Dear Dr. Shari,
I am at my wits end with the lock down!
I heard the interview in which you heartily disagreed with the advice of 10 psychologists. One said that everyone should just “relax and enjoy the fact that they can sleep in.” Can you list the other ones you disagreed with? It was entertaining. I, too, am sick of that advice. The thing that is confusing to me though is how psychologists could disagree, when they are trained in the same way. Secondarily, how does a person find the real answers of what to do right now? — Dan, Lake Elsinore
Here is the hard cold fact: Psychologists are just human beings with ideas and value systems who happen to be licensed to offer their opinions for a living. If they are smart, authentic, and put their heart into really knowing and understanding the people with whom they are working, that advice can be life changing. If they are promoting their own opinion and values to the masses, then we should scrutinize it before taking it to heart. -Not all of that advice is good advice Dan. Some of it is actually terrible advice. They are, after all, just opinions.
Let’s face it, we are in unprecedented times, NO ONE has the answers for an entire population of people. But those of use who have the privilege of reaching thousands with our words, owe it to everyone to be intensely responsible with those words. I, for one, am extremely frustrated with the irresponsibility demonstrated by some of these professionals, as a lot of what I am hearing, has the potential to do damage. I can't list ALL of the questions from the interview but I’ve shared 3 examples of real suggestions, made by professionals, that were offered on national television. In MY opinion, the following is advice irresponsible:
BAD ADVICE #1
“Frustrated with the lock-down? “Just enjoy your family!”
This is terrible advice, mainly, because it is NOT advice.
First, If people were enjoying each other, people would not be asking what to “do” about the fact that can’t stand each other right now (which IS what many are asking).
Secondly, this advice is defeating. The answer implies that you are weak or something is wrong with you if you are struggling to just DO that right now. It is just not helpful.
I have received multiple emails from people who feel terrible that they are “hating life” right now. They feel awful that they are frustrated with their kids, they feel lost because they are worried about their education, they are afraid because their relationship is suffering, they are worries about making ends meet.
All of these feelings are normal and understandable. This reality requires acknowledgement, a concerted effort toward patience and, ideally, some realistic action steps.
Families need structure, now more than ever. Setting and getting comfortable with standards and expectations will serve families now and after this is over. More on that later…
BAD ADVICE #2
“Relax and enjoy the fact that you can sleep in.”
This is a terrible cop-out answer. This helps no one. If it WAS taken as advice, it would start unproductive patterns of life. It leads to laziness at best, and depression at the worst.
Getting it together, and holding yourself to even a little higher standard in every area of your life during this time will do FAR more good than “giving up” or “waiting it out.”
I suggest being MORE conscious of how you eat, use this time to take BETTER care of your health, set stronger and healthier parameters and expectations for your children (they need the safety of guidance and boundaries right now) and all of this will begin a pattern of behavior that leads to productivity and as much positivity as possible. We need that now.
Just remember, Game Day is coming, how you prepare your mind, and body now, WILL matter.
BAD ADVICE #3
This advice was given to a grandmother of a 3 year old who asked if she could still visit her grandchildren and stay at a distance, even though she is at high risk and they could be vectors. The Doc actually said:
“Little children, even that young, DO understand why they need to keep their distance, if you just explain it to them.”
The professional, on national television, went on to say that they could just explain that “Grandma has a bubble around her.”
And this was the worst “pulling it out of their rear” moment that I have seen thus far. It is DEAD wrong and dangerous. A 3 year old does NOT understand the gravity of a worldwide pandemic, nor the purpose of social distancing, nor will she understand why she can’t be hugged and held my Grandma when she is right in front of her.
We are afraid to admit that we have hard choices to make, the only way to keep Grandma entirely save is to Skype her in, unless you want to dive tackle a 3 year old when she goes in for a hug. We have heavy decisions to make, A. Take a risk B. Be a little lonely for a while. Thats it folks! I am sorry that it is not easier to take, but these are the facts.
Precautions can be taken, but no one knows how effective they are. Many families decide that these are risks worth taking, others decide to stay distant until they are sure, but I suggest we STOP making idiotic and dangerous suggestions, because we fear telling the truth that we have uncomfortable options on the table.
1. Plan on doing this for awhile.
If you expect this to be all wrapped up in the next few weeks, and it is NOT, your aggravation and frustration is going to take a toll on you, and anyone near you. Get into a flow of life "as it is." Ask yourself: “If I knew this was definitely going to last a month, 6 months, or a year, how would I restructure my life? If I was looking back, what would I want to know I had done with this time frame?”
2. Set a thing to accomplish.
No matter how long this lasts, time will pass in which you can accomplish “something.” Perhaps it is time to chip away at an old project or start up your new side hustle. If you can supercharge the job you are in, Jump in. Spend this time well, be productive, and you will never regret it.
3. Get creative.
True entrepreneurs are getting busy right now. They are considering the new needs of the masses and trying to find solutions. This is a business mentality, but it can be of equal value in the household. Take an inventory of the new needs and build solutions for them.
4. Learn new Technology.
Learning more about technology is of value now more than ever. Who would have thought that online shopping could literally save lives? Now it is the reality. If you fear technology, now is the time to take a step IN, take a risk, give it a try. You will not regret it.
5. Teach Technology.
You know (or can find) at least one person who is afraid of technology. Reach out to them and ask them to allow you to teach them some basic things about shopping online. If a family member of theirs has a computer, you can train them over the phone. Show them how easy it can be.
6. Don’t Judge people’s fears.
If you are a person who feels the CoVID 19 scare is a hoax or that people are being over reactive, realize that you have no right to impose your views upon another person. Keep in mind that your views lead to more danger, their views keep us safer. So keep them to yourself. No one needs pointless negativity.
7. Help someone, somehow.
Every human being needs to feel a sense of purpose. Accomplish something, contribute something, do it for others and do it yourself. One couple in LA decided to start making fashionable masks for anyone who wanted them. Others are coordinating neighborhood grocery deliveries. Another is throwing online “parties” to help people connect. There are ways that you can help others (and therefore, yourself) find them.
8. Ask around.
People you know, have great ideas about how to cope and function. When people share what works for them, often they are “tried and true” ideas.
A woman from Arizona shared with me that since she and her adult (college aged) children are locked down in her house, she imposes “board game” time every night. She calls it “forced family fun” and while no one signed up for this program, she said that she finds it to be a way to keep the family together, engaged and focused on something other than the sense of feeling trapped. They end up laughing, and connecting in a way they never had before.
9. Learn Something.
You can learn Tech, you can learn a skill, a language and consider creating a structure that leaves you with a special skill and memory. One family is choosing to spend this time learning a new language. They learn new phrases and use them with each other throughout the day. Others are embarking on certifications, licenses and training. Consider what value you can create during this time.
10. Stay connected.
Whether it is virtual Birthday parties (check out ZOOM) or just more phone calls, families are becoming a lot more connected than they ever were before, because they feel a sense of urgency now. Being connected to people who are important to you, is healing.
You opened this column with a fantastic question, Dan. And, here is my opinionated answer: If the advice inspires, challenges or alters YOU in a positive way, then it is great advice. Don’t wait for the professionals to come up with something though, get creative. Ask around and see what is possible. People are coming up with cool things all around you.
Let’s deal with the reality, and cope together, and honestly and realistically create some solutions.
Do you have some great ideas to help people cope with the lock down due to the Coronavirus? Please share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org