During the COVID 19 quarantine, many are looking for ways to maintain social and community connection.

Menopause can also be isolating, as women choose to stay home rather than face the possible embarrassment of a hot flash, flooding period, or other disruptive, hard-to-hide menopause symptom.

At Gennev, we don't believe menopause symptoms should be considered embarrassing, ever. We also know that loneliness can be unhealthy.

So we invited psychiatrist Dr. Swapna Vaidya to talk with Gennev's Director of Health Coaching, Stasi Kasianchuk, about ways we can stay connected — through menopause, and through a pandemic.

Watch the video of this conversation on the Gennev YouTube channel, and don't forget to subscribe!

Even as we slowly emerge, many are choosing to continue isolating to protect themselves or vulnerable family members. How are you dealing with the isolation? Have you found ways to connect with others that are getting you through? Or are you concerned you may be too isolated? Find connection with the Gennev Community and learn ways to rejoin the world at the pace that feels right to you.

Stasi Kasianchuk, Gennev Health Coach

Dr. Swapna Vaidya, Psychiatrist

Stasi

All right, so welcome everyone to our wealth weekly wellness webinar. Great to have you all here. Excited today to welcome back. I think our most popular guest right now who has is now on her third return, Swapna Vaidya and she is a psychiatrist and she is going to introduce herself and give a little bit more on her background. But today we are going to be talking about this idea around community, what that means right now during this pandemic and what it can, what we can do to use community to support us and how that might look as things start to transition as things are opening up and we're looking at what this new beginning is going to be. All right. Swapna hello!

Swapna

Hi. Wow Stacy, that was quite an introduction. I'm honored. You know that you guys keep inviting me because I feel like I learned so much from each of you and I have a confession. I have signed up for your webinars, all of your webinars. I have been listening and learning so much. So, I really appreciate this website and this initiative that you know, Jill has created. It's such a great support system for women. So, you know, very good question Stacy. As we were talking about the community and the essence of it, you know, as we are approaching more or less the six week or the seventh week of this pandemic and I mean I've lost count to be honest with you, easy to do, right? I mean it's becoming so diverse; it's becoming such a challenging issue as to how do we now pivot and what is this new normal to think about. And then as I communicate with other physician colleagues or I communicate with friends, we're not on the front lines for each of them. It's a different new normal and it's a different experience. So, when I talk about what we should do, I think I would like to tailor it to individual approaches or family-based approaches rather than one size fits all.

There have been a lot of physicians who have been traumatized by this. They see the worst of the worst and it is true and we don't know how this wider still acting and ravaging the human body. And I feel like my frontline physician folks, they are suffering from some amount of acute stress disorder and PTSD volunteer for the line which is in support line. And I feel privileged and honored that I can at least lend my support in that direction.

But hearing the stories are pretty daunting. But on the other hand, then we have different States which have seen different levels of cases. And now the question of economy opening that up as well as going back to some modality of routine is coming. And you know, when you see these different Facebook sites or support systems, there are all these diversifying views and I often find that people tend to judge not necessarily consciously but in an unconscious way because we are trying to portray what is it exactly that we would want to do. What I tried to say before is that one size won't fit all. True. It's so important to understand and have a talk with your family, you know, your unit members and see, Hey, where are we with our comfort level? What do we like to do? Do we like to socially distant walk or do you think that I can have a play date? You know, and kind of like with some families that I can trust. Right? You know, one of the women on Facebook, she said something to the effect of, don't judge me. You know, I'm just, I have to send my kids to daycare and whatnot. And I just had to tell her there are no judgments here. You know what they're, are, they're difficult choices, difficult choices.

And I think all we can do is to be compassionate towards each other. Not beat each other down. Because what might be the situation for one family might not be the same for others. You know, some families might have caregivers, they may maybe lucky to have nannies, some just don't have that option. Or do we do and how do we keep us safe with whatever knowledge that we have and filing. Follow the CDC guidelines of masking and hand washing and keeping ourselves socially distant as much as possible. It's so important.

Stasi

That's a great point. And there's a lot of you illustrate that there's a lot of moving parts and there's a lot of layers and each person is experiencing their own, their own experience, their own pandemic and everyone can be having a different, a different experience around that swap. Now when we think about community generally speaking, related to mental health, what role, well I guess first the question is what is community so we can get everyone kind of on the same page with that from your perspective and then what role, the follow-up is, what role does that play in mental health?

Swapna

You know, we'll bait questions and such an important, timely questions. You know, for me community is basic humanity. It's literally the fact that we are all human beings. We are going through this unique experience, unprecedented experience and we are all in sort of these unchartered waters is really knowing what to do. But we are chaotic. We are anxious, we are getting restless, we are getting anxious. What we could do is to reach out to each other, you know, the human chain. That's the most important chain here. I mean, for the sake of the widest, we should socially distance, right? But then on the other hand, paradoxically for emotional connection, it's so important and in a way we are blessed. Like we do have technology, we have platforms that virtually connect. It might not be the same and I do agree that it's, you know, you may miss the human touch, you miss seeing that person in front of you.

But these, there are some alternatives that you can reach out to. And community is exactly that. You define your community and you'll find those people and make, make them your tribe. Community is tribe and what does tribe do? Support you.

Stasi

Yeah. That support and that support is key, especially during uncertain times. People, we need that support and balance. And what role, I mean, you touched a little bit on this, but, from your perspective and your training and background, what, how does community connect to supporting mental health and provide support? But what is, what is happening there in that connection?

Swapna

So, you know, I’ll tell you tell from our practice, I practice at a non-profit Hospital I am the medical director there. And what I see there is that we actually are very blessed that we work within public health.

The King County public health initiative has been extremely helpful, extremely forthcoming with the resources that they have provided for our patients. Whether it is shelters some of our less fortunate patients who don't have a home to shelter in or a home to isolate and quarantine in. They have all been up to outreach, you know, so there are teams of outreach which are homeless outreach teams, which actually go to patients’ places and see if they have enough medications and have enough food. And so I think that I have really found through this experience  just such caring communities out there when it comes to  outpatient mental health treatment, we actively corroborate and collaborate with them to make sure that  our patients who have suffered a, a crisis within our inpatient systems are now getting the proper continuity of care that is community.

We want to make sure they have enough medications, they have enough resources, they have enough you know, a place to kind of quarantine if they need to or to isolate. And it’s, it's so important to even ask this question, “what is it that I can do?” you know, what is it that you need? Because you need that. You may have Stacy so much more different from the need of somebody who was in acute crisis. Yeah, yeah. As a community, having an empathic listening point of view and providing the supports as much as you can, partnering with all these great resources and initiatives. You know, a hospital, a health system has a lot of initiatives and a lot of resources. As I said, that they have partnered with the public health and have helped tremendously within this crisis system.

Stasi

Yeah, no, that's a good point too.

The, again, going back to those layers and community, providing that support and looking at how it is a collective effort, there isn't one single healthcare provider probably in your system that could go out and do all of this. It's a collective effort to support greater, greater people and really for that greater good and bringing people together is really powerful and can also help you know, they, that giving effort as a community can help other individuals feel like they're doing something. They're acting and they're, serving in a way that can support their own mental health. Perhaps, it's a two-way street.

Swapna

You know, you actually touched upon some very crucial points. So, it's about your defense mechanisms. What you talked about was altruism. That's such a mature defense mechanism that how can you help your community during these very trying times? You know, if your channel, your anxiety or your channel, the way you're coping towards such a way that can also help your fellow human beings, that's such a beautiful thing that happened even in this crisis.

Stasi

Yeah. Some of the goods, the silver linings and focusing on what you can control versus when it's so easy to look at things that are out of your control, channeling that energy to the one thing or two or three things that you can do within your control is, is really powerful. It is.

Swapna

And you know, it doesn't have to be such a huge initiative where you don't have to overburden yourself but also find something that you connect with. Would be the way you share. Even if you share your experience. That's what we are sharing with your community.

Stasi

Like fun and we had I don't know if you saw, but on our Tuesday webinar, we actually featured a group of, of women who had come together to be able to support community with food. And then in turn we're supporting restaurants and it's kinda, it's snowballing.

People are catching on and they want to give, and they want to do something so doing little things like that, it doesn't have to be that big project. It could certainly even be something small. But there is that act of kindness, that act of doing something for just the fact that it's the right thing to do really has some, some power right now in what we're seeing and what we're experiencing.

Swapna

Yeah, I was actually inspired, you know, I did listen to that talk and I was very inspired by what these women are achieved and you know, how that sort of like brought these women together for this common initiative and common good and kind of like, you know, translated into then a cascading effect of, you know, becoming more and more of it because kindness pays off. Right. You can kind of like see that and, and, and embrace that very positive and caring side of humanity that I think this pandemic has definitely showed us.

Stasi

Yeah, absolutely. Good to look on the positive side of things. Well related to that, what, and you've touched on a little bit this as well, but I want to bring it cause we are as Gennev looks to support women, especially during menopause, but how does community during this time,  why is it important and why is it especially important for women?

Swapna

You know and again I think we are sort of gonna see the same thing. It's the gender issue. It's all of that. But honestly, I think they did some study which was a very small study that they found out. They surveyed a few women during this pandemic, and they found out how many hours they were putting in at work and work was everything. Right? Work doesn’t have to be just that they were working from home, but also the other things which could include taking care of your kids to get homework done. And you know, there was a significant difference in the amount of time the husband's put in.

And then the question became why is that, right?

I mean, so yes, there is this traditional sort of ingrained way of how women have been culturally brought up or taught that we are the naturals, we are the caregivers. But this is not the normal natural time. These are unprecedented times, right? Men continue to sort of say that, okay, I'm going to take as much as I can. They may risk becoming overstressed and overburden. Well, I feel very important for men and women both, and I'm not going to just sort of like really actually, make it about gender. I'm just going to make it about partnership. Whoever's in your household right now just bought and divide the chores or say, okay, listen, if I do the dishes, can you do this or anything like that or try to do something for each other. I don't feel you're the one carrying the brunt of this family.

Stasi

Yeah no, it's interesting. And as I've been talking with my clients this week, especially as you said at the beginning where week seven, six, we're not really sure, but it's been going on long enough that we can't really remember when it started. And as women just do, they go, they get the job done. They are, if they're working, they're still working, they're taking care of their kids, their family, whatever their responsibilities are. And it's easy to just go, go, go until all of a sudden something's, something's not right or something's not feeling good. And I would say that's, I've seen that in a lot of clients over the past couple of weeks where they're realizing, Hey, something's up. And some of them have realized they're tired, they're more fatigued, there's not as many boundaries. So there's not even the time in your car from work to home to decompress you, you leave your office and walk into the kitchen and start making dinner.  , so these things that we take for granted of being able to take a breath, being able to take a step back  isn't there as much or what example, I had a client this week realized she hadn't taken a vacation. They couldn't go on spring break. And that was usually a time that they would rejuvenate. And then she realized, I just kept working and now I haven't had a vacation. I haven't had any days off. It feels weird to take a day off and stay home. Right? What is the deal?

Swapna

One of my patients told me, it's like the Groundhog Day, right? You wake up the same day, you live it now you don't know which month you're in. I mean, almost the end of May. So, it's just a, we all are sort of experiencing this unchartered way of a time. the whole concept of it has changed. We don't know where we are right now. where are we going? Where are we coming from? You know, women really need to know that the fact is that they will and should ask for help. , and I feel like the husbands has stepping up and the partners are stepping up or you know  their friends are stepping up because everybody has recognized that we really don't know how long this is going to happen. Yeah. It can be coming the state's opening too soon. You know, those other questions are still there. And again, those are the uncertainties that we have to now make it as if they are a part of our existence. Exactly.

Yeah. And that's a  you talked about the partnership and certainly household it was a community, whether it's two people, six people, whatever, whoever's in the household.  , what about other aspects of community do you, for women, do you see that  what other areas do you see might be beneficial for women to bring community to support them right now?

You know, I mean one of them is this platform, Jenny. I honestly feel like I'm being a problem. I'm not biased. I'm really finding out and you know, listening to the webinars, I'm telling you that there was so much that I learned. I feel like connecting to something that really gives you the sense of identity but make it something positive. Right? Like for me, I've connected with a lot of my school friends that I've known since I was five years old. I'm not going to tell you my age, but, and we are really talking about some things that we done when we were 10 or 11 and ones that are coming out of it. I mean they're mind blowing like layers and connecting to that depth of who we will. That is a community. It could be your colleagues at work. I think one of my friends was saying they have a happier sort of like a virtual happy hour, you know, it's kind of like an interesting game they play, it's a word game and they divide teams and the teams virtual and it all sounded very complicated she works in Amazon, maybe one day we will get there.

But so, this is how the tech companies are reaching out and doing things. And then, it could be you know, your family, your family group, right, that you have probably not been in touch with for many times. Your cousin reunion. So many simple ways of doing it. For me, I'm also very much involved on the Facebook physician group, physician moms, and you know, I honestly get so much information and support from these women who are going through the same thing that I'm going through and balancing their careers and balancing this new normal. So whichever way you find yourself connecting in a positive way, that's the key thing. Don't get involved in some negative cycles that don't get in these kinds of like Twitter Wars or Facebook Wars. You know, that's not the point of this. We have social media, let's utilize it to nurture our souls not go down.

Stasi

That's such a good point. And I like how you covered a lot of different avenues for community. So, there's community, through social media, that's definitely option. And if you can find a Facebook group that you have common interests, perhaps it's a mix of people you know, and people you don't know. So, there's that balance. It could be a community like Gennev, I love that example. We are a community and we're welcoming all women in.  and we want to be able to provide that support and that collective, especially with menopause as our focus, this menopause, adding menopause to a pandemic.  I've been telling clients that they, they're going to get an award if you went through menopause, if you're going through menopause during this pandemic, you deserve an award because there's just like some, some type of T shirt that says, I, I'm in menopause in a pandemic or I went through menopause and a pandemic because it is, it adds another layer to things. But being able to know you're not alone, what you're going through is a normal process and that is part of, part of the process. But you can ask for help. And again, giving that permission and help might just be a listening ear help might be what are some resources that I can use right now so that's a great point. I love that. Obvious. I, I am biased, but as with you as well, I'm 100% fan of Gennev and what they're doing. I wouldn't work for a company if I didn't believe in it. So, definitely a shout out to Gennev right there.

Swapna

Definitely. And you know, like as, as, as a woman myself going through changes, I have to say that it has helped me tremendously to understand what resources there are. I could do what could fit me my sort of like, you know, lifestyle and I especially love the Michelle Obama. Yes. I just loved that there was this way of kind of connecting in this way of emailing me or anyone else who's going through this pandemic and make that I am not able to go towards my regular resources. I'm not able to go and have my, you know, Oh, let's have a girl's night or anything like that. We used to take those things for granted. Remember, I mean, remember the time when I go, yeah, that's not happening, but it can't happen virtually. It can Happen in a way that through community such as these I've been through, you know, blogs, it can happen through exchange of ideas and thoughts. I think through this, I mean, again, I know that this, these are challenging times, but I mean, I don't know, maybe I am an optimist, which is kind, I kind of, you know, I think I have one, but I want to be a realist a bit, but I really want to say that I think through this that are opportunities to discover yourself, you know, to reinvent yourself and to pivot and see what else is out there. What else about yourself that you haven't discovered to kind of sit and think and pause and see, you know?

Stasi

Yeah, absolutely. No, that's a great point too of just how can you use this time to your advantage, this a time that we've never had before and I don't think many people are going to want it to repeat, whether it does in different renditions, time will tell but how can you use it to your advantage? And that's another conversation I've been having and, and maybe not the new normal, you know, sometimes thinking about we don't know what normal is anymore. So, I've been using the concept of a new beginning. This is your opportunity to start something new and to take with you from this time what you want to take with it and what do you want to leave behind and start thinking that through.

Swapna

And I hear what you're saying, Stasi.

Stasi

Thank you. You know, the sudden there's something about the normal thing that I might, I don't know how to define normal anymore. So, let's think of a new word.  but what I hear you're saying too is just the part of what can support us in this new beginning is finding ways that we aren't remaining isolated. Isolation is may not serve us long-term and while we have to do this physical isolation, how can we maintain socially connected and the community, whether it be family, friends, or  , online platform, of colleagues or people you don't even know has benefits to helping to start that new beginning.

Swapna

Absolutely. You know, I think that we can just  really cannot  I mean we have to sort of understand how community is the only thing that's going to get us through this because this is a shared experience, you know, and the thing that can also help us out, you know, as we feel this anxiety or we feel like we're getting depressed or you're getting this instead of putting these labels, you know, I really feel cause that it's important to understand what the context of these labels are, not alone. So, outreach and ask your friend, Hey, how you doing it? What's happening with your kid? You know what I mean? Like it doesn't seem to listen to me. Mommy fail mommy. So, I mean, and then I forgive myself and I say, hey look, he had no time yet. He's having a stressful time. You know, I know screen time is a bit much more in my house and I used to allow, but there are ways that he's coping too. I mean, what can I offer in that situation? And then we exchange ideas and then somebody will say, hey listen, have you thought about downloading this particular app? You know, my kids seems to like it. That's the idea right there. So, we are learning from each other on so many levels. What happens that helps my kid. But most of the time it doesn't. I try my hardest and best to kind of get him into interested and invested in different things. But that's the community. This is what I'm talking about. A community that builds you up a that enhances you, that knows your soul, that makes you feel warm and fuzzy, you know, that is what you want to actually strive towards.

Stasi

Yes, exactly. That. I like how you use that term nurturing right now. I think we can all use a little nurturing,  because there's, there's a drain on us and whether we realize it or not,  what I notice and myself included, it's like you're just going along doing things and thankful for, to be healthy during this time. So, we think we see all this sickness and if we're healthy, we think we should be okay. And when the reality is, like you mentioned, everybody's situation is different and there may be times where I may be okay, I'm not in a hospital, but there are other areas where okay, I could use a little nurturing because it hasn't happened.

Swapna

No, I mean, and speak of communities. So, I think I was telling you about, so I have a medical school friends on WhatsApp and one of my medical school friend's daughter I mean, I think she's wise beyond her years she actually writes a blog and I was, I just, I told her I'm going to use this, but she writes, and she talks about this concept, it's a Danish concept. It's from Denmark. It's called hygge, H Y G G E but it's pronounced Hooga. And I was like, what is that what does that mean, what is that? And she says it's a mindset. It's a mindset that makes you feel connected to what you're going through. And it could be drinking a nice chocolate like that. I like a hot chocolate, she said, or just, you know, just being still in my mind or maybe painting, maybe not even doing anything, but that's hygge.

So, try to find what is your inner hygge, you know, and it doesn't have to be a comparative anything. It just has to resonate with you. She said it. No wonder she's like, well look, people in Denmark and then they go through these very harsh winters and the happiness quotient of the index is not that bad there. So, I am telling you it's, it's funny that my friend is also a psychiatrist and I told her, your daughter's completely following in your footsteps, you know, I think so. Our children teach us, you know, I mean having their insight into their world and how they will be going on that teaches us.

Stasi

And I think, you know, what you're talking about too is being open to communities in different ways. Being open to that connection in different forms and we'll have to, we'll have to get that resource that you mentioned, and we'll send it in the follow-up with this podcast. Cause that's a great concept of really trying to be present and listen to what do you need in this moment to feel most comfortable. And it can look like a lot of different things. As a dietician, there's been a lot of conversations I've been asked about food. And food is an area of comfort and lot of people find comfort in food. And there's this, there's a conflict. If someone's trying to improve their nutrition choices and eat foods that we classify typically as healthier, but we know those comfort foods are typically refined carbohydrates are higher in fat. I ice cream comes to mind. Bread, there's been a lot of bread baking, but I've had conversations on if that is what you need right now, it's okay to give yourself permission to enjoy those foods rather than eat those foods and feel guilty about it. And then that perpetuates the cycle. Let's talk about, you know, what that comfort looks like and then what are other things that can provide you comfort so, you're balancing.

Swapna

and you know, absolutely. And I think, see this is the balance, you actually nailed it. So, one con you know, or extend and sort of take the other extreme of hygge and say, "Oh that is my who I'm going to overeat.” Because you have to understand the consequences. It was also balanced how you're balancing your life right now. It could be about rewarding and it could be having cheat days here and there, but it's also important about being centered. So, if you find other ways of coping and other ways of redefining your hygge, you know, which could be, as I said, perhaps immersing yourself in a book that you love to read week like me. So, somebody who is creative and can paint. Or for some people it might be having, you know, just kind of like a conversation with their friends that they have a scheduled date with their friends, they say, and you look forward to it. So, you have to be, find something in your life or in the time right now to look forward to. Something gives you fun. You know, it could be the connection with somebody that you will haven't spoken to for a long time. It will be the great book that you always wanted to read, and they will have time things such as that or cooking a healthy meal. I mean we have you right here, Stasi. Healthy meals can also taste very nice.

Stasi

Absolutely.  and having options around that or trying, trying to cook for the first time if you're home more and, and, and embracing that process and learning from it.  or perhaps you join a cooking community. There are resources. I know one of our guests formally, Monica Jacobson, she was way back at the beginning of our webinar series, she's offering cooking classes on through, I think they're through their online, the virtual cooking classes. And she does once a month, she does them with kids. And so, you can bring your kids and then there's this large group and she's leading those things so, that’s another thing, looking for those resources where you can you can find that community, learn a new skill, learn something you enjoy and something to maybe pass the time.

Swapna

Maybe some kitchen disasters, you know, I mean, I've even tried to get my son because here's who goes cookies. Let's start a bit sorry. So, it gives them a little insight as to, you know, how much sugar goes, and things and you might want to be balanced when it's hard to teach a five-year-old.

Stasi

Yeah, that's a lot. But good for you for I'm starting give young, you know.

Swapna

I said, well you're not work. Let's kind of like do something cause I'm bored. I'm bored. I said, okay, well then you know, and then we made a little mini-series. It was chef Shawn.

That's great. He said at the end, subscribe to my channel to watch YouTube.

Stasi

He pays attention!

Swapna

Too much I tell you these kids are raised in an environment I don’t even know there will be studies done later.

Stasi

Yeah, it'll be interesting studies done on this whole situation, the whole pandemic. We're going to learn a lot right now. We're in the midst of it and really finding ways, finding ways to connect, connect with your family, connect with other communities is really a theme here that I'm hearing around that. What, when we're thinking about COVID 19 and we'll bring the menopause piece back in and mental health. So, we know that with menopause decreasing estrogen, there is an increase, predisposition for greater anxiety, greater depression, especially if a woman has experienced that previously in their life and now, we're adding in a pandemic to the mix. What are your recommendations about around community, maybe for individuals that are specifically have true anxiety and depression? Like something that clinically that you would diagnose.

Swapna

I mean, again, a great question and this is also such a challenge right now in these times for people who are experiencing that to seek out mental health. Additionally, we have the brick and mortar model clinics. Then you would call somebody, let's say you call your PCP, then they will connect you to the psychologist, they connect you to the psychiatrist, so on and so forth. But we don't have that luxury anymore, you know, having this kind of like traditional models being set up. So, what I have seen in mental health is a dramatic change. I've seen people, they were towards telepsychiatry. I myself, I'm kind of delving into it some things we had to do from our own hospital and given the pandemic and given the situation where we needed to mitigate risk. So, it has been a rapid learning curve, but I really see that there are so many resources now out there.

But what is very important is to connect with your doctor, with your PCP. A lot of the PCPs are also having an offering phone consultations or even communication via email. And if you are really experiencing that deep sense of struggle and it's not just an adjustment but you know that your functioning has kind of deteriorated to the level that you know you are going to that side and the dark place, any of those really suicidal thoughts or anything such as that it is dying to reach out to the emergency resources right away or crisis centers and talk to your doctor and they can connect you.  I think that from what I'm even hearing with the federal government has been able to, for a lot of these compliance issues. So, they used to be a lot of regulatory issues with psychiatrists to be able to practice online.

And now the federal government has recognized the nature of this crisis being such that they want to make it easier for doctors to practice and mitigate risk. So, there are options out there. Several options out there. Several psychologists who are practicing, privately work for tele psych companies and those who are opening their, you know private practices also pivoting to that direction. So, there is a way and there is help out there. You know, the important thing is to ask you to not do, not suffer in silence.

Stasi

Yeah, no, I like that. Really stepping up again, reach out to your community. Reach out to get help for the, from the professionals that are there to support you because we know that it is a concern and there are professionals like yourself that that's your job. You're there to support.

Swapna

This is our job. And some of us, you know, as I said, some I do volunteer for the physician colleagues but at the same time, as I said, there are many professional services out there. At least I got three years including, you know in my hospital we have outpatient services. But at the same time, I'm saying even online, there are so many different services that one can you know, actually make themselves available to that. But the most important thing is to communicate. Excellent.

Stasi

And we just had a question too around this that says, if I'm worried about a friend's mental health, what should I do? What should I look for? And again, that's an area where there's community and balance, but how do you recognize when perhaps just being a friend, your friend may need additional support and what, how does that conversation go?

Swapna

Yeah, it's a great question. I think the fact that, you know, you actually asked that, that itself, the friend knows right, that you're caring. I mean, I think a good friend is a friend who will definitely be very transparent with you in terms of their concern for you. And even in that moment, perhaps your friend might present, you might feel angry that you're thinking about them in such a way with deep inside of their suffering. I will tell you there'll be so much you know, full of gratitude for the fact that you broached the question. You asked them that question that they couldn't even bring it to us themselves. I think as a friend, we just need to be constantly this supporting them, checking on them. And you know, at times if you're really concerned and your friend has said some things which are very concerning for you, then outreach maybe to a family of course they could permission and say, Hey look, I'm really concerned about you and this is not coming from a place of neglect.

It's coming from a place of actually wanting to be there for you. You may not see it right now. You mean because you were angry. And I can understand that. But it is my job if I'm a good friend to want to kind of get you the resources and then, you know, don't bombard the friend that information in gently but surely try and kind of like, you know, keep that conversation going. Give them some resources, call somebody right? And then kind of like ask them, what can I do for you right now? How can I help? Well, how can I help goes a long way because sometimes the friend might say, I just needed to listen. And listening is what I do for a living. And I think I know him so much from my patients by listening. And I feel like they actually get a lot out of the fact that I have listened. It's that very simple act of listening goes a long way.

Stasi

Yeah. And that's another piece too, just giving that space for people to talk. Oftentimes if someone is struggling, the struggle is up here and having the ability to let that come out, even if the friend doesn't say anything back, there's just, there's power in talking through that. So, allowing someone to do that can be, can be one of the best things or that, that first step of providing the most help that they need and that sense of another sense of community being heard.

Swapna

Absolutely. And I think that, you know, it does, but it does a delicate issue. I completely agree. Because you're not wanting to, you know, you’re destroy the friendship in a way that the friend fields, you're being intrusive actually coming from a place of concern and care. And you know, sometimes the conversation on the icebreakers, like, you know, I don't know how you're dealing with all of this, but this pandemic is really making me feel so and so and so and so, and just kind of normalizing that experience. Help your friend open up.

Stasi

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that's a great point of just saying, this is what I'm experiencing. How about you? What's going on for you to see if there’s, a shared experience there.

Swapna

And that's what makes, you know, other people connect and communicate. Because otherwise, as I said, you know, it's very easy to go from that period of concern to period of judging. More judgment right now. People are doing whatever they can, you know, they can just try to help as much as you can.

Stasi

Yes. That reminds me of something you mentioned earlier, coming back to the judgment and you mentioned labels. Can you say a little bit more about what you're seeing around labels and, and judgment?

Swapna

Right. I mean, that's a very good point. And you know, as a psychiatrist, I feel my approach towards like, I agree it's, it's, yes, we do have a diagnostic in a manual called DSM and we can, you know, we know scientifically we need to know to understand how we can help medicate or create a treatment plan for the patient. But you know what's important? It's the person who's important, not the label that you're depressed. That's important. I think that your depression is not the only thing that I want to know. I want to know what it does, the unique thing that makes you whole as a person and which parts of you are suffering and where can we kind of provide that nourishment for you. Where can be help you get back to that level of who you were or what you're seeking for. So that's important. And, and in no ways, I’m diminishing or saying that you know, we cannot we have to diagnose or we cannot diagnose. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying let's not judge and let's not label. You're a depressed person. What do you know? See that itself is a label, right? Or Hey, you suffer from depression, remember the time, blah blah, blah, blah, blah. And you will, you know how the other person feels. They feel incredibly demoralized.

Stasi

Yeah, no, that's a good point. That removing those labels and looking at the individual,

Swapna

Look at the individual, look at the symptoms. So, for me, so from a scientific point of view, I like to look at symptoms. How is this depression manifesting in you? Let's try to attack those symptoms to make your life better. Are you sleeping okay? You know, I mean you'll find psychiatrists asking these questions quite a bit, but it's important. It's so important. Those kinds of things. What can I do to enhance your quality of life? Yes. Underlying illness. Yes. Right? And that's how I'm going to look at it.

Stasi

No, it coming back to that individual. That's the approach too. I use with the clients I work with. It's really how, okay, what symptoms are you experiencing specifically related to menopause? How can we manage those so that you can, how can I give you strategies so that you can manage them and then be able to have that an enhanced quality of life so you can feel better day to day?

Swapna

Right. And that's very important. And then you know, sometimes that might not work and then you have to pivot and say, okay, let's try this approach. Yes, exactly. Optimism and hope is so important because we'll try some new things and then we get disillusioned and we don't want to continue. We don't want to see our doctors anymore. We don't want to go for therapy anymore because we feel disillusioned and defeated. So very important to sort of communicate with your therapist or you know, whoever your loved one is or coaches and this approach is not working for me. Let me try something else.

Stasi

Yeah. And the, and again it comes back to everyone's an individual and what works for one person is might not work for another person or in the circumstance what works one week might not work the next week and we have a toolbox. We got to pull out the next strategy for that.

Swapna

I mean you said something so important because week to week we are getting all these informations from media, from our friends, from the resources, from our own experiences and it's such sort of an undulating course. Oh, you're not opening. Oh my God, this happened. Oh my God, that happened. We have to pivot to nimble every single time and then adjust us up to that situation also. That's taking a lot of stress on each one of us.

Stasi

Yeah, yeah. No, that back and forth, it's almost whiplash. Sometimes I feel like things have just changed so quickly and you don't know exactly what happened in between.

Swapna

I mean you wake up thinking, okay, this is what happened today, and this is the direction we are going and the next day you wake up, okay, what just happened again?

Stasi

Yes, yes. You need a recall of things. Yeah. Excellent. Well, before we wrap up here so often, I'm just going to put another question out or just another call out for questions or comments. If they come in. I do see we got a comment. I think it was around when we were talking about going through menopause during a pandemic and this person said, yay, I get a trophy. Absolutely. We're going to have to do some Gennev branded trophies or tee shirts or something. Because there's, there's something to this. I mean, it's a whole other layer.  and nothing, nothing could have prepared you ahead of time for this. And so, I think it's, it definitely deserves some kudos for those women that are in there.

Swapna

A hundred percent. I mean, I think, yes, a big trophy. Yes. A big shout out because I mean think about It.

Stasi

Yes. Though it's, it's a challenge and, and things shift day to day, hormonally and then also in the news and with the pandemic. So, it's a lot of moving parts to manage at this point. But the women I'm working with are doing great and we're, that's what we talk about each on each call is just how can we handle right now today and what are tools you can have in your toolkit so that you can, when things come up, you're prepared to handle them. And really, again, coming back to that quality of life.

Swapna

Right. And you notice having the sense of humor, sense of optimism, the sense of knowing that you know, everything has an end point. Yeah, exactly. You like that. I know that ended, right? You know, you're kind of like you finished college and then you went to the med school, you went to your other, you know, higher education. So you met, got married and you know, things change. One thing that is my father, he's a philosopher. I feel like he always says there's only one permanent thing in life, that is change. Pivot, pivot adapt to change and keep going and that's what we can do. And resilience is a very important thing for the community. You know, before we wrap up, I just want to actually briefly talk about resilience because it's the most important thing we can enhance in the community. Because right now, for all of us to survive this, not only we have to enhance the resilience, we have to give this resilience to our community. Resilience is going to get us right through this.

Stasi

Yeah, that's a great point. And how do you see do you have any suggestions to, if you're in a community and you see the need for resilience, how does someone initiate that resilience? What does that look like? I don't know if there's strategies around resilience. I'll let you take this one.

Swapna

Actually, its’ been studied quite a bit in psychiatry. And you know, I used to work at Mount Sinai and the Dean there has written a book about resilience. But you know, let's like not even go into all these steps of research of what it is. Resilience literally is how you cope with. I mean, you know, of course it sounds cliched, you know, they say it's your response to a situation, right? That kind of like, you know, we'll define the present moment. That's resilience. You know, historically we have seen people go through so many things to Wars, you know, through breakup families to just like devastation. And yet you see the human spirit resilient and they rebuild, you know, you see a few years down the road, something else happens. And then the human spirit because is rebuilt and is resilient. And I think the sense of resilience is there amongst all of us to some degree, again, from the research point of view. Yeah, of course. You know, some people may have it much more than others. They're genetically built in such a way and all of that. But I see that those who have it, you know, share your tactics and your tips and what kind of kept you going through that.

Stasi

A great thing to do to bring to a community that sense of resilience or leading by example of, you know, one foot in front of the other. We're all in this together and that resilience can then build, if it's shared a little bit more.

Swapna

Yeah. Take a breath at a time, one step at a time. You know, you can do, I used to, so funny story about residency, you know, I, Oh my God, I remember the call once where I didn't know whether I should have answered the nature's call or I should eat. Well how many patients should I see? It was one of those calls and I'm sure all doctors at some point experienced that. But it was ridiculous. And then I did realize, do not argue I'm one human being. I can only see one patient at a time. That's it. Yeah, exactly. Take care of myself. I need to go to the bathroom, like push some sugar in me and I'll go, that happened. The mountain is not going to fall. I might be spending one more hour, you know, cause those times we used to do like, oh when I called one more hour in the morning charting.

Stasi

Yes. Because yeah, exactly. I don't know, that's such a good point to it. I think with communities we can hold each other accountable and especially women communities. You know, I've, I've been in that position too where all of a sudden, I catch myself thinking, you know, whether I'm doing work or distracted and I'm like, I have to go to the bathroom. This is a natural thing. My body is telling me I need to go to the bathroom. Why am I putting this off? So, it could be easy to do and having that reminder of we need to eat, we need to sleep, we need to go to the bathroom. Those are things that we need to live. And if we're listening to those that those needs, then we're going to be able to show up in other situations that much better.

Swapna

Absolutely. And I think that that's the key of self-nurturing, self-compassion. Don't show up for those situations so much stronger resilient and capable of helping the other person. So that is important to take care of yourselves.

Stasi

Excellent. Well. Any other thoughts that you have right now, or resources that you've thought of that our listeners might be able to look into or things just closing this topic around community, resiliency and in unprecedented times?

Swapna

I mean there are several sources are not American psychiatric association website as well as other resources. And I think I have given Shannon a compilation of resources even on the CDC website that a number of resources, what you can do. So, just go through them and see, you know, what kind of makes sense to you. One of the things that you and I have already spoken about Stasi is having your diary and kind of jotting down your thoughts. Just see. And then even week to week your thoughts are changing as the band to make and the situation is changing and we need to go. You thought he would not be able to do that, but you did it. That's resilience. Yeah, absolutely.

Stasi

No, I think that's, and the charting piece too can be, it can seem like one more thing to do, but I think there, there's this,  there's pattern tracking that we can see and things that you start to notice when you look at this and how you're feeling and being able to track that is helpful. And then also it's another source, especially maybe you're not comfortable talking to someone else, but if you're writing to another way to get the thoughts out here and get them and put them away and have them processed a little bit more.

Swapna

And then you can sort of jot down your problems, right? Like which is the one that needs to be solved immediately. This is the things that don't really need to be solved immediately. What happens to us is as we look at a problem list of 10 and we are overwhelmed. That's it. We can't do anything that really needs addressing and that can see and then take the next step and then take the next step. And that's the only way I feel that that's something that works for me because everybody else, I get overwhelmed as everybody else. I get anxious and Oh my God, I haven't done this. I haven't done that. I have to take a step back and say, well, let's see what do you need to do today? And what's like really awful matter dire emergency. Yeah. Let's step back and try to approach it, you know? And, so give yourselves, you know, we all make mistakes. We're making mistakes. We are humans and especially in these times so you not that perfect mother, perfect sister or daughter or wife or what have you. It's all okay.

Stasi

Yes. Yeah, exactly. Give yourself some grace and kindness.

Swapna

It's fine. The house is messy. That's fine. Your head is showing some gray. Okay. It's all feels in comparison to what we are going through right now.

Stasi

Yeah, exactly. Well thank you so much Swapna. I really appreciate your taking this time to do this and sharing your insight and also for your work as a healthcare worker on the front lines I don't think that should go unrecognized.  for the work that you're doing to support healthcare providers and, and obviously support those in need. So, thank you for that as well.

Swapna

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I definitely am lucky that I work with a very great team of colleagues and I definitely want to give them a shout out to for what they've been doing and going through and plus, I feel very privileged and honored that I can support the front-line health care workers through the physician support line. Cause that's something that is, as you said, you know, altruistically, it's gratifying to me that I can in my little way, you know, kind of like listen to their stories. That's all I do. I can only listen to their stories. That's, that's powerful for them.

Excellent. Well thank you so much and thank you to our participants and our viewers today. It was great to have you and just to give you an idea of what's coming down the line. So our next webinars. So next week we'll be talking to Lori M and she is a professional looking at our topic will be sexual health during COVID 19. So, another topic, relative to women and men. So anyone can chime in or tune in for that. So if you know someone that might be interested in that topic, please share this resource and the link with them so they can sign up for the free webinar. And then also just a reminder that our health fix is also available. You can sign up through our website and if you're looking for, you know, some of what Swapna and I talked about today where I am, I'm not a psychologist or psychiatrist or therapist.

However, as a dietician I am able to help support you in strategies that might be able to help manage stress. So, where it can work in conjunction with stress management and putting those tools in place or just kind of coming to see what, what do you need to do right now? How can you help to develop a structure, a routine, or perhaps looking for communities? If you need help on finding that community, I may be able to provide suggestions or by joining our Gennev community, you might find what you're looking for. So, please take a look at that. And also, on our website, we have a lot of resources in our learn section so that's another thing for you to look into. So, thank you Swapna I appreciate your time again and have a great rest of your day and I'm sure we'll be in touch soon.

Swapna

Absolutely. And stay safe everybody. Thanks for having me. Take care. Bye. Bye. Bye.

Shannon Perry

June 3, 2020
Director of Programming & Media

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