind encourages us to use both our emotional mind as well as our “calculator” or robot mind when making decisions. For example, emotional mind might tell us “I miss my friends so much and am so lonely—I’m going to this meet up of 20 people without a doubt” while our calculator mind might say, “There’s no way this could possibly be 100% safe. I’m staying home indefinitely.” The idea is to find some middle ground, considering both your emotional or gut reaction, along with aspects of our more analytical, strict or robot mind. So in this case, maybe our wise mind would tell us, “An inside gathering of 20 people might not be safe, as much as I want to see my friends. Maybe I’ll suggest a smaller group come over to my house and spend time outdoors, wearing masks, to be safe and also be social.”
2) Prioritize Self-Care Activities Outside
It seems like the consensus is that spending time outside, even in among other people, is safer than indoors in terms of virus transmission. And, as the weather gets nicer, it seems like the perfect time to commit to spending more time outside. As parks open, hiking seems like a safe and health bet, as well as dining outdoors at restaurants that are properly following social distancing guidelines, or even in your back yard! Being outside, especially while some of us may continue to work from home, or still feel a bit trapped after a few months of being trapped at home, might feel especially good right now.
3) Prioritize Social Engagement with Appropriate Social Distancing
When seeing loved ones that you miss, it is easy to forget the effectiveness of social distancing or mask wearing, and go in for a hug, or want to be closer while you chat. As difficult as it is to prioritize this, actively remind yourself to continue following these guidelines. Think carefully about the situation you will be entering into before you agree to attend.
4) Visit Familiar Places to Feel a "Normal" Pace of Life Again
Have a favorite restaurant that is opening back up? Or a coffee shop that is allowing people in the store? As long as you can keep your distance from others, go for a visit! Comfort can be found in our “normal” staples, and in revisiting places that were once a part of our day to day life, pre pandemic. Even taking a drive to a beach, and staying in the car if you’re so inclined, could feel “normal.” Not comfortable going out in public? Order take-out from a favorite restaurant! Or set up a date night in your dining room, on your balcony, or in your yard.
5) Consume Social Media and News in Small Dosage
I think we can all agree that the news cycle right now is overwhelming, upsetting, and unrelenting. While I am not advocating that we all pretend the pandemic or racial unrest aren’t happening, or that these aren’t very important issues to be informed about, pay attention to how news consumption is affecting you. Are you spending hours scrolling through your news feed, reading heart breaking story after heart breaking story? Maybe set aside a certain time of day where you read headlines, and a few select articles for half of an hour. Then, if helpful, turn off your push notifications for the day. Or, try to break up the bad news with some good news. Following accounts like “Some Good News” by actor John Krasinski, or “Tank’s Good News” on Instagram might add some heartwarming content to your day for a change.
6) Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Others If They’ve Been Following Social Distancing Rules; Prioritize Yourself
While no one wants to come off as antagonistic or caustic, don’t be afraid to ask individuals who you are planning to spend time with if they have been careful. Have they been to any large gatherings? Are you willing to expose yourself to the potential risks that may be related to? It’s certainly easy to make light of these factors, and want to see a friend or family member in spite of their potential exposure, but think carefully before you expose yourself (and those you live with) to others.
Uncertainty seems to be the theme of 2020. But, there are some things that we can control. Use your best judgment, and take care of yourself.
Lukin Center Psychotherapy Offers Tele-Therapy
To help support our community, we are offering a 15% discount for new patients that are interested in getting started with tele-health to help manage feelings of anxiety and isolation during this time.
Konstantin Lukin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in Ridgewood, Hoboken, NYC, Jersey City and Englewood. . He has extensive clinical and research experience spanning individuals of all ages, in both inpatient and outpatient settings. He specializes in men’s issues, couple’s counseling, and relationship problems. His therapeutic approach focuses on providing support and practical feedback to help patients effectively address personal challenges. He integrates complementary modalities and techniques to offer a personalized approach tailored to each patient. He has been trained in cognitive-behavioral, dialectical behavior, schema-focused, and emotionally focused therapy, and has also been involved with research projects throughout his career, including two National Institute of Mental Health-funded studies. He is a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New Jersey Psychological Association, Northeast Counties Association of Psychologists, New York State Psychological Association, The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, The New York Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy, the International OCD Foundation, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACSB) and a regular contributor to Psychology Today.