As the weather gets nicer, people have been venturing out of their apartments and reentering the real world. You’re seeing the country reopen, and your friends and family are beginning to do the same. While quarantine has felt simultaneously exhausting and boring, you’re surprised the first feeling you’re having at reopening up is not relief. Instead, you feel a rumble of anxiety in your belly. How are we, as a culture, supposed to just “go back to normal?” And what is the new normal? ...And what if quarantine has felt restorative for me?  Everything you’re feeling is okayI think it is super important to start with this one. Even though you were excited for quarantine to be over, it is 1000% okay to be nervous for what is to come. Maybe seeing your friends for the first time is unsettling, or going to see your family feels a little funky still. You could be worried about contracting coronavirus, worried about your career and finances, or worried about re-engaging with others in person. Whatever it is, it’s a normal response to an abnormal situation.  Just like acclimating to the slower life of quarantine was tricky, reacclimating to post quarantine life may be tricky too, but for different reasons. Ramping your working and socializing odometers back up to full force may feel not only anxiety provoking, but scary.  Notice these feelings, and allow yourself to have them. In-person situations might feel more exhausting than usual, because your body is not used to the consistent in-person interactions. Humans are typically more sensitive to other people’s energies than they realize, so interacting with others can be surprisingly draining. Do your best to be aware of what is happening in your body, and take a break when you need it/when you are able to. Slow down and focus on the day to dayThis is so difficult for someone who is always buzzing and getting things done. You’ve planned your career and you’ve succeeded, so why can’t you plan your future too? As someone who likes to pretend I can predict the future, I am well acquainted with the fear that comes with not knowing what is next. This is a gentle reminder that you cannot predict the future, and you do not need to in order to cope with the present.  The thing about predicting the future is that most predictions are mistakes. All a human can do is base the future off of what they know about the past and present, but there will always be curveballs. For this reason (plus others), it is much more productive to focus on how you will manage the day by day. For example, what does your schedule look like tomorrow? What is for dinner tonight?  As hard as it is to connect with this thought in the moment, no amount of worrying will prepare you for what is coming next. Things will happen that are unexpected (*cough* coronavirus *cough*), so try to settle your mind on the next days or weeks in order to feel as in control of your next steps as you’re able to. Baby stepsIt is SO exciting to get to see your friends and family again, but remember, baby steps! I know you want to jump back in, but hear me out… The world is reopening in waves for a reason. Try to notice what is coming up for you as you reenter the world. A million feelings can happen all at once- excitement about seeing your loved ones, fear for catching the coronavirus, or grief over the loss of the past few months and what is to come. For this reason, it is especially important to stay slow and steady, and to notice the conflicting parts of you. How many times have you been invited somewhere, and both did not want to go, but also wanted to go at the same time? This is completely normal, but is important to pay attention to after being semi isolated for 2-3 months. Forgetting to tune into the moment can lead you to ignore your body signals telling you to reel it back, which can lead to anxiety and other types of discomfort.  Am I bad if I don’t want quarantine to end? Any of my clients will tell you how rarely I provide direct answers during session, but I can give you a resounding “No!” for this one. Quarantine has allowed humans to slow down and notice the small joyful moments happening that they were not able to take note of when life was moving at such a fast pace.  This is beautiful information! And you can absolutely use this awareness to bring it to your day to day outside of quarantine. For example, if you learned that having some more time in the morning to enjoy your coffee is something that makes your whole day better, leave time for it upon return to “normal.” There are tons of benefits of working from home/lockdown. Notice them and see if you can get creative about them as the world reopens.  All in all…Your emotions are a normal response to an abnormal situation. Instead of avoiding them or self shaming, embrace them and use them as information. If you are feeling anxious, or are dreading returning back to work, then something about the security of a lockdown probably felt safe and comforting. How can you bring this into your daily experience?  Finally, take small steps. You are so driven to make up for lost time, but the only way to actually optimize your time is by paying attention to your mental health. Doing so will make you more efficient and productive. If you are really struggling with adapting to post quarantine life, give us a call! We are here to help you readjust.  ​Alyssa Ashenfarb, LCSW

If you’re a professional go getter, it can be so difficult to have experienced the switch from constantly moving around to remaining exclusively at home. Lack of incoming new business, strain of finances, mental health, and health all play roles in the ability to balance your career with your life at home.  We’ve created some tips to help you stay motivated and organized, and to help you keep your priorities and end goals in mind!  Create LandmarksStart with one year from now, and think about where you want to be. Imagine your future self. Where do they want to be? Are they going to be happy with where you are now, or are they going to wish you did some more to enhance success? For more ways to explore your future self’s business needs, check out this post.  Thinking about where you want to be in one year from now is an excellent way to begin to set up landmarks. Plan backwards- in order to be where you want to be in one year, where do you have to be in six months? In 3 months? In one month, and next week?  Don’t forget the baby steps! If you’ve ever started a business, or really started anything that requires some hard work, you know that landmarks can only be reached if baby steps are accomplished. Give yourself credit for those small steps so you know what you are accomplishing.  This will not only help you recognize how far you’ve come, but will also boost your sense of competence and confidence. Chances are that you are accomplishing fantastic things every single day, and just have a harder time recognizing those smaller steps. Check out this article on how self compassion can lead to better business.  Get creative with organizationPrioritize what you want to organize! I know I am saying a lot of words here, but prioritizing organization can make overall organizing less daunting. For example, if you know you need to figure out how to organize your inbox, but your desk is such a mess that you can’t even think straight, one of these things definitely needs to be done before the other. And don’t forget to give yourself credit for the baby step of organizing your desk!  Work-home boundaries/routinesI will give you this- this one is exceptionally tricky during a pandemic in which you are quarantined, even as things are opening up. Try starting your work day with a solidified routine, so your body and mind know your work day is starting. Maybe this is something like a cup of coffee, or maybe it is just a few deep breaths. Whatever works!  Try to do this at the end of the day too. Choose a different routine to solidify the end of your day, so your body and mind can adjust to shutting off and tuning into your partner and children for the rest of the evening. For more advice on how to manage being a parent who is now working from home, check out this guide. Make sure you are also setting internal boundaries. This does not necessarily mean setting limits on what you do at work (learning to say “no” is always a crowd favorite!), but instead means knowing when your body has just had enough. Tune into what exhaustion feels like for you. Do your eyes get droopy? Or do you start to zone out? Notice when you have reached your max, and try to tap out then.  Keep in mind that this may be constantly changing! This is why we suggest an end of day routine rather than a consistent time. It is possible that some days you are able to work until 7pm, and this works for you, but other days you need to shut off at 5. This is okay! Pay attention to what your body is telling you.  Keep a scheduleFinally, try to organize your day into a concrete schedule. You can really do this based on how you best function. If you are someone who likes to know what they are doing every hour, on the hour, awesome! If not, this is more than okay too. Instead, try to break down your schedule by morning, noon and night.  For example, try accomplishing a specific set of tasks before 12PM, and another set before 5PM. This can make the day feel less overwhelming, and will also allow you the space to give yourself that credit we discussed earlier!  All in all…Goals are hard to accomplish at any time, but exceptionally difficult to tackle when the world feels like it is out of control. Remember to instill that sense of accomplishment through acknowledging what you are doing, so you don’t get bogged down with what you haven’t done.  ​

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I want to know more about those relationship tips…

Earlier this month, we explored five tips to use right now in order to improve your relationship. We loved this post, and we’ve gotten feedback that you guys did too! That being said, we’ve also gotten some feedback that you want MORE. Loving the enthusiasm! 

 

We want you to be able to be the expert on these tips and how they work for you, so we’ve taken the time to dive into two tips we mentioned in our previous post: teammates first, and turning towards. 

 

 

Teammates first

When I think of the word “teammate,” my brain goes in a few different directions-- first and foremost being a person whose intentions you keep in mind when you make decisions. This is so crucial to understanding how exactly you can make your relationship grow and thrive. You and your partner are individual people with your own inner worlds, and it is worth recognizing not only this but also the “couple” as a third party. 

 

Let’s face it, you and your partner have very different wants and needs. I am here to remind you that this is not only okay, but actually normal. These needs exist separately because no matter how intertwined your lives are, you are still individuals. Tons of couples experience discrepancies in how they live their daily lives-- sometimes one partner feels they are living life to their fullest, while they feel the other partner is moving too slowly. Both parties feel this makes it hard to be teammates, because they are constantly on different pages about what they want. 

 

Keep in mind that part of the reason we choose people moving at a different rhythm than us is because it creates balance. You do not have to move at the same pace at your partner, and you do not always have to agree. You just need to be able to work and love in tandem, and come together for support after your needs are met separately. In other words, the need of the couple as a whole is not always similar to either need of the individuals.

 

Let’s focus on a simple example that came up so often in quarantine. One partner relaxes by going for runs, and another partner relaxes by watching television. Both partners want to relax together. What to do? Focus on the couple! Relax as individuals, and then find a way to relax as a couple that does not involve watching television or going for a run. Some may look at this as a compromise, however, I think it is more helpful to view this as a way to reorient yourselves towards what the couple as a whole needs. 

 

When you feel nurtured as a team, you’re more likely to feel energized enough to support each other as individuals. It will allow you the head space to remain emotionally attuned and empathetic to one another, and will help you both feel valued and important to one another. 

 

 

Turn towards rather than away

This is our other chosen favorite. As mentioned in our previous post, world renowned therapists Drs. John and Julie Gottman discovered a concept common in happy couples- turning towards rather than away. All this means is that you are responding to your partner’s subtle hints at desire for connection with (figurative and literal) open arms and affection. Turning away from your partner is ignoring, dismissing, or shutting down attempts at connection. 

 

This is trickier than it sounds- bids for connection typically pop up in the smallest moments throughout the day. If your partner is verbally noticing the sunset, and you are super engulfed in an article you are reading and missed what your partner said, you are rejecting a bid for connection. Yes- attempts can be this small! I know it is difficult to respond to everything, but fear not-- the Gottmans found that partners who are the happiest responded to each other's bids for connection around 86% of the time. This leaves some healthy room for mistakes. 

 

To turn towards your partner’s bids for connection (that is, any attempt from one partner for affirmation or positive connection from the other), pay attention to the underlying meaning behind the words. Chances are that your partner is not marveling in the sunset’s beauty for their own benefit. Your partner is describing the sunset because they want to share this moment with you, because they love you. And anyway, enjoying a moment with your partner is much more likely to make you feel loved than anything on your phone!

 

Another great way to understand your partner’s bids is to pay attention to when you are making your own. Notice the things you say and what you are looking for from your partner. And of course, talk about this concept with your partner! After all, knowledge is power, right? 

 

 

How can I apply this to my life?

Talk about it with your partner! Bring these concepts to their attention so they can be aware of how hard you’re working, and hopefully will feel full and nurtured enough to respond back. If you feel these and the other tips are outside of the realm of possibility, our suggestion is to invest in couples therapy right here in Manhattan. There are alternatives and ways to explore what is going on for you and your partner outside of just behavior change. 

 

 

​Mollie Eliasof, LCSW

 

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