Celebrations At Home

Celebrations at Home
Celebrating at Home?

As life continues at home for most of us, life and all of its celebrations have not stopped. Birthdays and anniversaries are always in full swing throughout the year — these special personal days come along no matter what is going on in the world. Given the pandemic times we are in, many people are not going to have the celebration they were expecting this year.

As I am a planner, I always have something good planned for my friends, family and myself as their and my special days rolls around. Oh my goodness, all of those plans have been taken off the table in no uncertain terms. As I realized this as the weeks marched toward these special dates, I had to take some time to feel this disappointment of not being able to enjoy the plans that I had carefully made to delight my loved ones. Instead of brushing it off, I faced my sadness over the loss of my special plans for this year. Being able to sit with my sad feelings for some time allowed me to take the next step.

To make the most of what I could do to celebrate. For Birthdays, I could send cards or flowers, I could call, I could order a Birthday cake, hey how about take-out since it’s so special these days to not cook, find a movie and watch it together, take a walk with the loved one I live with, and, most importantly, be present to the person.

Everything wasn’t exactly how I thought it would go, but letting go of my expectations allowed me to be in the moment and see what unfolded that was new and different. Although these were not the celebrations I had planned, being present to the celebrations that unfolded was not only interesting, but fun.

If you are going to be having some celebrations at home soon, here are my top tips:

  1. Give yourself time to process, grieve, and let go of what you may have planned and were looking forward to.
  2. Make the most of what you can do — baking a homemade cake, buying a card at the grocery store, setting up a Zoom party, taking a walk, ordering takeout, and anything else that you may have around your home to celebrate – i.e. bang pots and pans.
  3. Be open to what unfolds without expectations — the unexpected phone call or card in the mail perhaps.
  4. Relax.
  5. Be in the moment. This is most certainly a unique one.

Whatever you do, indeed mark the celebrations at home. It is important to make a big deal of our loved ones and special events. Even though we are all at home, this is not a year to “pass,” but rather to have a celebration that you will remember when you think back to these pandemic times.

What Day Is It?

What Day Is It Buttons
Have you lost track of the days of the week?

What day is it?

Has this question been on your mind lately? It’s no surprise given the weeks without end under a “shelter in place” order that the majority of America and the world is following for the time being. We mark the days and the weeks by certain rhythms, such as going to work, the children going to school, the weekend with an often errand-filled Saturday, date night Saturday, and a relaxing Sunday.

Goodbye schedule, Goodbye rhythms. We are in new territory indeed!

I was reading an article in the New York Times discussing the phenomenon of losing track of the days. The article points to more stress, anxiety, and uncertainty as several factors combined with a lack of rhythms to mark and differentiate time for ourselves. After all, time is made up by man. Man decided to carve out a five-day work week and two days at the end of each week to rest and relax. He also carved out the working hours of 9 to 5.

All of us pretty much abide by these artificial designations because it’s always been this way and we conduct our lives accordingly based on the day of the week and the time of day. What happens when none of that matters or makes sense?

Some of us are working from home so that gives some sense of how a day is supposed to be spent — but even then there is no space differentiation from working at home to being at work. We are just at home round the clock, i.e. living, working, keeping kids busy, and more. The days of the week are blending together and so it would be easy to work on a Saturday as it is a Tuesday.

What if you aren’t working? Then this is time out of time for you. Your routine has been completely disrupted. There is literally is no where to go and nothing to do outside. You are called to shelter in place day after day with no change. Time often doesn’t feel like that – it speeds up, it slows down, it tells us where we need to be, it keeps track of the hours we work and sleep, and how long it takes to cook something.

Time is still making up each of our days, but what does it matter when we struggle to see or feel any of it right now? Here are a few tips to help yourself keep track of the days and time that makes it up:

  1. If you aren’t keeping track of the days or you are finding it difficult, don’t fight against it. Give in and see what it is like to feel time differently, if you feel it at all. This is a unique situation and surely one where you can learn about you and your family.
  2. If it is important to track time, then orientate yourself to the day of the week upon waking up, “Today is Monday.”
  3. Once you have grasped the day of the week, approach it as you would that type of day in regular times. Is it Monday? Get up and begin your week. Is it Saturday? Perhaps the day you go out and grocery shop? Is it a Friday night, perhaps a date night?
  4. To shake it up a bit, once you remember the day, turn it on its head and do the opposite of what you are normally supposed to do on that day. As an example, on a Wednesday, spend the day watching shows. Just experiment with turning the normal routine of time on its head.
  5. Remember time has not changed — there are still 24 hours in the day, making up 7 days in a week, making up the 12 thirty or thirty-one day months, making up the 352 days in the year. How we experience this time is what has changed. Notice and observe yourself moving through this time and perhaps journaling about how it feels the same and different.

What day is it? I am often wondering it myself these days. Know you are not alone in feeling lost in how we have made up our systems of time. Lost is not a failure, but rather a place to explore and find unique ways to cope and turn time on its head for a split second of eternity.

Dear Therapist: No Job No More

No Jobs No More

Dear Therapist:

I am out of work like 16 million other Americans at this time. I don’t feel alone, but I am scared. I don’t know how long this will last and whether will there even be a job to return to when this mess is over? Nothing is certain, except the bills I have to pay. Any suggestions on how to handle this type of stress? I am glad to be one of many, but I am scared to death wondering if I will make it?

Sincerely, Frightened Along With Everyone Else

It is a terribly bleak situation. The numbers have gone through the roof for people and small businesses applying for government benefits that will sustain them during this time of crisis. That’s the first place one must put her energy – filing for unemployment, applying for small business loans and grants, and waiting on your check from the government to help ease the pain of today.

However, I also hear your concern over the unknown facts of when will this even be over and when it is over will there be your old job to return to or will that job be gone? Those are two huge uncertain elements for everyone at this time. We cannot yet know when the orders to “shelter in place” will be officially lifted, then what businesses will reopen, and how the public responds to business being back to normal, if in fact this is the plan that is happening.

The unknowns are the worst in a situation like this and that drives anxiety. Collectively, I think American society is on edge not only out of concern for our health, but also the financial cost of the crisis that is impacting so many people like yourself.

Grounding yourself in the moment with what you do know is one of the best courses of action for now. You and I both don’t know the answers to some of these major questions. We can focus on what we don’t know or we can be in the moment right now and take care of what needs to be taken care of in the here and now. It may be difficult, but just navigating the applications alone for assistance will take up a large chunk of time. Not only will you feel like you are moving forward by completing those tasks, your energy will also be focused.

Breathing in four counts through your nose and four counts out of your mouth four to five times can also aid in slowing down and grounding in the here and now. Although this is a terribly anxious time, we can find ways to soothe and calm our worries in the here and now and I encourage you to do so.

How to End Your Quarantine Day

Clapping At End of the Day
Clap Away!

Here’s an idea to help you end your quarantine day on an upbeat note, one that will not only lift your spirits, but perhaps those around you as well.

Clap!

Apparently, in NYC, people around 7 pm are lifting their windows up and clapping for all of the essential workers serving during this important time in history. Not only does the clap offer a daily release at the end of the day that is fueled by gratitude, but it engages your neighbors to do the same, and anyone who hears and is a front-line worker can hear the appreciation loud and clear.

I don’t think it only has to be clapping, you could also sing a song, or yell out, “How are you?” to your neighbors. The point is to engage your community by collectively coming together in a way that is distant and safe and making an expression of gratitude for all to hear. It may become a daily ritual that you look forward to.

This idea is sweeping the nation. Give it a try and then check in and see how that was for you. Of course, there are many quieter ways to express gratitude, write a letter, donate to a food bank, reach out to someone who feels lonely or forgotten, support a local business that is still open, and more. Perhaps it is just something we can be mindful of each day of this quarantine.

Do something – whether loud or quiet – to appreciate all that you have and all that others are giving right now.

Dear Therapist: Virtual Happy Hour Etiquette

Virtual Happy Hour

Dear Therapist:

Well, I’m at home most days all day long and the only way I connect with others is through technology. Most people are using Zoom, which I appreciate as I can see tons of my colleagues and friends all at one time. However, during casual Zoom gatherings, everyone is talking at one time or people take turns talking and all eyes are on that person. I know it’s a virtual Happy Hour, but it feels weird. Any advice on how to make casual Zoom gatherings easier for everyone to participate and feel heard?

Sincerely, Zooming Away

Sounds like you are a whole lot like me these days where most of our social connection outside of our immediate family is via technology. Any chance I get, I appreciate hopping on to a Zoom meeting for work or for fun to connect with others today. Recently, I too have noticed that work meetings seem to run smoother than casual meet ups on Zoom.

I think this is because when we are meeting for work or a class, the host has several rules set up that everyone must follow. The host asks the participants to “mute” themselves to clear out background noise, as well as use the “raise hand” feature when you have something to say so that people can take turns participating.

However, when you are thinking about a casual Zoom happy hour or other type of meetup, the last thing you want to do is employ rules. Yet, we may need to in order to connect in the best way possible. Sticking with the “mute” button is a good thing to use whether business or personal – the background noise cut out really helps.

Regarding people talking over one another is difficult, but perhaps you should ease up. Think about meeting up people at a crowded bar. It is loud, people are all talking at once, and it is difficult to keep up. However, I think this is something we are all missing right now, i.e. a crowd of people chatting together. Only thing is given the medium, people want to hear what people are saying. In the bar, what often happens is small groups of conversation begin to form and while everyone is together different conversations are happening at the same time. This is almost impossible on a Zoom meeting.

Which then leads to the awkwardness you are experiencing. One person is speaking, everyone listens and is focused on that one person, and then everyone chimes in one at a time about what the person has said. It definitely puts that person in the “hot seat” of attention and also nothing else can be spoken about because the attention is going to only one person. And then how to move on, especially if the person has shared something really difficult?

Ah! What to do? I don’t think there is much that can be done. This medium is odd for casual gatherings. Accepting this and moving into what it does offer, i.e. a big group of people we can see at once in a time when we hardly see anyone may be worth the difficulty of easy flow connection.

Be forgiving, find energy from the field of people who have come together, and don’t take any of it too seriously. The point is to connect. Let the rest go!

Missing Milestones

Students may be missing milestones like dancing at Prom

It seems that this is going to be a year when high school and college students are going to be missing milestones in their lives. As an adult looking back, proms, senior year antics, and graduation ceremonies feel like distant memories that I do not attach much importance to. However, if I were to be a high school or college senior at this moment in time I would feel a whole lot of negative emotions thinking I was about to be robbed of all of the celebrations I have worked so hard for the past few years.

When I think back on that time in my life, around April through mid-June life revolves around so many fun activities that mark the end of a long journey even as we start to look forward to the next stage of our lives. During this pandemic, people are being forced to stay home and away from friends, any activities that have to do with groups of people are forbidden, and schools look to be out until September. I hear that most will have their degrees mailed to them. Goodbye and Good Luck without any pomp or circumstance.

This is tough!

If you are living with a high school senior or have a college senior back at home this spring, it is important for you to help them navigate this time that surely feels disappointing. As they are missing milestones, how can you help them navigate this disappointing time and mark it uniquely within your family? These are the questions of the moment.

First, allow your child to vent, be angry, express disappointment and anger at the entire situation. Invite these feelings and be present to them. What your young adult is feeling is real and being able to make space and validate these feelings is important. If you are having a difficult time empathizing, remember back to how you felt during these important moments. It may feel long ago and not so important, but at the time it was everything. Recalling your own experience at that time, may help you hold space for your children to vent without feeling the need to shut them down.

Second, don’t jump the gun and think all is lost. Perhaps all will be cancelled, perhaps it will all be postponed — most of us don’t know exactly what is going to happen. It is difficult to live with uncertainty and not be able to make any definitive plans for these celebrations. Rather, one has to just take it day-by-day and be in the moment. So difficult at this time.

Third, if the special events are called off, finding creative ways to celebrate may be called for not only by you, but the entire school community. Perhaps a virtual prom is held as well as a virtual graduation ceremony. I am not sure if these types of events are in the works, but perhaps you could call the school/ PTA or whomever to inquire as to how this end of school could be marked in community with one another without being physically close to one another. If nothing is going to take place via the school, perhaps your own community of friends and families can get together virtually and mark the occasion together. One thing, it will be unforgettable.

Finally, make sure that you, as a family, mark the occasion of graduation. Perhaps you delay the party until it is safe or simply have a family celebration with cake and well wishes and creative gifts. Perhaps you create a video to mark the day. Technology can very much be our friend during such a time. Make sure to make time and make it a big deal for your graduate!

All is not lost during this time that may bring your senior to missing milestones in their school career. However, by allowing space for them to share their feelings, looking into what can be done at a school/community level, and marking it personally will help make the occasions special this season. Hold on to what is important and make sure to not forget even as society battles this pandemic.

Social Distancing

Woman chats with someone via technology for social distance connection

According to ThoughtCo, Social Distance refers to “a measure of social separation between groups caused by perceived or real differences between groups of people as defined by well-known social categories.” This sounds very academic and, if you were to go on to read the rest of the article you would read about the different types of social distancing – mainly phenomena around separation of groups of people based on race, class, and more.

What? Social Distance actually has a theoretical frame and it doesn’t seem to be anything to do with our current pandemic where the idea of “social distancing” is being used to keep individuals apart to control spread of a virus in our communities. For this meaning, we have periodicals like the Atlantic Monthly giving you the “dos and don’ts” of social contact during this strange time.

I hear some people are taking it seriously and not leaving their homes and then others who are going out for some things, but have cut other things out (if it hasn’t already been out out for you, like school and work), and then others who are going about their life as normally as possible. Where I live in Seattle, WA, the guideline is to socially distant, but there has been no legal enforcement. Instead, people are given agency over their decision to distance from their friends and community.

It’s at times like these that we realize how much we need people or, at least, being out and about within our communities. I hear this is an introvert’s dream, but even introverts get out to do errands, work, drop their kids at school or go to school, work out, and more. To take away social interaction with others exerts a pressure for us to be alone for the good of the other. A bit of an oxymoron, right?

Some of the ramifications I see from this social distancing recommendation are the following:

  • Loneliness
  • Loss of connection
  • Stress on close relationships
  • Boredom
  • Lack of productivity
  • Inertia

One of the best ways to combat any and all of these feelings is to use technology to remain connected to our friends and family. We don’t normally think in this way to see our local friends, but it can really help stave off loneliness and isolation, to FaceTime our friends in lieu of meeting up for coffee, dinner, or drinks. You just have to think of it as a viable option and reach out and set a date. I have tried it a few times during the past few days, and it truly brightened my spirits and helped me to feel less isolated. Ah! My friends are out there experiencing all that I am. Sharing this with the other is critical.

So, what to do? Think about your friends, family, and others in your community. Now, reach out and ask if they would like to set a FaceTime date with you? Put it on your calendar, as you would any other event, and show up. Spend the time on-line connecting. Afterwards, check in with yourself and see how you feel. My guess is a lot less isolated and lonely. For me, a real sense of being in it together was felt in both my mind and body.

Even during these days of social distance, we can stay connected given the tech times we are living in – make sure to connect and encourage your partner, kids, and anyone else you know to do that same.