Are you a little nervous about getting back out there? Do you have some lingering pandemic-induced anxiety keeping you from socializing again? Fear not, because this week we’re learning how we can start to gradually reintegrate into society with help from therapist Chamin Ajjan, Founder and Clinical Director of Chamin Ajjan Psychotherapy.
Chamin has over 20 years of psychotherapy experience and is a Certified Sex Therapist and a Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapist. Listen to hear her answer Jordan and Meghan’s questions about how to set up your own rules in the world of the “new normal,” how to navigate the sticky issue of asking about other people’s vaccination status, how to start dating again, and how to rekindle those relationships that might have taken a hit during the pandemic.
Highlights from this week’s episode
From the Chamin Ajjan interview
On figuring out your own comfort levels in public:
One of the things that I really encourage everybody to do is to listen to what your body is telling you. And if you need to take it slow and take it slow, if you need to do it in incremental steps, then that’s OK. You can try it out and go outside with your mask on and see what it feels like to put it on your chin…And if it doesn’t feel safe, put your mask back up. You can go back and try it again another time. You don’t have to follow what the norm is supposed to be right now. You can make up your own rules. And that’s really the most wonderful thing that has come out of this. Everybody talks about this new normal that we’re returning to, but we’re not returning to a normal. We’re in a place where we’re able to create a new normal for ourselves. And so that means that we get to decide, we get to have a say in what it looks like
On how to support and encourage a friend or family member who may still be experiencing a lot of anxiety about returning to “normal”:
I think you really have to first identify whether this is your need or not. Whether this is your need or you’re doing this because you want to support your friend or a family member and then realize that your family member or friend might have some legitimate concerns that they need to work through before they’re able to get there and put yourself in a position to see how you might be able to support them in doing that. If they’re ready and if they’re not ready, then respecting that as well.
On how to gradually integrate kids into larger public gatherings, whose social development might have been interrupted during the pandemic:
[T]he one thing that we underestimate about kids is their resilience. Kids are so resilient. And so you want to approach it from a realistic place. You don’t want to overwhelm them. You don’t want to put them in a position where they go from never being in a store to taking them to Walmart on Black Friday. But you do want to kind of take these incremental steps of putting them in new environments where there might be a little bit more people and seeing how they are and then assessing what you’re going to do next. And it really is about kind of creating an exposure hierarchy, as we call it, in CBT, where you assess the risk and you take it step by step. So it might be you take them to the playground at an off time so that there’s not too many kids around. And then the next time you take them and they’re a little bit more kids around, and then the next time you take them to another environment where there might be some more people around and you just kind of play around with it and you check in with your kids, you pay attention to how they’re responding to the environment. If they’re able to verbalize you, ask them, “How does this feel?” You know, “What’s it like being outside or being around as many people?” And you give them an opportunity to be a part of creating their own experience. Also, give them some agency. And you guys work together to help them to reintegrate in the world also or become fully, fully integrated into the world.
To hear more of Chamin’s great advice, we highly recommend listening to the full episode.