Later this month, you’ll see a post about how the pandemic has this habit of leading us to feelings of irritability, anxiety, and grief. Here is a quick summary: The chaos of the world has led you to feeling a little less in control of your own life. This can make some people feel “crazy,” but this perceived craziness is really just an indicator that our inner child is being triggered. Instead of shunning your inner child, it is important to pay attention to it. Your inner child is there to help you understand what exactly you need in the moment to feel slightly more in control. So, how can you help that poor kid that’s feeling fearful and out of control? You can pay attention to it! Below are some steps and techniques to channel your inner child, to love it, and to listen to it.  Step one: Name your feeling(s) and acknowledge their right to be there Humans, including inner children, want to feel heard and understood. Kids especially need to be mirrored and reflected so they can begin to learn what they are feeling, and in turn learn to cope with their feelings. Once a child learns to cope with an emotion, they can feel upset but express it in a healthy way.  So, naming a feeling may sound easy, but can be tricky for a lot of adults. As small people grow into big people with positions of power, a family to take care of, and people to tend to, they often learn to ignore their feelings for the sake of “the other.” Some start to numb out using substances, food, or television, while others will focus on their career. When you do this, you are forgetting to pay attention to your inner child, which makes them feel neglected. Neglect, as you know, causes all sorts of anxiety and sad feelings. But here’s the kicker: if you don’t pay attention to your inner child, it cannot know what it is feeling, and therefore it cannot cope. So instead it feels more sad or anxious, and the cycle repeats (See this article to learn more about why naming your emotions is important).  In order to figure out what you are feeling, the first step is actually to pay attention to your physical body. Check in right now. What are you experiencing viscerally? Anxiety can manifest as tightness in the chest, a quicker heartbeat, nausea, etc. Sadness can manifest as a lump in the throat, exhaustion, or headaches. Pay attention, what are you feeling? Don’t forget to acknowledge that you should be feeling whatever it is that you are feeling. You are responsible for how you express your feelings and how to dial them down, and this is a learned skill. You are not, however, responsible for feeling your feelings in the first place. This is something that just comes. Instead of ignoring it, use it as information that your body felt important to present to you in this moment.   Step two: Visualize your inner child I use this technique in therapy often. Adults are often so hard on themselves, and find it immensely difficult to be patient or give themselves a break. Picturing your inner child (you as a child) can help create a sense of patience and connectedness with the parts of you that you typically disconnect from.  So, now that you’ve named your feeling(s), picture you as a little kid. How old are you? What are you wearing? Did you have a silly hair cut at the age you’re picturing? Do you smell like shampoo, or dirt, or maybe chlorine from a pool? What do you like to do? (I once had a client tell me that she used to take eggs from the refrigerator and put them under a heat lamp in her room in hopes that they would hatch into little chicks. How could you be mad at that little kid?!)  Step three: Ask your inner child what they need from you Take a look at that little kid. If you’re feeling stuck or having a hard time doing this, picture a friend’s kid, or a niece or nephew. I will give you a hint about what your inner child needs from you: the answer is never the negative talk that adults give themselves on the daily. It is never helpful to tell your niece or nephew how worthless they are, or what a failure they’re going to be. It is also never helpful to shun, ignore, or blame a kid.  So picture that kid and ask them: What do you need from me? What can I do to help? The goal here is to be the adult resource for your inner child. For a thorough exploration on how to communicate with your inner child, check out  this article . Your kiddo may just need to be seen and heard. Or maybe they need reassurance and validation that their existence matters, and that they deserve to be heard. Visualize them and ask. This may feel silly, and that is okay. Silliness doesn’t make it any less valuable, especially when it can help you cope with anxiety.   Step four: Do an activity that your inner child likes to do This is probably something you liked to do as a kid, or maybe something that you didn’t love but that reminds you of the good parts of childhood. This is an activity that makes YOU happy. Not your family, not your work, but you. Sometimes this will overlap with what makes other people satisfied, and this is fine as long as you are able to keep the child as the focus of your attention.  Think coloring, reading, taking a bath, or listening to music (check out this article for some ideas). Give your inner child some control, and ask them what they want to do. If there are safe adults around (like yourself) your inner child can feel safe to explore and do something they love, even when the world is scary!   Conclusion Pay attention to your inner child, and not just during the pandemic! As kids turn into adults, they learn to ignore their feelings in order to exist as a fully functional human in the only way they know how. But, the world is always a bit chaotic, so grounding in what you need in the moment is an effective way to maintain feelings of control and of connectedness.  ​Alyssa Ashenfarb, LCSW    

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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Six Secrets on How To Make Your Housework Sexy​

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 Silly

Housework 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 halfsies

Agree 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 top

You 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 work

Have 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 thing

Finding 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 done

I 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

 

 

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