You’ve literally tried everything to get your partner excited about their half of the house work. Begging, incentives-- even the cold shoulder is not working! Now that you two are in close quarters for the foreseeable future, I am here to help you and your partner manage the small, annoying chores in the lightest ways possible. Yes, believe it or not, housework does still exist even when there is a pandemic! I know, I know. Your first thoughts are that this is silly, and your first gesture is a dramatic eye roll. There are more important things to attend to! Here’s the thing: keeping things hot takes creativity, especially when you’ve been exclusively seeing each other in sweats and old t-shirts. Taking seemingly mundane tasks that are already part of your routine and making them surprising and sexy is hard work, but is definitely worth it. So, let’s help you spice things up with some indoor fun!  Make It SillyHousework can sometimes be dull, but if you have seen any episode of Marie Kondo's Tidying Up, you know that you can find joy even in folding! Put on your favorite comedy show, some songs from when you first started dating, or any thing you two identify as ridiculous and have some fun! Use this time to reminisce about your early on inside jokes and giggle away! Laughing has been shown to reduce stress and boredom, and increase creativity and collaboration (Laughing is helpful to reduce tension in the office/Zoom meetings, too). So, use this time to reminisce about your early on inside jokes and giggle away!  Go halfsiesAgree to divvy up some of your least favorite chores, allowing each partner to pick the ones that they don't hate. That way, when you are going for the chore, it's more bearable, it's a team effort, and you have the added benefit of knowing you’re doing that chore because your partner is protecting you from the dread of another one. Win, win!  A little sugar on topYou know that the reward system works at work and with your kids, so why not for you and your partner? Using the classic reward system for cleaning can be an excellent motivator for something as monotonous as chores. A reward that both of you are invested in, whether that's date night at the movies or a little fun in bed. Have something to look forward to together at the finish line!  Teamwork makes the dream workHave you ever seen those couples on Instagram working out together? After each rep, there’s a smooch or high five. Let’s use the same tactic of cheering each other on as you unload the dishwasher. One person hands off the dishes while the other person puts them on the shelf. After every five dishes put away, fist pump, do a little shimmy, or place a big kiss on their lips. (You’ll be surprised at the parallels you’ll notice between business teams and your relationship in this article!)  Shake your groove thingFinding your rhythm is always a nice distraction, even (and maybe especially) for those of us with limited rhythm. Turn your housework into sexy teasing by turning on your partner’s favorite tunes and showing them just how fun you can really make your chores!  Agree to no affection until chores are doneI like to think that this one can be as fun as you make it. Tell your partner of your idea to not give each other affection until both your chores are done. Teasing and fantasizing about the future is an amazing motivator to help you both finish your chores and get to what you actually want to be doing! With a little extra flavor and creativity in your connection time, you can make your boring daily task list much more interesting. Know that there’s always to make your connection a little more exciting — sometimes some imaginative thinking is all it takes!​   Mollie Eliasof, LCSW  

For the past two weeks, session after session, my clients and I have been processing the coronavirus.  Amidst sorting through my clients’ anxiety, the biggest question I am hearing is this: How can I manage my mental health and my relationships when my whole life has shifted, and I have no way of knowing when it will go back to normal? The only true answer anyone can give at this point is “I don’t know.” If this leads to panic, allow me to help you readjust your thoughts so you can learn how to cope with the chaos a little more effectively.    Stop scouring the news This is easily my first tip. The impulse you’re feeling to scrape the Internet and learn absolutely everything you can about the coronavirus is essentially your brain trying to understand what is going on. It is normal, and dare I say it, adaptive to feel a drive to search for information in the millions of articles that are popping up. Your brain is looking for answers and direction on how to proceed. Anxiety is, after all, just your emotional, physical and mental drive for survival. While this drive experienced as anxiety can be helpful at times, it is not particularly helpful when there is such a surplus of contradicting, confusing, and potentially inaccurate information. Your brain wants an answer, yet there is none.  So, instead of rushing towards panic, try redirecting your urge to find answers for something more productive, and something you can realistically work towards controlling. One good option is to explore articles and blog posts focusing on managing your mental health within the context of the coronavirus (try this one, this one or this one).    Get dressed like you’re going to work This one might sound silly, but if you’re working from home, the two worlds can easily start to blend. This can leave you feeling like you’re at work when you’re home- except the reprieve of actually going home is no longer a thing. Instead of having your day arbitrarily switch back and forth from work life to home life throughout the day, try to create a definitive beginning and end.  Keep to your daily routine. Wake up at your typical time, and follow your morning routine, work out at home or go for a run, and break out your computer at your kitchen table fully dressed and ready to go. Move to the couch for lunch, and go back to your kitchen table for work. At the end of the day, follow your evening routine as well. Of course, this cannot and will not feel exactly the same. But setting the boundary of changing out of your work clothes allows your brain to understand that once they are off, you are done working. This is actually a practice we should be engaging in year round, but is extra crucial during this time of chaos, confusion, and blurred boundaries (See this article on why redirecting your brain after work is important, and how to do it).    Practice acceptance *Rolls eyes.* I don’t mean acceptance in the “this doesn’t bother me” sense, or even in the “I am grateful for what I have” sense (though this latter sentiment can be achieved, too).  If I could translate my suggestion into a sentence, it would be, “Well, I guess this is what I have right now.”  Notice how many of your thoughts are thoughts about wanting to be somewhere else, stressing about what you cannot get done at work/in life, or about what you’re missing out on. Notice what you feel after having all these thoughts. My guess is, you are not feeling better. You’re all sorts of worked up and frustrated about how unfair the situation is.  The “what ifs” and “if onlys” are your system’s response to a situation in which you feel stuck. Your brain and body are trying to come up with a way out. Once your brain sends the signal to the rest of you that you can take a break from brainstorming because you’re safe, but temporarily stuck, the rest of you can relax. So much of the anxiety you are experiencing is yes, warranted worrying, but also an attempt to control what you are worried about. Relieve yourself from the pressure of trying to solve yours and everyone else’s problems. Take a deep breath, and state out loud where you are and the situation you are stuck with. Now, think of something you can do. A facemask? A puzzle? Call to check in on your elderly loved ones?    In conclusion Boiled down to one sentence, my suggestion is to control what you can, and let go of what you cannot. I do recognize this is a lot easier said than done. Start by organizing your concerns into two columns: what is within your control, and what is out of your control. Focus on the column you can do something about, and do it! You may just start to go back to feeling productive, competent, and a little more like yourself.  If you are struggling in a way that feels unmanageable, reach out for help! The coronavirus is scary because no one has any answers, but is also uniting because everyone is in the same boat. This means you are not alone in your suffering. Therapists all over the city (including yours truly!) are increasing their use of teletherapy to help you manage your experience.     Alyssa Ashenfarb, LCSW   ​

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How to get your relationship through COVID-19​

Deep breaths. We will get through this. It can be really wonderful to have someone beside you right now, but also very frustrating. You’re so glad your partner is there, but they’re also driving you a bit nuts. We get it, and we want to give you some tips on how to manage this! 

 

I can’t tell you when this will all end (really, the only answer anyone can give is “I don’t know”) but I can give you some hope within your relationship. Take this time to regenerate the love you may have forgotten to prioritize pre-pandemic! Here are some quick but deep tips on how to both maintain boundaries and feel close/loved during your extra time together. 

 

 

Name and share feelings

 

Like in the winter, being cooped up at home can lead to increased arguing, weight gain, and feelings of frustration and irritability. You and your partner may be quick to forget that you are both likely experiencing the same exact thing- fear and confusion. 

 

A typical response to a partner’s concern is often to “be strong,” or to tell them that “everything will be okay.” While this can be helpful much of the time, it can also feel isolating and dismissive at other times. Feeling mirrored in relationships in general is a beautiful way to strengthen your relationship, build connection, and feel empathy. 

 

So, when you are feeling irritable or scared, name it. Tell your partner, so you both know you are not alone in your fear. If verbal expression is hard for you, find a hand gesture that can express a need in the moment (i.e. hand on heart means “I need a hug”). Your partner can help you cope and co-regulate, and you can do the same for them. 

 

 

Make your lives more predictable

 

During times of increased unpredictability, the best thing you can do is set tangible predictability with a schedule in order to generate some semblance of control. Predictability makes humans feel safe, and is beneficial in various facets of life.

 

Start with creating a layout of what you are going to cook over the next week. You and your partner can try to brainstorm meals with what you have in your home, and you can use this as an opportunity to get creative! 

 

You and your partner can also make the housework a little more predictable by either setting up a schedule or, if this is not your cup of tea, at least figuring out which responsibilities each partner will be taking on. 

 

Take turns planning activities of what you will do each night. Board games? A romantic dinner and wine? A movie? This will both keep things a little more exciting, and will give you both a sense of control in terms of deciding what to do each night. 

 

 

Keep it fun and spicy

 

As stress at work or relationship turmoil increases, the first things to go are fun, exciting and team building activities. At first glance, this makes sense- you need to meet your basic needs (i.e. safety) in order to be able to lower stress enough to participate in and enjoy fun activities.

 

However, in the case of the coronavirus, this philosophy is a bit deceiving- you actually need to engage in fun distraction activates in order to generate enough energy and motivation to manage more stressful situations (See this article to learn more about how stress impacts your productivity). Because it is hard to feel physically safe from illness in a time like this, no matter what your approach, it is important to make sure you and your partner are getting an extra dose of fun to keep you at baseline contentment. Try these apartment and outdoor activities to keep your energy up! 

 

Set up sex dates. Find a time to have a midday quickie to spice things up. Treat it as it is: exciting and new! I mean, how often does midday work week sex happen? 

 

Try a new activity. This could mean inside and/or outside of the bedroom. Is there a new position you’ve wanted to try? Or maybe your partner has never tried yoga, and you want to teach them some empowering moves? 

 

Add small surprises. This is especially important if you two will be grounding yourselves in routine for the coming weeks. Small surprises (i.e. a love letter or a photo album you made) are great ways to add in a little positive excitement during your quarantine. 

 

Plan a future outside of the quarantine. What have you two wanted to do, but just haven’t found the time to plan and execute? Planning a trip, window shopping on Zillow, or brainstorming other futures together are a great way to generate an escape- even if only in your minds and hearts for now. 

 

 

In conclusion

 

Yes, this is a scary time, and yes, your control and predictability is limited. Instead of trying to control what you cannot control (i.e. you can’t stop the coronavirus, and you can’t learn absolutely everything you can in hopes of staying safe), focus on what you are able to control in order to make yourself feel better. Check out Katie Lynch’s post on how to manage heightened relationship difficulties during a quarantine here.

 

If this feels absolutely impossible for you, teletherapy is always an option! Therapists across the city are switching to teletherapy to help their clients feel a little more in control during this time of increased need. 

 

 

 Alyssa Ashenfarb, LCSW

 

 

 

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