Rediscover yourself in the great outdoors!
Join Dr. Hookman for a special morning of relaxation and reconnection with special guest Co-leader Dr. Brian Paris.
October 18, 2021 • 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM
Billy Goat Trail C | Potomac, MD
Rain Date: October 20, 2021
Are you sick of “being” with people on zoom and longing to actually connect with others in person? Are you stuck in the loop of constant doing, hoping to someday take a breath? Transcend your daily grind and reconnect with yourself. With gentle guidance, you will utilize embodiment and movement practices, breathing, mediation and self reflection to feel a deep sense of connection to the self that lives inside, with nature and receptive others. Walk away with self practices to handle life with more grace and calm.
Spend the morning experiencing:
- Embodiment Practices
- Connective Modalities
- Self Reflection
- Refueling in Nature
- Restoring Energy
- Relational Breathing
- Emotional Attunement Practices
Space is limited so register today!
Doctor of Chiropractic | CEO of Pain Arthritis Relief Center | Leadership Coach | Retreat Facilitator
I am on a path of service to help people live a healthy lifestyle, create better connectionx to themselves and others.
“It all comes down to growth. From business to relationships to parenting and self-care there are only lessons. I’m either learning and growing or dying.”
I support a healthy lifestyle for myself and for others with four essential pillars:
ENERGY – EMOTION – EMBODIMENT – EDGE
ENERGY I’ve learned to resource my energy by being disciplined with my movement, nutrition, sleep and psychology. Adhering to balance as the goal.
EMOTIONI am an expressive, sensitive, kinesthetic and feeling man. My family of origin were not the “feeling” types. This upbringing plus societal influence led me to a place where my “norm” was anxiety, codependence and loneliness…all defenses from feeling my feelings. I’ve dedicated the next chapter of my life to being connected to mySelf, feeling my feelings, responding to them, living my truth and expressing it artfully.
EMBODIMENTEmbodied living is a beautiful alchemy of “resourced energy” and “emotional integration”. I finely tune into my thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations for guidance and direction. With a quiet mind, clear vision and an open heart I can find my EDGE and face any challenge.
EDGEManaging my energy, responding to my emotions and alchemizing this into an embodied experience provides the framework to find and push my edges. I apply this to all areas of my life…psychological, relationships, business, physical, spiritual….
WARNING: PUSHING EDGES MAY RESULT IN EDGES PUSHING BACK
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With COVID-19 cases rising and uncertainty surrounding its variants, many patients have told us recently that it feels like there’s not a light at the end of the tunnel right now and are reporting poor sleep, fatigue or less productivity at work.
“At the beginning of the summer, we expected we were over the hardest part of the pandemic, and that the return to school might look a little more normal,” says WCWCW psychiatrist Dr. Valerie Relacion. “With the rise of the delta variant and differing opinions about vaccines and masking as our kids return to school, there’s this sense of dread that we’ll have to endure another difficult winter.”
Having our hopes dashed is incredibly dispiriting, especially after expecting that things would get better. Here’s how you can cope if you’re struggling.
Validate your feelings
The feeling there’s nothing to look forward to can be powerful enough to bring on depressive symptoms like sadness, tearfulness, insomnia and anhedonia (not being able to enjoy the things you usually enjoy). If the symptoms go on for more than two weeks and are interfering with your ability to function in one or more areas of your life, that’s when it’s time to get help. However, if the symptoms are just beginning, there are things you can do to prevent yourself from sinking lower. Recognizing you’re feeling this way, and that the feelings result from a thought pattern, is the first action to take. Then, start to validate your feelings. Affirming rather than suppressing difficult emotions helps mediate depression. Maybe you feel anger toward people who won’t get vaccinated or sadness that your children will miss out on aspects of a normal school year. Make space for all of it by writing it down or reflecting on it in a safe personal space.
Talk to a trusted person
There are very few people who aren’t struggling in some way right now, whether it’s medical, financial, emotional, or all of it. Getting confirmation you’re not alone helps you feel less isolated. Talk to a trusted loved one or friend about how you’re feeling. Find someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing negative feelings and who will validate how you’re feeling rather than try to fix the problem.
Practice finding gratitude
Spend some time each day noting what you’re grateful for. You can write this down, talk about it with a friend or family member, or simply think about it. Individuals who write a “gratitude letter” reported significantly improved mental health after several weeks, compared to those who didn’t, according to one University of California Berkeley study.
Unlike toxic positivity, which means suppressing negative emotions, gratitude is about recognizing the good, not erasing the bad.
Remember, you’ve already done this
As psychiatrist Dr. Jena Lee said recently, change is “one of the most taxing and stressful thing(s) for any of us because it requires adjustment and flexibility.” Appreciate that you and your family have already made many big changes adapting to a world with COVID-19, and are, in a sense, “over the learning curve.” We’re now used to wearing masks. We know that the virus is much less transmissible outside. We have vaccines. We’ve come a long way, even if we’re still struggling. Reminding ourselves of the wins, even if they’re small, can go a long way.
It won’t always be like this
It may feel like things are always going to be this bad. But the “light at the end of the tunnel” mindset has a cognitive flaw: things are always changing. We’ve already experienced so many changes since the start of the pandemic. Although the vaccine’s authorization for children can’t come soon enough, it’s only expected to be approved by the end of this year or early next year. Scientific knowledge about the virus and how to treat it continues to expand. And we’ve already been able to resume many of the activities that were once restricted.
Accept what you can’t control, and focus on what you can
Anticipatory anxiety occurs when you fear future events that haven’t happened. One of the most effective ways to deal with this is to try to focus on the present. This can be developed through meditation. It’s also important to accept what you can’t control, and focus on what you can. For instance, you may not be able to control the course of the pandemic, but you can control the measures you take to keep your family safe. Additionally, WCWCW psychologist Dr. Susan Felzer recommends starting to deal with decisions you put off earlier in the pandemic and making changes that make sense now.
“You don’t need to solve everything right away, but it will increase your sense of agency to start to break down an issue and address it,” says Dr. Felzer. “This can reduce feelings of helplessness that are common with depression.”
If you’re feeling hopeless, alone, or like things will never get better, visit our website or call Washington Center for Women’s and Children’s Wellness to learn more about our counseling services for addressing depression, anxiety and other common conditions.
In the best of years, going back to school is one of the most stressful times for families. This back-to-school period brings with it a number of unprecedented challenges: a return to in-person learning after last year’s exhausting remote or hybrid learning experiment, a rise in cases of COVID-19 among kids and teens because of the highly transmissible delta variant, the lack of vaccine authorization for kids under 12, and the polarizing debates over mask and vaccine mandates.
“Kids and parents were already dealing with the fall-out from the past year, like falling behind in learning and social development, because of remote school. In the last few weeks, everyone has had to face the health concerns about young kids and rising cases just as schools reopen,” says Alexis Wesley, M.D., child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist at WCWCW. “Parents are overwhelmed and disappointed that this year isn’t turning out to be the return to school we’d hoped at the start of the summer.”
It’s impossible not to be stressed right now, and we’re not going to tell you otherwise. But we can provide some strategies to help you and your kids get through this trying period.
Talk to your kids about what to expect
Remote learning was challenging for many kids and teens, but transitioning back to in-person learning has its own set of challenges. Take time to calmly talk to your kids about what to expect for this school year, to the best of your knowledge, including information about what to expect in terms of masking and vaccination. It’s okay to acknowledge that things remain uncertain. Let your kids share what they’re nervous about. With things still changing, it’s important to check in regularly and continue to validate their feelings.
Help children with socializing
Returning to school after a year of remote learning is bound to create social anxiety for many kids. Things like bullying and cliques haven’t gone away, and now there’s also uncertainty about whether kids will have their normal social outlets, like sports and other extracurriculars.
It’s important to support your kids during this time by helping them safely socialize and creating some sort of consistency in their communal environment. For example, if your kids’ activities are canceled, or if they’re doing virtual or hybrid learning, you could help them maintain connections with friends by organizing small group meet-ups outdoors.
Look for signs your child is behaving differently
Because of the challenges of the past year, your child may display behavior changes that are a clue to deeper issues. In younger children, look for shifts in appetite — either acting hungrier or saying that they are not hungry — or changes in sleeping patterns, whether sleeping less or sleeping in more. Young children may also complain about tummy aches and headaches. Older children and teens may display distress by withdrawing from friends and family and pulling away from activities or things that they previously enjoyed, engaging in risky behavior or self-harming, or being agitated or more irritable than usual.
Your child may benefit from mental health support such as talk therapy, play therapy, WCWCW’s social and emotional skills groups for children and adolescents. We also recommend our colleagues who run the Parent Child Journey program, which offers low-cost education for parents to help find effective strategies to address their child’s difficulties.
Developing healthy routines is key to navigating difficult times. Set a consistent sleep schedule, where you and your family go to bed and wake up at the same time. Exercise regularly, and encourage that for your kids. Eat first thing in the morning, eat regular meals, and make mealtime a family event, at least for dinner, as often as possible. Make sure to get your kids’ input when helping them develop their schedules.
Minimize screen time
Parents are really struggling with weaning their kids from screens after last year’s virtual-heavy time. We’ll get into this more in a future post, but now is the time to start cutting down on unnecessary screen time. Here are some ways to start:
- Make bedrooms tech-free zones.
- Use parental controls on devices.
- Reward kids for doing things that are not tech-related.
- Remove yourself from tech devices when your child is present.
Here are some additional suggestions from the Mayo Clinic.
Practice self-care and model this for your kids
Let’s face it, caring for others, especially your children, is exhausting, and it’s easy to neglect and even forget yourself. Build self-care, such as meditation, self-healing, baths, or any simple practice you find restorative, into your routine. Talk about the things you do that help you feel calm and grounded, and encourage your kids to try some for themselves.
Embrace ‘good enough parenting’
Psychiatrist D.W. Winnicott coined the term “good enough parenting,” which means not expecting perfection from yourself or your children. It’s okay to lower your expectations and let go of the need to be a “Super Parent” in exchange for sanity and self-care.
“Understand that everyone has fallen behind in the past year in certain areas, and be compassionate,” says Dr. Wesley.“In bumpy times, the best you can do is be honest about what you know, as well as what you don’t know, and provide love and support for yourself and your family.”
Get in touch with WCWCW to learn more about how our excellent and compassionate clinicians, mental health services and groups can help you and your children get through this difficult transition period.
With the rise in delta variant cases as kids return to school and fights over mask mandates, the current period is in certain ways more stressful than lockdown. With everything in flux, it may be more difficult to have any kind of routine. But if you made positive changes during the lockdown period, like exercising, meditating, or spending more time with family, they are worth hanging on to. “With the stress of returning to work and sending kids back to school in an uncertain environment, you need the good habits that helped you get through the past 18 months more than ever,” says WCWCW psychologist, Dr. Susan Felzer.
Read on for guidance on how to maintain healthy changes and why doing so matters.
Set priorities and adjust your routines
Lockdown gave many of us time and space to rethink priorities. Use this transitional time to solidify those priorities—in the areas of relationships, work opportunities, and activities. Once you’ve set your priorities, identify the behaviors and practices that will help you stick to them. For example, if a priority is mental health, a behavior could be a meditation practice. If you want to keep a meditation practice you began in lockdown, work on transitioning it to your post-quarantine routine. If while homebound you meditated during the time you would have normally commuted to work, and now you’re going back to the office for part of the week, you could wake up earlier to meditate.
Even better, see if there’s a behavior that’s not serving you for which meditation could substitute. For example, if you habitually check your phone first thing in the morning, try meditating during the 10 minutes you might normally spend scrolling. Start small. If it’s hard substituting this every day, try three times each week.
“Don’t feel like you need to stick with every habit you developed during the pandemic, just the ones that best serve you,” says Dr. Felzer.
Maintain a sustainable schedule
In order to stick with a routine, it needs to be easy enough to do so. It’s why people live close to their gyms or stock their fridge with healthy foods. Overscheduling is one of the biggest killers of routine. It’s easy for your calendar to fill up when children’s activities, playdates, volunteering, and social activities are ramping up.
“It’s important to preserve time in your schedule for rest and self-care,” says WCWCW psychotherapist, Joy Paul. “When deciding whether to add something to your schedule, take a few moments to think about it. Do you genuinely want to participate, or are you feeling FOMO?” You can return to your priorities, commit to activities in your priority buckets, and decline those that don’t make the cut. Block out free and unscheduled time for yourself each week, such as family time Saturday afternoon, no meetings on Fridays, or a movie or self-care night one night a week.
Ask to continue flexible work
If you discovered working from home is a big post-pandemic priority but your company isn’t planning to support it, consider speaking to your manager about how you can work together to accommodate your needs. If your company refuses to budge, you may want to look into finding a more accommodating job.
Make quality time with family
With the tempo of work, school, and activities building back up again, it’s likely not possible to spend as much time with your family as you did during the lockdown period. And for many, it is a relief to have kids back in school and activities. But you can still make family time a part of your schedule.
A good way to maximize family time when you don’t have a lot of it is to focus your attention on it fully, instead of multi-tasking between work emails or social media. “When you get rid of distractions, not only are you more in the moment, but you remember that moment better later,” says Joy Paul, LCSW-C.
When change is out of your immediate control
Let’s face it: change is hard, especially when it requires the support or approval of others, such as a workplace that needs to okay a hybrid work situation, or a partner who needs to agree to watch the children while you take some self-care time.
“Change doesn’t need to come right away, but if you are able to maintain beneficial routines, it can help you deal with larger challenges in uncertain times,” says Dr. Felzer.
Our mental health professionals can help you tease out what came out of your pandemic transformation and navigate uncomfortable or challenging conversations. For more information on how WCWCW can help you meet your needs for healing and personal growth, make an appointment with one of our clinicians today.
As the world has started to reopen over the last few months, many patients are finding themselves overwhelmed and confused. On the one hand, we can gather with family and friends again and return to the activities the pandemic forced us to stop. On the other, we’re quickly realizing that it feels unimaginable to return to the way things were after a year of such immense change. We’re not only reawakening to a world that’s very different from the one we knew, but one that’s still changing, and we’re different from who we used to be. Many of us have already made significant shifts, like moving, changing jobs, and spending more time with our families.
Further complicating our decision-making is the most recent evidence that the pandemic isn’t over yet. COVID-19 is still a threat, particularly for the unvaccinated, which includes kids. While the CDC guidelines continue to evolve (and even give us a bit of emotional whiplash) because of variants and vaccinations, it means our normal routines remain unsettled, and we’re once again left with the stress of making important health and safety decisions for our families and our children. So, how do we get through this time when so much remains in flux?
At WCWCW, we’re here to help.
Don’t minimize what you’re experiencing
First, it’s important not to minimize what you’re experiencing. We’ve all survived and continue to brave an overwhelming amount of change. Recognizing and naming this as collective trauma, defined as a shared psychological response to a stressful or threatening event that impacts an entire society, is an important first step.
If you worked from home and were spared from family illness or death, you may feel lucky. Yet, the reality is we’ve all been uniquely scarred in some way. We’ve endured not just the virus but the polarizing political response to it. Add to this the events this year surrounding the election, as well as the brutalities against people of color, and the compounded emotional weight of the last several months has been a lot for even the most stable of us to carry.
“Understanding the event as a trauma can help you become aware of and process your more challenging actions and emotions during this time,” says Dr. Wendy Hookman, WCWCW’s founder and medical director. “A lot of my patients are saying that they don’t understand why they are more irritable or less motivated right now, but once they actually start thinking and talking about the major stressors they’ve endured — and the way their lives have changed in such a short time — they have an ‘aha’ moment of insight and can start planning how they can pivot.”
Process and recognize underlying trauma and begin to heal
Compounding this upheaval is that our suffering is drawn out and uncertain. When humans experience a traumatic event, we react with a fight, flight, or freeze response. Because this trauma is drawn out, the fight-flight-freeze mode can be prolonged. Although it is an evolutionarily beneficial response, if we’re in this mode for too long, an overproduction of stress hormones can lead to anxiety, depression, sleep problems, memory impairment, and physical symptoms like headaches. Moreover, some responses to trauma can be unhealthy, such as picking fights if you’re in fight mode or overworking to stay busy in flight mode, as well as other obsessive-compulsive behaviors, such as substance abuse, or even physical responses like panic attacks.
A mental health professional can help you process traumatic events first by encouraging you to identify and recognize the trauma and your response to it and next by helping you work through each stage of healing. He or she can work with you on a variety of therapeutic techniques that enable you to turn unhealthy responses into positive ones, ultimately helping you to build resilience, emerging stronger and more equipped to deal with future challenges. At WCWCW, we offer adult psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, individual psychotherapy and group therapy — all aimed at helping you not only overcome but grow and thrive.
“The truth is, everyone is figuring this period out in their own way. And no one has been unchanged by the past 18 months,” says Dr. Hookman. “It’s going to take time, distance, and thoughtfulness before we can begin talking about reversing the hidden trauma. The important thing to remember is you’re not alone.”
Ah! The joys of summer – sun, vacation, bike riding, swimming, and hiking. All good things for our mental health. Generally. The thing is that lots of animals love this time of year, including ticks.
And where there are ticks, there is Lyme Disease. The black-legged tick is the only organism that can transmit Borrelia burgdorferi between animals or between animals and humans. Carried by a range of hosts, the black-legged tick is about the size of a poppy seed. If it is infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, its bite can have profound health implications.
Covid-19 has dominated our attention for so long that none of us, doctors included, have been thinking all that much about tickborne infections but it’s important to remember that we are now at the height of the 2021 season for tickborne infections. In 2019, Maryland recorded over 1,400 cases of the most frequently diagnosed tickborne infection, Lyme Disease, but other tickborne infections like babesiosis, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis and Rocky montan spotted fever (RMSF) are also reported here every year.
What is Lyme Disease?
With more than 300,000 cases diagnosed each year, Lyme Disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the United States. Caused by the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, the early signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes. People often think they have the flu. One of the best indicators that the problem is Lyme Disease is the distinctive rash that is caused by the tick bite. Sometimes the rash looks like a “bull’s eye” but most of the time, the rash is simply a red circle. Left untreated, or in its chronic state, Lyme Disease includes symptoms of fatigue, restless sleep, aching joints or muscles, pain or swelling in joints, decreased short-term memory or ability to concentrate, and speech problems.
What does this have to do with mental health?
More than you might think. While the media and the public health community focus on many of the health consequences of Lyme Disease, less attention has been paid to the mental health consequences that can coincide with Lyme Disease. It is also often the case that mental health symptoms are overlooked. Both are true for Lyme Disease, but increasingly significant cognitive and psychological symptoms are being recognized as part of the symptom pattern associated with untreated and/or chronic Lyme Disease.
I’m depressed because a tick bit me?
Depression has been reported in 8-45% of patients with post-treatment Lyme symptoms. But these numbers don’t tell the whole story. Many researchers believe that Lyme disease is vastly underdiagnosed. Diagnostic tests lack sensitivity and the symptoms of Lyme disease often overlap with other disorders. Thus, the true prevalence of depression in those affected by untreated or undiagnosed Lyme disease may be much higher. And although better statistics are needed, Lyme Disease may be so debilitating in some cases that it is associated with increased risk for suicidality. The mental health implications may extend beyond depression and even suicide. Case studies suggest that Lyme Disease can be associated with symptoms common to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, including paranoia, delusions, olfactory, auditory and visual hallucinations, catatonia, and mania.
Tick Bite Prevention Tips:
Wear insect repellent that contains DEET (≥20%) or another EPA-approved repellent and reapply as directed. Wearing clothing and gear that have been treated with permethrin will also help to repel ticks.
Walk in the center of trails and stay away from wooded or brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
Tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants.
Wear light-colored long pants and long sleeves to help keep ticks off of skin.
Conduct a full-body tick check and shower or bathe within two hours of returning indoors. After removal, place clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any hidden ticks. • Remove any attached ticks with fine-tipped tweezers.
Check yourself, your kids, and your pets daily for ticks, especially after spending time outdoors.
And if you do find a tick, consider sending it for diagnostics. Most states have labs where ticks can be tested to find out if they are infected.
During this reopening period, many of our patients are enjoying summer, yet still feeling anxious about navigating the specifics. These feelings can be further complicated by the fact that, although many adults are vaccinated, kids under 12 remain ineligible to receive the vaccine and, though case rates are dropping in many areas of the country, other parts of the world continue to struggle with the virus.
“It is possible to balance having a fun and relaxing summer and keeping everyone safe,” says Dr. Valerie Relacion, child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist at the Washington Center for Women and Children’s Wellness. “If you or your kids are feeling anxiety, that’s normal. It will help to identify and even write down the questions you have and do a little extra research and planning, but the good news is so many summer activities take place outdoors and the risk of infection has been minimized greatly since last year.”
Read on for some tips to help you navigate your emotions while planning for fun activities , playdates, and vacations, as well as strategies you can use to help kids who are nervous about their safety or anxious about socializing.
If you’re anxious about allowing your children to engage in organized activities or summer camp this year (not to mention burned out from this past difficult school year), assuage your concerns by looking into the organization’s or camp’s masking, testing, and infection protocols, as well as staff vaccination requirements. The CDC has issued guidelines around summer camp practices, although each camp’s policies will be determined by the state, locality, and the camp itself. Camps that followed safety protocols last summer had an incredibly low transmission rate even as cases were rising in the country, according to studies from Maine and North Carolina.
It has been heartening to see our kids with their friends again. However, it can be stressful planning playdates if you are concerned about the vaccination status of parents and teens in another household but are wary of an uncomfortable conversation.
“The pandemic pushed us to talk more openly about what we’re comfortable with and set boundaries in terms of health and our families, and that’s something we can hang on to,” says Dr. Relacion. She suggests asking about vaccination status in a straight-forward and diplomatic manner, from a place of concern for your children as well as respect for the other parent, who is likely also thinking of their kids’ safety. “In the end, you’ll feel less anxiety if you know you’re doing what you can to protect your children,” says Dr. Relacion.
You can always share your family’s vaccination status first, which often encourages people to say whether they’re vaccinated, too.
Similar to navigating playdates, if you’re hosting a backyard barbecue or picnic this summer, being clear about boundaries upfront can help you feel more at ease, such as setting masking and distancing expectations in your invitation. For example “We’re asking everyone who’s not vaccinated to wear masks indoors, and choose what you’re comfortable with outdoors.” Have extra masks on hand in case anyone forgets to bring one. Check out Johns Hopkins’ guide on what’s safe after the vaccine, if you’re trying to figure out ground rules.
If you’re invited to an event, check with the hosts to see what they’re expecting. It may help you feel safer to stick to outdoor events, like patio dining and outdoor concerts if you have unvaccinated kids at home.
Planning a trip
Taking a vacation is a great idea, for the memories and your mental health, and there are ways to do it safely. Again, planning ahead will ease anxieties and keep everyone safe. This can include checking about the masking practices of your accommodation and mode of travel; researching activities and dining options ahead of time; checking on vaccination and infection rates in your destination; and finding out if adults and teens of families you’re vacationing with are vaccinated. And remember— you don’t need to add the pressure of an overloaded schedule. After the past year, some R&R is definitely in order!
If your child is nervous about re-entry
What if your child is more fearful than you are? Some kids are understandably frustrated that their parents are vaccinated and they’re not. Address their concerns directly. Sit down with your kids and a calendar and discuss what they can expect over the next several months. You could sign them up for fewer activities than they might normally do and build up to more, as they get comfortable. You can also update them about the vaccine timeline. As of now, a vaccine for kids is expected later this year, possibly as early as fall.
If your child is more introverted and feeling anxious about socializing, it’s a good idea to talk to them about it. “Understand who your child is. If they love to read and want to be home all the time, maybe you could sign them up for an activity where they’re getting some exercise but they don’t have to be at camp all day,” says Dr. Alexis Wesley, child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist at the Washington Center for Women and Children’s Wellness. If they’re still experiencing significant anxiety around this, consider having them see a professional.
As we’ve said before, you don’t need to go from zero to 100 overnight. In fact, being patient with yourself and your family will lead to a more successful transition. Says Dr. Wesley: “After this past year, it’s important to take the pressure off yourself, and focus on making this summer one of quality time and creating memories.”
With re-openings and loosened mask restrictions, many patients have told us they have mixed feelings about going back into the world again. There is also some embarrassment about admitting this. Shouldn’t I want to see my friends and extended families, send my kids to school and camp, and get back to “normal,” people have asked? This article will help you understand why you may be feeling ambivalent and even anxious about reopening, and how to navigate this transitional time.
Why you’re feeling ambivalent about reopening
We lived through a collective trauma this past year, having experienced death and illness on a mass scale, economic instability, disruption of our day-to-day lives, deep political divisions, and the important but difficult work of confronting racial injustice in our society. If you’re feeling some level of anxiety, fear or vulnerability, that’s a normal response to trauma.
Additionally, there’s nervousness around navigating social situations, particularly because children under 12 are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Some parents have shared that they feel kids are being forgotten with the loosening of restrictions. Politicization around mask-wearing and vaccination may add a layer of discomfort about socializing with people who have different views than you.
Finally, although the past year was incredibly difficult, there were silver linings for some, such as more time with family, less commuting, and a calmer schedule. Plus, it’s normal for humans to adjust to routines, and to fear change, even good change. “Anytime we go through trauma or transition in our lives, says Dr. Wendy Hookman, founder and medical director of Washington Center for Women & Children’s Wellness we emerge into a ‘new normal’ where life feels somewhat familiar but also very different at the same time. The good news is that going through times like this builds resilience which is one of the most important contributors to lifelong mental health and stability.”
How to make the “New Normal” easier on yourself
• Practice self-compassion. First, take time to check in with yourself about your concerns and know that whatever they are, they are valid. This is a great opportunity to practice self-compassion and to recognize and accept, rather than judge, the feelings you’re having, and to be as understanding of yourself as you would of a friend.
• Reframe your thoughts. In our practice, we use cognitive behavioral therapy techniques in which we help patients recognize and then reframe distressing thoughts. “One way to reframe the thought that there’s something wrong with you for not being more energized about the new normal is to appreciate that you and your family got through what was an incredibly difficult year. This is a major achievement!” Dr. Wendy Hookman says.
• Communicate about vaccination and masks. Be polite but straightforward about what you’re comfortable with. A diplomatic way to find out someone’s vaccine status is to disclose your own status ahead of seeing them. This invites them to say whether they’re vaccinated. If you go over to someone’s home, bring a mask along and ask whether your hosts would like you to put it on. If they have kids under 12, err on the side of wearing a mask.
• Stay informed. What we know about COVID-19 has changed over the last year. Keeping up-to-date with science can help you manage your comfort level. For example, we now know the virus is rarely transmitted outdoors and that mask wearing significantly limits transmission.
• Don’t feel pressure to over-schedule. If the speed at which you were operating pre-pandemic seems unsustainable, don’t feel like you have to go back to 100 percent. If you enjoyed the slower pace of the past year, try to retain some of that in your life going forward. “Even if it looks like others are going full speed ahead, remember that you are not required to over-schedule yourself or your family,” says Dr. Hookman.
• Remember that you’re not alone. It’s easy to feel like you’re struggling more than those around you, particularly on social media. While it may look like everyone is thriving, what you see online is a highlight reel, not reality. Many, if not most people are finding this period challenging. Transitions always are, and people handle them in different ways. What we can do is be patient with ourselves and where we’re at.
Seek help if you need it
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of the “new normal” and it’s affecting your ability to function in your day-to-day life, consider seeking professional help. Learn more about our team and our services here at Washington Center for Women’s and Children’s Wellness.
Updated July 5, 2021
Telehealth: Online video sessions continue to be the most convenient method of meeting for our patients so we are seeing patients in person upon request only. While Montgomery County has lifted the mandate on wearing masks indoors, we care for many children, who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, in-person. For this reason, we’ll continue with the precautions instituted during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are coming to the office for an appointment, please expect to wear a mask, fill out a questionnaire, have a temperature, and maintain social distance in the waiting room and public areas of the office. We will continue to post updates here with future plans.
As we start to emerge from the isolation of the pandemic, the term collective trauma is being used quite a bit to describe what we’ve all been going through. The is the first time in my memory that the term is being used so widely outside of psychotherapeutic circles and we’re being asked what it means and what it can tell us.
Collective trauma refers to the psychological reactions to a traumatic event that affect an entire society; it does not merely reflect an historical fact, the recollection of a terrible event that happened to a group of people. It suggests that the tragedy is represented in the collective memory of the group, and like all forms of memory it comprises not only a reproduction of the events, but also an ongoing reconstruction of the trauma in an attempt to make sense of it.
Collective trauma differs from individual trauma as it is recollected in the memory of the group and creates a process of on-going reconstruction and reproduction of the memory in order to make sense of it.
Well known collective traumas include: The Holocaust, Slavery in the United States, the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Genocide of Indigenous Communities, the Attack on Pearl Harbor, the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, and too many others.
The COVID-19 global pandemic is not the first event to be shared by the entire world, but in this age of technology and social connection when information travels the earth at lightning speed, we are all living the full impact of this collective experience, in real time. The daily “losses” we’ve all experienced and the countless individual tragedies of the virus come together in a cumulative and mutual loss to which few of us are immune.
The whole truth is that some of us will be more affected than others by the stressors covid-19 has placed on our daily lives and that of our communities. We won’t really know for years to come the totality of the physical and psychological effects we’ve endured. That said, we can take notes from survivors of previous events to get a sense of what we can do to mitigate any negative effects.
Aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic can contribute to both individual and collective trauma. In a rapid review published in a 2020 issue of The Lancet, researchers found that isolation and quarantine contributed to a number of negative psychological effects including panic, depression, hopelessness, anxiety, stress, grief, confusion, anger, and even PTSD.
Research on past pandemics including earlier SARS and Ebola outbreaks provides some clues into the potential long-term collective impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Commonly observed reactions include panic, depression, hopelessness, anxiety, stress, grief, and PTSD.
Some steps that you can take that may help manage collective trauma include:
Limit Media Exposure
Research on the aftereffects of 9/11 found that people who reported watching more television coverage of the attack experienced greater negative psychological effects. People who watched four to seven hours a day of news coverage of the attack were four times as likely to report PTSD-like symptoms.
Stay Connected with Others
Even if working from home requires limiting your face-to-face contact with other people, it is important to maintain your social connections. Thanks to technology, it’s possible to get creative and continue meeting friends, family, co-workers, and others virtually.
Rely on Trustworthy Information
People experience greater stress and panic if they are not able to accurately and realistically gauge the risk of a threat. While emotions can sometimes cloud judgment, particularly in stressful situations, research suggests that people are pretty good at making accurate assessments of the potential danger if they are provided with trustworthy, reliable information. Helping people make good choices by providing honest, transparent facts is imperative.
Utilize Mental Health Resources
Consider visiting a mental health professional either in person or via telehealth. One benefit of the pandemic is that there are many more online options than there were previously. Please reach out to us at WCWCW or another trusted healthcare provider if you need help.