Reconnecting After Covid With Grandchildren.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is grandparents.jpg

I noticed a change in my relationship with my seven year old grandson after covid distancing — wearing masks and keeping away.

 

I tried hard to reconnect after being vaccinated but felt my efforts were falling flat.  Then I figured out how to meet him where he was and connect in a way he would welcome my interest in his new passion.

 

I took Pokémon tutorials, ordered online starter sets, which led to our first Pokémon battle. He won.

 

But now my grandson can’t wait until our next card battle. I am still a bit confused but I’m learning the game.

 

My suggestion – determine your grandchild’s interest and then connect.

“Inter-Intimate Relationships” — Emotionally Reconnecting.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is couple-msn-2013.jpg

An interesting article in the New York Times recently discussed “inter-intimate relationships.” Defined as dealing with emotional intimacy and reconnecting. Here are a few excerpts: 

  • There are many ways in which we show our love and we all need and want different amounts of emotional and physical intimacy. While couples with differing sex drives face hurdles, many couples may also be involved in “inter-intimate” relationships, where each partner has different preferences when it comes to giving and receiving nonsexual affection.
  • ‘Inter-intimates’ describes the incongruent needs and desires that exist between people in a relationship, which inevitably will be mismatched at various times.
  • Touch is a form of intimacy distinct from sex, with its own set of rules that can threaten to undo romantic entanglements.
  • Regardless of quantity, physical affection plays a biological role in one’s happiness. Oxytocin — sometimes called the “cuddle hormone” — releases at higher levels in moments of physical affection.
  • So how do you reconcile your inter-intimate relationship? “Proper communication about affection wants and needs should occur often in the relationship.
  • When broaching the topic of inter-intimacy, it helps to approach calmly and seek to understand and inquire rather than complain or demand.
  • Good communication, a curiosity to understand what makes the other tick and an active interest in meeting these needs are the formula for success in any relationship. In an inter-intimate relationship, it can be the saving grace.
  • Part of what makes their relationship work is a concerted effort from both parties.
  • If you aren’t getting the affection you need in your relationship, there are other options that don’t involve divorce or devastation.
  • If the only touch you get is in sexual activity, then you are missing out on a basic human need. 

To me this short article raised issues that many couples often overlook. It’s a good piece to connect for the first time or to reconnect.

“An Inter-Intimate Relationship.” New York Times (July 27, 2021).

Factors Fostering Resilience.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is couple-romantic-dinner.jpg

     An individual’s resilience is dictated by a combination of genetics, personal history, environment and situational context. So far, research has found the genetic part to be relatively small. Here are excepts from a good article summarizing this research.

  • How loved you felt as a child is a great predictor of how you manage all kinds of difficult situations later in life. 
  • Tools common to resilient people are optimism (that is also realistic), a moral compass, religious or spiritual beliefs, cognitive and emotional flexibility, and social connectedness. The most resilient among us are people who generally don’t dwell on the negative, who look for opportunities that might exist even in the darkest times.
  • Research has shown that dedication to a worthy cause or a belief in something greater than oneself — religiously or spiritually — has a resilience-enhancing effect, as does the ability to be flexible in your thinking.

Additionally, research has concluded the following about resilient people:

  • They have a positive, realistic outlook. They don’t dwell on negative information and instead look for opportunities in bleak situations, striving to find the positive within the negative.

  • They have a moral compass. Highly resilient people have a solid sense of what they consider right and wrong, and it tends to guide their decisions.

  • They have a belief in something greater than themselves. This is often found through religious or spiritual practices. The community support that comes from being part of a religion also enhances resilience.

  • They are altruistic; they have a concern for others and a degree of selflessness. They are often dedicated to causes they find meaningful and that give them a sense of purpose.

  • They accept what they cannot change and focus energy on what they can change. Dr. Southwick says resilient people reappraise a difficult situation and look for meaningful opportunities within it.

  • They have a mission, a meaning, a purpose. Feeling committed to a meaningful mission in life gives them courage and strength.

  • They have a social support system, and they support others. “Very few resilient people “go it alone.”

 

                    “What Makes People Resilient.”  NEW YORK TIMES (June 18, 2020).

Pandemic and Relationships — Making us Stronger? …. Yes.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is couple-romantic-dinner.jpg

A good and interesting article recently appeared discussing the positive impact the pandemic has had on relationships. Here are the major points;

  • During the pandemic, it felt like everything changed for the worse. But one thing got better: our relationships.
  • Those who already had strong relationships with responsive partners felt more
  • The tremendous effort it took for couples to manage over this past year fortified their bonds.
  • Confronting difficulties together can be frustrating for a couple, but the experience can improve their feelings of passion, closeness and commitment. In the pandemic, as couples rose to meet each new challenge.
  • For those still looking for a partner, the pandemic experience will change their priorities.
  • Rather than approaching dating as a game fun and casual connections, people are going to want a stable, committed and dependable partner, with whom they want to develop a relationship. Going forward, the search for a partner will emphasize quality over quantity, the substantial over the superficial.

To me, certainly the pandemic was very challenging but this new research indicates that it has also made many of our relationships stronger. That’s good.

“The Pandemic Made our Relationships Stronger,” Wall Street Journal (June 26, 2021).

PANDEMIC AND RESILIENCY — POSITIVE OUTCOMES FOR COUPLES.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is couple-millenials-and-anxiety.png

The pandemic has been a time marked by stress, grief and hardship for many individuals and couples. However, some have also experienced a surprising outcome: a sense of resilience. A recent article has discussed this hopeful development for both individuals and couples. Here are some excerpts:

…. Out of the challenges of navigating a disorienting new world came a shift in perspective and priorities. Couples have made decisions and formed healthy habits that could shape their lives for the better.

…. Some people may even experience post-traumatic growth, which could include a deeper appreciation for life, a greater sense of personal strength and new possibilities for their lives.

…. It might seem counterintuitive for a stressful, tragic time in our history to evoke personal growth. Major changes that can cause rethinking or reordering of life. Things as simple as starting a new daily walking habit or picking up a creative hobby such as knitting can help spur the change.

…. Making a more intentional effort to stay in touch with each other, with friends and family proved to be an effective tool for coping with the stress and isolation.  

…. Circumstances can go a long way toward fortifying people — such as safe housing, living wages, supportive relationships, good mental and physical health, living free from discrimination.

To me, the pandemic shined a light on the importance of mental health and cultivating healthy practices  to make people (couples and individuals) more resilient and better prepared to deal with difficult times.  That’s good.

“Pandemic and Resiliency.” Washington Post (June 22, 2021).

MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE — NEWER AWARENESS.

     MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE — NEWER AWARENESS.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is mental-health-.jpg

Naomi Osaka’s recent withdrawal from the French Open because of mental health issues highlights the issue of mental health in the workplace. A good article recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal concerning this larger issue. Certainly spurred on by the Covid virus pandemic. Here are some highlights of that article:

  • Ms. Osaka’s openness about her mental-health struggles is a public example of private issues companies are increasingly facing as a young generation more candid about such challenges joins the workforce, employers say.
  • Data show a gap between how well employers think they are supporting employees and how supported those employees feel.
  • Survey research also indicates that younger workers are more likely than older colleagues to report mental-health struggles
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act counts mental illness as a protected disability if it substantially limits a major life activity, like working. In such a case, employers are required to work with employees to find accommodations that may enable them to do their job, such as more frequent breaks or written instructions instead of verbal ones.
  • But symptoms of conditions covered by the act (ADA), such as severe anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, can be ambiguous and highly individual, making accommodations a challenging area for companies to navigate.
  • Employers have viewed mental health with greater urgency in recent years.  
  • You want to keep your high performers, and what we know is people with mental-health conditions can often be your high performers.
  • Still, greater awareness about the issue helps companies and workers move forward.

“Mental Health and Work.” Wall Street Journal (June 5th, 2021).

“Digital Therapy’ Without a Therapist — Algorithms and Self-Help — It’s a New World.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is therapy-digital.jpg

‘Digital Mental Health‘ and ‘Bot Therapy’ are newest developments in the mental health world stemming from startup innovations.  Applying algorithms to  the exploding need for mental health fueled by the Corona virus pandemic. The use of online therapy with live therapists and now the application of Artificial Intelligence to the development of bots (not using actual people) is a huge development today. This reliance on ‘bot therapy’ allows individuals to exercise self-help online, at anytime, without dealing with actual therapists. Something akin to responding to questions when pulling up online your bank account, credit card or HMO.

 

The following are some comments excerpted from today’s New York Times extensive discussing of use of bots and algorithms in providing a means for self-help to first time seekers of mental health therapy:

 

  • During the pandemic, about four in 10 adults in the United States reported that they had symptoms of anxiety or depression, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. At the same time, the federal government warns of a critical shortage of therapists and psychiatrists. According to the advocacy group Mental Health America, almost 60 percent of those with mental illness last year did not get treatment.
  • Digital mental health has become a multibillion-dollar industry and includes more than 10,000 apps, according to an estimate by the American Psychiatric Association.
  • Almost all psychologists and academics agree —There is not enough affordable mental health care for everyone who needs it. But they are divided on solutions: Some say bot therapy can work under the right conditions, while others consider the very concept paradoxical and ineffective.
  • The use of cognitive behavioral therapy has a philosophical and practical logic to it. Unlike forms of psychotherapy that probe the root causes of psychological problems, often going back to childhood, C.B.T. seeks to help people identify their distorted ways of thinking and understand how that affects their behavior in negative ways. By changing these self-defeating patterns, therapists hope to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Because cognitive behavioral therapy is structured and skill-oriented, many mental health experts think it can be employed, at least in part, by an algorithm. 
  • Bots deliver “digital therapeutics.” It a “pure self-help” program that is not meant for emergencies.
  • Like many mental health apps the current, free version of various bots is not subject to strict oversight from the Food and Drug Administration because it falls under the category of “general wellness” product, which receives only F.D.A. guidance.

     Yes, it’s a new world. Yes, technology is impacting, now in real time, the practice of mental health therapy.  Online therapy (both with a therapist or use of a bot) may well be helpful. To me, ‘bot therapy’ may serve as a gateway introduction to therapy generally — to either virtual therapy with a therapist or to therapy with in-person sessions.  And that’s useful. But the implications and effectiveness of virtual therapy generally (both with real people or via a bot) presents many ongoing questions. 

 

“Tell It to Woebot.” New York Times (June 1, 2021).

 

‘SOCIAL PRESCIPTIONS’ BY DOCTORS COUNTERS LONLINESS AND ISOLATION.

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is couple-women-jealousy.jpg

The growth of doctors prescribing greater social connections, known as ‘social prescriptions,’ is growing as a counter to growing feelings of isolation throughout the population. 

This is not just a case of physicians encouraging their patients to get out and see friends. Social medicine is more systematic and often involves encouraging the use of structured group interactions.  Social prescribing attempts to meet people in the community where they are, and links them to social support structures.

The New York Times recently discussed social prescription by doctors in a  thoughtful article discussing developments in the U.S. and the U.K.

Here are some passages from the article:

  • Loneliness is a big issue. Any way we can develop connections can help.
  • ‘Social prescriptions’ are already being written in Britain, where physicians can now direct patients to a “link worker,” a trained specialist who focuses on connecting patients to community groups and services for practical and emotional support. Link workers not only connect patients with existing groups but also help create new groups, working as needed with local partners.
  • It’s not just older adults who benefit. Young patients with other chronic conditions and people with mental health issues. There are no age barriers, no limits on what social prescribing can support people with.
  • What social prescribing reflects is a recognition that loneliness affects our health, and we have a universal need to connect with one another.
  • This development of promoting social perceptions by doctors is linked to a larger shift in medicine toward a more holistic approach. We have to remember people don’t come to doctors with a list of medical problems; they come with a life, and a life that may have medical issues but also social and emotional issues.  
  • Doctors say that social prescribing may become the norm in the United States sooner than later. The pandemic has really opened up the door for this kind of thing. Doctors have used structured support groups as part of community programs, for example, such programs have been designed to improve the cardiovascular health.
  • People recognize that it’s not that hard to log on to a virtual group meeting, and it can bring people together who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to.

“Doctors Are Prescribing Ways to Connect Socially for Those Feeling Isolated.” New York Times (May 25, 2021).

Anxiety, Mental Health and Young People — Exploding Crisis.

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is depression-3.jpg

Here are some excerpts from an outstanding article discussing the exploding issue of anxiety and mental health issues among young people.

 ………………………………..

Nationally, young people across the nation increasingly are reporting rising rates of mental distress amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

While COVID-19 is a public health crisis, it’s created a parallel epidemic involving mental health — especially among younger people.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an annual observance to remind people of the importance of overall well-being. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and the pandemic calls attention to the need to nurture both.

Among children ages 12 to 17 years old, NAMI reported, there was a 31% spike in mental health emergency room visits in 2020.

The high school years can be a roller coaster of emotions and stresses in the best of times as students worry about grades, social acceptance and admission to college. But the uncertainty of a pandemic, political polarization and this past year’s racial unrest further exacerbated those tensions.

This extends to older teens and young adults as well.

A recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that 63% of 18- to-24-year-olds reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, with 25% acknowledging increased substance use to deal with that stress and 25% saying they seriously had considered suicide.

Nationally among all adults, according to the CDC, 2 in 5 Americans report symptoms of anxiety or a mental health disorder — an alarming increase from 1 in 5 before the pandemic.

In Virginia, mental health concerns among adults have soared during the pandemic, according to interim results from COVIDsmart, a digital health study. The study is sponsored by the Eastern Virginia Medical School-Sentara Healthcare Analytics and Delivery Science Institute (HADSI), George Mason University and Vibrent Health.

Of the more than 450 people who participated in the study in March, nearly 1 in 4 reported experiencing signs and symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety (22%) or moderate to severe depression (24%). That’s three times greater than before the pandemic, when in 2019 6% of adults in the U.S. reported moderate or severe anxiety and 7% reported moderate or severe depression, according to Dr. Sunita Dodani, director of HADSI and principal investigator of the study.

But remember, anxiety and depression strike all ages.

 

“Mental Health Week.” RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH (May 8, 2021).

College Students and Mental Health Crisis.

Here are some excerpts from an outstanding article discussing the exploding issue of anxiety and mental health issues on college campuses ………………………………..

Across the country, some school leaders and experts say the pandemic has brought new urgency to a mental health crisis that had been unraveling on college campuses for years. From social isolation to heightened feelings of inadequacy, students say it has made it harder to concentrate on school and put a strain on families and friendships.

Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 for years have struggled disproportionally with mental illness compared to older groups, and experts cite such underlying factors as high expectations, social media and financial pressures. Now, evidence shows college students experienced higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation in 2020 than in 2019.

Despite the promises of vaccines and a return to normal in the fall, students are still stressed, overwhelming campus counseling centers with requests for treatment. Unable to see most students in person, school counselors have responded by developing self-help tools and hosting virtual therapy sessions.

Many students, whether they’ve contracted the virus or not, are reeling from the last year of uncertainty and wonder when they’ll recover.

The perils of isolation.

AU reopened some residence halls this month but many students had tried to replicate communal living in nearby apartment buildings, houses and even hotels — forming friendships in the process.

Counselors at AU have offered services to students including anonymous mental health screenings, virtual workshops and group therapy sessions. But, wary about pursuing counseling,

‘It’s demoralizing’

Students also are supporting each other through traumatic events via text, instead of face-to-face. It has made a tense year even more strenuous, as students of color deal with waves of violence and social upheaval. Black students made similar sacrifices last summer as the world reacted to the police killing of George Floyd and demands for justice for Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

Moving through crisis

On campuses across the country, counseling center staff are “busier than ever.,”

The pandemic also introduced the unique challenge of delivering mental health care across state lines. When students scattered to their homes across the country, on-campus health providers suddenly faced a hodgepodge of licensure laws that determined where they could and couldn’t practice. Dozens of states have relaxed their restrictions, but 60 percent of students still say the pandemic has made it more difficult to access mental health care, surveys show.

To fill in the gaps, counselors are producing self-help videos, sharing advice on social media and using computer-assisted therapy programs that can be just as effective as in-person treatment.

Officials also scattered mental health days throughout the semester, when classes are canceled and professors are discouraged from assigning work.

“It’s really important for us to provide resources and tools for students so they don’t get to that point where we’re in crisis.” “The pandemic has really extenuated the pressures we feel to help students with mental health.

“College Anxiety and College Crisis,” Washington Post (April 6, 2021).