Like never before in our lives, the COVID-19 pandemic has us facing the same challenges, no matter who we are or where we live. Virtually everything about how we live and work has been changed by the pandemic, and it can be harder than ever to feel like you have control over your life.
For years, Dr. Jen Hartstein has been helping people get and stay on track. She’s a New York City based mental health specialist, a contributor to Yahoo News with past appearances on Today and Dr. Oz, and the author of Princess Recovery: A How-to Guide to Raising Strong, Empowered Girls Who Can Create Their Own Happily Ever Afters.
Today, Jen joins the podcast to talk about what you can do to take back control, break through the noise, and focus on your physical and mental health during tough times. We can’t control what the pandemic will look like, but we can control what we eat, our rest, and how we feel.
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
[00:00:00] Andrew Rafal: Wow 2020. To say that it’s been a hectic year, a tumultuous year would be the understatement of the century. You know, it’s the first time in all of our lives that we’re really as a globe, we’re all facing the same fears and anxieties and issues and problems. So, today’s show is going to be about us, about allowing us the tools to be a better version of where we are today, of being able to take back control, allowing us to breathe. So, I’m super, super honored to introduce you all to Dr. Jen Hartstein. Now, many of you may know Dr. Jen as she is the mental health contributor to Yahoo News. She’s been on the Today Show, Dr. Oz. She runs a successful practice in New York City and is an author. She has spent her entire career helping individuals, helping families, helping kids stay on track, giving them the tools and the strategies to be the best version of themselves.
So, in today’s crazy world, we’re going to talk about things that you can do, starting today, to take back control, to take away the noise, to focus on routines, to do what you can do to stay healthy, both mentally and physically. We can’t control what COVID is going to look like tomorrow, what it’s going to look like in a month, what it’s going to look like in a year but we can control what we eat, we can control how we get to rest, and we can control how we can be the best version of ourselves. Without further ado, my episode with Dr. Jen Hartstein.
[00:01:40] Andrew Rafal: And welcome back, listeners, to another episode of Your Wealth & Beyond. Today, listeners, I am super excited to have on someone who is going to be able to help us through today’s tough times. Dr. Jen Hartstein, welcome to the show. How are you?
[00:01:55] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.
[00:01:58] Andrew Rafal: So, Dr. Jen, before we jump in, I always like to do a little research, a little homework on my end and I noticed that, like me, you’re a big fan of Tuesdays Dinner With A Movie.
[00:02:13] Dr. Jen Hartstein: So, I’m going to be totally honest that my husband is the fan of Dinner And A Movie. I am just a very, very solid, supportive partner and set it up so that we can watch it and hang out and have kind of a fun live music-ish during a time when we can’t do it the way we’d normally like to. So, I can’t say that I am the Phish fan in the family but I am surrounded by many of them. So, I have gotten on the train.
[00:02:42] Andrew Rafal: Gotten on the train. I love it. That’s great. And being supportive, that’s a key component to a lot of things we’re going to talk about today.
[00:02:48] Dr. Jen Hartstein: For sure.
[00:02:49] Andrew Rafal: And then the other area, it looks like you have a dog named Ruby.
[00:02:53] Dr. Jen Hartstein: I do. I have two dogs. I have a dog named Ruby. I have a dog named Daisy. One is a Goldendoodle and one is a Sheepadoodle, because why not breed a sheepdog and a poodle? Ruby is a year-and-a-half and is a total rascal, and Daisy is four and probably a human in a dog’s body.
[00:03:13] Andrew Rafal: I love it. Yeah. We have a Ruby at home as well. So, we have Ruby and Coco, little French Bulldogs. In the show notes, we’ll have both pictures of our dogs. So, listeners, you can definitely and that probably get the most hits out of everything.
[00:03:26] Dr. Jen Hartstein: They always do, dogs and children, right? Like, people don’t come to see you anymore. They come to see your children or your dog and you come along for the ride.
[00:03:34] Andrew Rafal: I know. I need a whole therapy session just on that. So, as we jump in, we’re recording this in late July and it almost feels as we were chatting earlier before we started recording, I mean, it almost feels like a decade since the middle of March. And so, today’s show is going to send around some of the things that we can do because this is the first time I think the whole world is all in the same boat and we’re all facing a lot of the same dilemmas and feelings and emotions. And today we want to really break down what are some of the things that we can do, some of the things you’re seeing out there to help us through this tough time that doesn’t look like it’s going to end anytime soon.
[00:04:18] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Sadly, it does not look like it’s ending anytime soon. And we’re only in the first wave of COVID, right? I mean, I think everybody’s like, “Oh, we’re in the second wave,” and really all of the research points to the fact that it’s just a surge of the first wave. So, I think we all have to start to think kind of differently and rearrange our focus a little bit on how to continue to put one foot in front of the other because it hasn’t literally been a year since March, and it’s only the middle of July. So, we have a lot more to go.
[00:04:48] Andrew Rafal: Scary daunting, and when we think of mental health and even prior to March it was mental health with technology and the always on social media, as I’m sure you’ve seen in your practice over the last two decades, it’s hard enough. Now, when we think about humans, as we’re creatures of habit, and we long for relationships and being interactive with one another, and that’s kind of taken away from us over these last few months. So, let’s dig in right there as humans are about routines and our routines are just thrown out, upheaval right now. What can we do? Each of us to try to focus, yeah, what can we do?
[00:05:30] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Great question. So, the fact is, is that your routines have changed, but you can still have them. So, I think that’s the most important thing we have to remember is that it’s very different. It looks very different, work from home. For those of us working from home looks very different. Working from home with children makes it very different. There’s so many variables, and we lose. We kind of now appreciate, I certainly do, kind of appreciate little things like my commute because I don’t have a commute from my kitchen to my office in my apartment versus getting on the train and coming, which might be when I find my space to get ready for work and all of those things. So, you want to figure out, create a routine at home. If you live with your family, work with your partner, your kids, whoever, to figure out what the routine is going to be, because routine and predictability helps us manage emotions better than anything. It creates stability. So, the more routine you can have, it doesn’t have to be so structured that there’s no flexibility within it.
You want to, “Oh, I don’t have a meeting at lunchtime. I’m going to go have lunch with my family. How nice.” That’s great. Do that. But I think the more you can create like, “I’m up at this time every day. I’m starting work at this time every day. I’m going to stop working at this time every day,” and all of the things in between, the better your brain works, the more stable your body feels, the more able you are to kind of feel grounded and I think everything around us is swirling and rolling and making us feel ungrounded but that’s probably the best we can do for ourselves.
[00:07:03] Andrew Rafal: And that routine is so important whether your gym is open or not with most gyms are closed, one of the positives is summertime so getting out, getting some sunshine, and just moving the body, doing things that can cause you to sweat to have some mental clarity, that’s something that it’s easy to make excuses, “Oh, my gym’s not there or my trainer is not available or I can’t get into that class,” but we all have the ability to just spend even if it’s 25 minutes and just go for a brisk walk around the block, depending on where you live.
[00:07:33] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Totally. And the beautiful thing is that a lot of exercise programs have pivoted and adapted the same way, most of us have, right? So, you can take a class. It’s not the same necessarily but you can take a class online or you can join that group of people that are trying to get a certain amount of miles or steps each week or find a new type of exercise that you’ve never done before that you can do a Zoom class with because scientifically, we know that exercise and movement boost our dopamine release and our endorphins, which help improve our mood, automatic. So, that’s why you feel better when you’re stressed out or even when you’re sad and anxious and feeling overwhelmed. If you can move, it shifts how the neurotransmitters are working in your brain, and you will be able to focus better, engage more, kind of feel a little bit less intensely, which can help you problem solve as to what you want to do next.
[00:08:29] Andrew Rafal: And as we look at, you know, you said earlier some of these things you took for granted and kind of look at three different phases of how this pandemic is affecting and a lot of these listeners are going to be in the phase that you and I are in where we are parents so we’re taking care and we’ll touch on the kids and the structure there. So, we’ve got kids that we’re trying to raise in a whole different world now. And then we may have our own parents that are dealing with things and that in itself for us, my parents are dealing with it. A lot of my clients are retired. They’re dealing with it. So, there are some things we’ll talk through on how we can help them. And then you throw in like myself and a lot of the listeners, you’re a business owner as well and you have your clients. So, it’s like these four things that you’re juggling and trying to say…
[00:09:17] Dr. Jen Hartstein: And you know you left out of that puzzle is where are you in that puzzle? That’s kind of a fifth branch, right? Like, there’s your kids, there’s your parents, there’s your business, there’s your clients, but where are you? And I think that is a huge piece of this that we forget about. We’re so busy taking care of all of the other things that we’re burning ourselves out, because we’re not taking care of ourselves in that also.
[00:09:41] Andrew Rafal: Great point. Let’s talk about that. First, what can that person do? Who’s taking care of everybody else? And just plugging away and just head to the ground grindstoning? What can we do to take stock and step back and breathe?
[00:09:55] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Well, I think the first thing you have to do is step back and breathe. I mean, I think that’s like step number one. I think we have to have to reframe the idea of self-care. So, self-care when we stop and think about self-care, like if I say to you, “Okay, so what do you think about self-care?” Your first, “Oh, like a massage,” and we think of all these kind of fancy, pampering kinds of things, when in fact, self-care could be I’d rather have a phone call instead of another Zoom session because I just need to move a little bit instead of sitting in front of a computer. That’s self-care. Making a doctor’s appointment is self-care. Telling someone that you’re going to sit on the couch and watch a Phish show can be self-care. I think we have to revisit this term of self-care because really in its literal translation, it’s I’m caring about myself. So, we have to think about that first and it’s the old adage of when you’re on the airplane and they tell you when the oxygen mask falls down, put it on yourself first before you help someone that needs your help. You are of no help to anybody if you’re not taking care of yourself first.
So, step back and breathe, figure out what you need to do. Asking for help is not a weakness, it’s a strength. Recognizing your own vulnerabilities is a strength and allowing people to help you when you need to, knowing that you need to shut off from work at a certain time do like just the things that your body needs to recharge. Because the things we normally have, going to a concert, going out to dinner, going on vacation like to a different destination, those aren’t as available and those are often the things we used to do.
[00:11:33] Andrew Rafal: A lot of people talk about meditation and meditation helps to ground you and to just focus on the present. So, some people it’s daunting. It’s, “Oh no, I’ve transcendental meditation or I don’t know how to do it.” So, let’s talk about those out there that have thought about it and just have not taken that leap of faith. What can they do to at least start that process to help their mind get a little rest?
[00:12:01] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Well, I think so meditation can be many things to different people, right? It doesn’t have to be kind of a more traditional transcendental meditation, 20 minutes twice a day, finding the quiet. Maybe you can go for a hike and that’s meditative to you. Maybe you can listen to the rustling of the leaves on the trees. That’s meditative to you. So, you have to find kind of the thing that works. I tend to recommend, there’s several apps that are really great that provide a five-minute mindful meditation or you can build on that. So, that feels less daunting, right? Kind of building up the practice because mindfulness is a practice, right? My mindfulness meditation is a practice. But we can be mindful about a million different things and ultimately, that’s what you want to be. You want to kind of find a way. We want to think about mindfulness as a way of dropping an anchor in a storm when you’re on a boat. Mindfulness is about being present, being here, being kind of really engaged in what’s happening in front of you.
And when a boat is in the water and the waves come in, it’s rocking all over the place without an anchor, it’s going to just flail all over. But mindfulness is that anchor. So, what makes you mindful? Drinking a really cold cup of water, great. Really enjoying your hot coffee. Taking a walk, really focusing on the walk, not your thoughts, breathing, meditation, all of those things help us be more mindful and present in the moment. Listen, I teach mindfulness all the time. I am not a great sit-and-meditate person. I live in New York for a reason. I’m just that kind of active. So, I walk or I listen to music or I kind of watch the dogs play but I do something where I have to focus on that one thing for 5, 10, 15 minutes. It doesn’t have to be long.
[00:13:51] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. I found for me, just recently I picked up within the last few months road biking out here in Arizona. The great thing on that is I can get out there’s just my thoughts and you’re focused and you’re not thinking about anything else except that ride. And then sometimes so I am clear in my head in thinking about things and it’s the solitude that’s been very helpful for me now that I can’t go to spin class or I can’t go to the gym and go even to the sauna, which I love, just sweating there. So, finding those little wins.
[00:14:18] Dr. Jen Hartstein: But you’re in Arizona. You can just go outside and have a sauna.
[00:14:21] Andrew Rafal: Well, that’s true. It is a sauna. It’s 100 degrees.
[00:14:29] Dr. Jen Hartstein: I mean, you kind of live in a sauna. I’m just, you know.
[00:14:33] Andrew Rafal: I know. I know. So strange.
[00:14:35] Dr. Jen Hartstein: I know. It’s a dry heat. I get it. I get it.
[00:14:38] Andrew Rafal: That’s right. Somebody tells me that but it is actually. I would say your 90-degree all humidity day, I would take my 112 all day long, actually.
[00:14:47] Dr. Jen Hartstein: My joke about it all the time with my cousin is it’s your preference. Do you like the steam room or do you like the sauna? Like which one? Neither is great, but you get both options. So, you got to choose.
[00:14:59] Andrew Rafal: You got to choose. So, that mindfulness being present I think is so important, especially in pre-COVID with relationships, with your loved ones. And I think that first month what we saw, at least from my standpoint with being sequestered and just stuck at home is that we started thinking, taking stock about what’s important to us, family and not running in that rat race of I got to get to the next thing, next thing. So, we had a chance to breathe for that month or so and I don’t know about you. I’m kind of Zoomed out of everything but like having those Zoom calls with family was really interesting because it would be family that I might not see for four or five months and I talk to them on the phone, but now just because we knew we couldn’t see each other even though we weren’t going to, it’s like I want to see them. And so, that longing for that social interaction was pretty unique. And so, what was that? So, humans just were craving it and just like we were afraid so let’s find the people that can put us at ease?
[00:16:04] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Yeah. I think that was a huge part of it and I think the choice of language by the government was really bad. So, we were told to socially distance, but that’s not really what we had to do. We had to physically distance. And I think the idea of social distancing, put everybody into a little bit of a panic of like, “What do you mean? I can’t see my people and I can’t talk to my people? And like, let’s gather up all my toys and hold on to them as much as I can.” And I think had it been called physical distancing, people might not have panicked. I don’t know what the reaction would have been. I think people might not have panicked so much, but like, “I can’t do all these things.” You’d be like, “Oh, right. I can’t physically be near you but I can still talk to you,” and I think everybody kind of in this moment of, we’re all stuck in our own pods. How do we connect? Just did whatever they could do to do that and we had the Zoom cocktail hours and family meetings and family game nights, and all these things that I would laugh about because I’m like we don’t do these things normally but like, okay, we’re doing them now because I do think this idea of social distance put everybody into this real state of panic.
And once people realize that you’re not socially distant, you’re physically distant and that sucks, but once people realize like that that would be more manageable, I think people settle down a little bit. We still live with each other.
[00:17:26] Andrew Rafal: I love that, physical. I mean, it should be that. You just hit it right on the head. It should be physical distancing. I guess, you can’t. The train’s left the station but that makes so much sense because that’s exactly what it is.
[00:17:37] Dr. Jen Hartstein: That’s what it is. It’s not about social. It’s really about physical. Don’t be too close. Okay.
[00:17:42] Andrew Rafal: Yeah, just reframing it just like that, it kind of puts me at ease just thinking about it.
[00:17:47] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Right? Just a little bit of a difference, you’re like, “Oh, right. Got it.”
[00:17:52] Andrew Rafal: So, let’s talk about kids, teenagers, tweens, and this is a lot of your experience and who you work with on a daily basis.
[00:18:02] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Oh, yeah.
[00:18:03] Andrew Rafal: So, I have a 14-year-old and I’m firsthand just seeing not having structure starting in March what it did to her. So, what is going on here with kids and let’s talk about the tweens up to the teens and those that are into college. So, this is really affecting them and growing up is hard enough. It’s hard enough.
[00:18:26] Dr. Jen Hartstein: So, being a teenager sucks. Although in some ways I think some of the young people are prepared for this in ways that we aren’t as adults, right? They’re used to living their lives through screens. They’re used to engaging mostly with their friends without each other in person, one thing, but they’re very used to kind of meeting people online, engaging with people online. So, for some kids, this is so easy, right? And I think this is true across all ages, though, for the more extroverted and I fall into that category, it’s really hard. It’s really hard to think about the fact that like I can’t go to my gym class where it’s a social occasion for me as much as it is about working out that I would go to spin class with my friends, and then we go have breakfast or coffee right after and all of a sudden, my 8:30 class turned into 12:30 because we’ve all been hanging out and it’s like my social event.
And not having those kids who need that connection is hard and they end up feeling more isolated, more alone, more anxious, more depressed. The truth is that this generation of young people is already more anxious and depressed. The numbers of kids that are reporting more symptoms of anxiety and depression is really high. So, we have to watch out for that because they aren’t having the mediating factors like socialization and school and interactions that help with some for sports or theater like any of the things that they are usually engaging in, we don’t have those so we have to figure out how to get them to that in a safe way.
[00:20:08] Andrew Rafal: And then they sink more into their digital devices to TikTok, to Instagram, to whatever else is happening. And the challenge that I see too from the standpoint of having a 14-year-old is that like with TikTok, they’re starting to get their news from TikTok, these 15, 20 second just nothing, they’re just glimpse of nothingness. And then you throw in the fact that it’s coming at them all these different directions, and then they’re not even going and talking to us, the parents, on it and they’re shaping their own mindset. It’s scary because…
[00:20:41] Dr. Jen Hartstein: It’s very scary. And you know, I think we don’t know yet and I think some people are starting to look at this kind of we know kids have been more attached to their devices and more attached to the digital world than before but they walk around with computers in their pockets, they really do. A smartphone is essentially a computer that you hand a 12-year-old and then like off they go. I wouldn’t hand them a car key but I hand them a pretty easily accessible computer. So, we have to teach them even before COVID, we have to teach them kind of what’s appropriate usage of all of this stuff. And during COVID, we don’t know yet the impact of all of this stuff. We don’t know what the impact is of they’re on more screens, period. We’ve always been told like monitor screen time, monitor screen time, but now you’re in school, virtually. There’s no way to monitor screen time. So, do I think that ultimately the kids will be all right? Yes. But do I think we’re going to have to really work on conversations in our house of, “Hey, what are you looking at?” Use it as a launching point. Use it as a way to talk to your kids. “Hey, what are you looking at on TikTok? Will you show me what you’re looking at? Like, I’m super curious.”
And they’re going to roll their eyes at you and they’re like, “I don’t want to show you,” and like plop down on their bed or on their couch and be like, “Let’s see. I know nothing about TikTok. Give me a lesson,” and engage in it with them. Let them be the experts and teach you. We’ll learn a ton.
[00:22:05] Andrew Rafal: What I really want to annoy my daughter, Winter, like, “Hey, I’ve just set up my TikTok account. I’m ready to go.” And the eyes do roll very, very fast.
[00:22:15] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Of course. They’re the best eye rollers ever but joke around and be like, “Okay, teach me the TikTok dance like I want to learn it.” I mean, there are ways to bond because some of the research that has come out is talking about the fact that teenagers are feeling more connected to their families, even though they’re on their devices more. And I think it is an interesting opportunity to encourage creativity and to encourage, they’re bored, right? Boredom breeds creativity. So, let them be bored. Let them be bored and be creative. You know, encourage that because I think because of all the devices, because of all the busy, busy, busy that we are engaged in most of the time, they’re not doing that. They’re never bored. I think about when I was a kid, like when I was bored, my parents are like, “Figure it out,” and my brother and I probably built cool things and made up stories and had adventures and kids don’t do that the same way. So, there is an interesting opportunity for that if we can allow them be bored.
[00:23:15] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. We would leave the house in the morning and come home at nine o’clock at night and there’s no way to get ahold of us and mom figured if something happened, we’d get on one of those corded phones and make a phone call and they figured it out.
[00:23:25] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Exactly. Well, you knew where everybody was because of the bikes. Like all the bikes were at somebody’s house and that’s how you knew where everybody was.
[00:23:35] Andrew Rafal: Yeah, 100%.
[00:23:35] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Old school. That was the cell phone, bike location.
[00:23:39] Andrew Rafal: I graduated high school in ‘95, and college in ‘99. So, I was like that last generation. We were the last generation where I had to go to the library, Miami, Ohio, to get online. So, it was just refreshing. If you went out…
[00:23:54] Dr. Jen Hartstein: I’m older than you so I definitely had to do all those things.
[00:23:59] Andrew Rafal: When you went out, you had to be there. If you weren’t there, I wasn’t going to see you.
[00:24:03] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Right. Or you had to call. I remember having to call my parents at the restaurant. They would leave me the name of the restaurant. If I really needed something, I could call the restaurant.
[00:24:14] Andrew Rafal: Simpler times, huh?
[00:24:16] Dr. Jen Hartstein: I believe that they were actually.
[00:24:19] Andrew Rafal: When we talked about routine for us as parents, so that’s that same adage then the routine for the kids because one thing I saw with you started staying up later, waking up later because school wasn’t starting. So, you talked about like his creativity. So, take the digital devices away from them setting that standard of like…
[00:24:39] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Like make a family rule. I like to say like make it a family rule that there’s an hour or two a day that nobody’s on devices. One of the problems with work from home is we don’t have work-life balance. It all has become blended and that’s why the routine is so important. When does your workday end? Are you dealing with things that need so much attention that you have to work until 10:00 at night?
[00:25:08] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Yeah. I mean, the studies are showing that people are working longer now with no commute. And they, like you said, you lost that solitude of like listening to this podcast on that 45-minute commute or having some time with yourself. You don’t have it any longer.
[00:25:20] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Yep. So, you almost have to make your day, okay, so I get up at 7:00 or 6:30 and my first thing is not to check email, like I’m not going to check email before 8:30 and I’m going to go for a walk or I’m going to enjoy my coffee or I’m going to join my family from 6:30 to 8:30. I’m going to hang out. We’re going to have breakfast together, and then I’ll start working because normally now we kind of roll over, pick up our phones, check our email. And so, I encourage like kind of everybody to have some digital downtime. What does that look like? Can you have a family rule? No devices at the table and one hour or two hours every day of the week, both days of the weekend, we’re going to all be off our devices and we’re going to do something together or we’re going to read or we’re going to just have kind of quiet in the house, whatever. But setting some of those ground rules, teenagers are not going to set those ground rules for themselves, by the way. They’re just not. And they, in fact, don’t even realize how much time they spend on devices if you ask them.
[00:26:20] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. From even just getting on YouTube and watching or she’s been bingeing on Grey’s Anatomy in seasons and it should take five years to get through that but it’s not. What about news detox? So, social media and digital detox, I guess it kind of goes hand-in-hand but one thing I found beneficial for me is I’ve kind of tried to start tuning out the noise as best I can with still staying in tune with things. So, what about that?
[00:26:47] Dr. Jen Hartstein: I’m a big fan of shutting that stuff off. And so, listen, you brought up YouTube, right? It’s so easy to click on this video and then that video leads you to this video and this video leads you to that video and next thing you know an hour-and-a-half has gone by. So, what I do for myself because I’m with people all the time. I had to go back to kind of part of the question you started of I hold space for all my clients, I hold space for their families, I hold space for my own life. I’m holding space for people constantly. So, the way that I take care of my own self in that is I don’t check the news all the time. I can’t watch the train wreck constantly. So, in the morning, I might give myself half an hour to an hour and in the evening, kind of to see what happened over the course of the day. But if any significant breaking news really happening that if I don’t know it right as it happens, it’s going to change the course of my life? Probably not. You know, so including in my structure of my day, kind of when I check my Instagram, my Facebook, any of those things, when I check the news. If I have five minutes, maybe I’ll kind of pop out and be like, “What’s going on?” but I keep it a very time-limited thing because I’m really probably not missing much if I’m not checking all the time.
[00:27:59] Andrew Rafal: Right. And what this mean end of July, the one thing that I don’t think we’re all fully comprehending is that the selection is a few months away. So, now the bombardment of the news and the ads, and soon to be whatever how they’re going to do the debates, but it’s going to get ugly. It’s going to get ugly to polarization. So, it’s going to…
[00:28:19] Dr. Jen Hartstein: And it’s already there. Right? We’re already there. I mean, we had COVID, we had the increase of presence of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the ongoing presence of that and the polarization that that’s bringing out, the politicization of COVID. Mask to mask to not mask, the increase of the numbers. I mean, we’re kind of like the old like, what’s it called, the Bobo doll where you used to hit it and used to come back up, literally, like we just keep getting hit and coming back up and hit and coming back up. Well, duck out of the way. And sometimes the only way to do that is to not watch the news all the time. You know, not stick your head in the sand because the news is still going to happen, but you can click out like we can spend a news-free day. Nothing major is going to happen.
[00:29:03] Andrew Rafal: Yep. And read a book. Read a fictional book and just get your mind out of it and…
[00:29:10] Dr. Jen Hartstein: But I recommend reading an actual book than on a device because guess what happens when you read a book on a device? You’re like, “Oh, I’m in a chapter break. Let me just check my email,” but you can’t do that if you read a regular book.
[00:29:22] Andrew Rafal: Yep. I get a newspaper still. I’m like the only person in my neighborhood. They thought I’m crazy.
[00:29:26] Dr. Jen Hartstein: I do too, every day. I read them all in one sitting because I don’t have time during the week to read them but I like wait until Sunday and I like start at the beginning of the week and go through the whole paper.
[00:29:38] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. But how do you do the Sunday Times? Doesn’t that take a whole week in itself to go through that thing?
[00:29:42] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Well, yeah, but I can’t say that I literally like – I spend probably two or three hours and I just kind of go like pick up with what I read and kind of go through the whole thing, but I just start if I can’t read it during the week, I just kind of pick different times and I go through it which I love the regular paper. It’s very nice.
[00:29:58] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. That Sunday Times, it’s great. It’s five pounds now.
[00:30:02] Dr. Jen Hartstein: I know. It’s very true. Very true. I want to go back to one thing you said though, Andrew, about parents.
[00:30:10] Andrew Rafal: Yes.
[00:30:11] Dr. Jen Hartstein: And as adult children dealing with adult parents, obviously, and the challenges that that brings about because we have changed roles in some ways, at least, I can speak for my family of us my brother and I telling my parents what to do and them not wanting to listen to what we’re telling them to do. And I think that’s a very challenging position to be in to be like, “Well, why are you going out?” My parents until recently, we’re in Florida. I’m very glad they’re back in New York City now, but Florida kind of was like, “Who cares, right? Go eat inside the restaurant. Go not wear a mask. Go do all these things.” And my parents were doing a lot of the right things but until the gym shut down, my dad was still going to the gym despite the fact that gyms were shut everywhere else. Florida didn’t shut them right away and so my brother and I would be yelling at him.
And so, we finally got to a point, luckily knock wood, they’re fine but we’ve had to get to a point of radical acceptance that they’re adults and they’re going to kind of do what they want to do knowing all of the risks, knowing why we’re concerned, knowing why we’re upset. I think we, as adults, have to practice this idea of like this is what it is. That’s radical acceptance at its finest, and I can only express my opinions so much and hope they listen. And then when they don’t, ain’t much I can do.
[00:31:35] Andrew Rafal: Right. Hopefully, not having to tell them, “I told you so.”
[00:31:38] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Correct.
[00:31:39] Andrew Rafal: And then you also don’t want it to become polarizing and political, depending upon what side one’s on versus the other, which that can lead to some major issues emotional with the family that you could take years to unwind.
[00:31:53] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Yeah. Exactly. And I think it is hard. My dad and I would joke that they were on a little bit of a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy with me. I was like if you do it, just don’t tell me. What I don’t know, I won’t get mad at you about. But my mom like had to tell me. So, I would still always find out. And so, we just did this running joke of like and I said to them it’s kind of like our roles reversed so when I was a teenager we had a don’t ask don’t tell or when I went to college, we had a don’t ask, don’t tell like just don’t tell me what you’re doing and all’s fine. So, I tried to convince my parents we should do the same thing when they were in Florida. I can’t really get mad at you.
[00:32:32] Andrew Rafal: I don’t want to see that Facebook post. Don’t put it on there.
[00:32:34] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Exactly. If I don’t know what’s up, I can’t be mad. So, that works for me.
[00:32:41] Andrew Rafal: And a lot of retirees, well, there’s kind of two components of them. The ones that just retired, they’re like, “Oh, my goodness, this isn’t what I planned for,” but they know they’re going to, I mean, hopefully, things will get back to normal sooner than later. They’ll get back to traveling and doing those types of things. But what if you’re an older retiree, and now you’re living alone, maybe you lost your spouse. And you’re used to having that interaction, go into the community center, go into a class, playing mahjong with your friends. And now all of a sudden you’re following the rules and you’re isolated. What are the signs that as looking at our parents or even our clients, like what can we look for, for signs of potentially depression or substance abuse, things like that?
[00:33:27] Dr. Jen Hartstein: So, I think that’s a really important question at any age for somebody living by themselves. Isolation we know is one of the biggest risk factors for increased depression and suicidality. So, I think what we have to look for is that person not responding to phone calls, right? Is that person not engaging in ways that you’ve seen them engaged before? Is that person seemingly, do you notice if they’re sleeping more? I think we have to check-in. Those are the people we have to check in on more because it is really hard. The things that they had to connect them are not available. Now, that being said, thank goodness, we are kind of in the age we are in and we have all the digital resources that we have because there are ways to connect, right? There are ways to play mahjong online. There are ways to play canasta. I mean, my parents do this with their friends like every other day. They’re playing mahjong online or canasta online. My dad plays bridge online. They find ways to continue to do those things to keep their brains active, to keep them connected.
Is it the same? No, but if we go back to the idea that it’s physical distancing, not social distancing, we have to just help those people come up with ways to stay connected. They might not know and we as the younger generation need to guide them and help set it up to the best of our ability so that they can stay connected.
[00:34:47] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. And you think about for them not being able to potentially see their grandchildren, traveling, they have these plans, and it wears on you especially with a lot of that generation is watching the news more so and that’s all they’re doing. So, it’s this domino effect.
[00:35:03] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Absolutely. It’s hard.
[00:35:05] Andrew Rafal: And then you got to be careful too because it’s like if you’re trying as the kid to say don’t do this, this, and this but then you want to see them, it’s this balancing act of how do I see them but then also follow those guidelines because they are the most at risk and those are facts.
[00:35:21] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Yes. Those are facts and I think that goes to the question of how do you open your kind of quarantine pod in general. People are starting to get more, you know, we have quarantine fatigue, right? We are tired. People in New York especially the running joke has kind of always been like New York lowered their numbers living in 500 square feet with partners and dogs and kids and all the people that are complaining living in like houses with space. And so, like everybody be quiet. Like New York did it like figure it out so proud of my city in that sense, but I think we’re starting to open our quarantine pods because we’re all tired of quarantine. The problem is people are opening their quarantine pods without thinking it through and what’s happening? We’re going back into quarantine. Like Atlanta went back into phase one for a couple of weeks to lower numbers. So, we have to really stop and think about what that looks like and who do you trust and who can you bring in? And I think it all comes down to communication. You have to be willing to say to somebody, what have you been doing to be safe? So, if you live close enough to your parents and can see them, what does that look like? Sorry for the siren in the background.
[00:36:33] Andrew Rafal: It’s good. It’s great. You hit it. You’re talking about New York. It was perfect timing too. Now, I’m envisioning New York City, the center of the universe. There it goes.
[00:36:44] Dr. Jen Hartstein: But it’s so funny because during quarantine, it was not New York City. It was so eerie here and quiet in a way that like I love to hear the sirens now. And for a while, the sirens were people going to the hospital because of COVID and now it’s like, “Oh, that’s just like a siren. No big deal. Oh, they’re honking.” I’m like, “Yay, there’s noise.” For the longest time it was so dead and so quiet. It’s still very quiet. It’s not the New York you think of but, anyway, so yeah.
[00:37:15] Andrew Rafal: That taxi driver yelled at me. Yes.
[00:37:17] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Totally. You honked at me? Wohoo!
[00:37:19] Andrew Rafal: Finger. Are there taxi drivers anymore? I don’t even know.
[00:37:23] Dr. Jen Hartstein: There are some taxi drivers and their yellow cab. But I think the quarantine pod question is important. Who are you okay having over? If you have a barbecue in the backyard and everybody’s social distancing like can they go into your house? I think it’s just a matter of being able to communicate what your limits are. When my parents came back from Florida, I went to see them and I had a mask on the whole time because they were in quarantine. And they had just been on a plane and I wanted to hug them. I wanted to say hello like I wanted to do all the things I wanted to do and refrained because I want to make sure that they’re not sick before I do any of those things and I want to make sure I’m not sick so that I don’t infect them. So, I think what it comes down to, it’s like wear a mask. It’s not a political argument. It’s science. I hope I don’t alienate everybody by that stance, but I firmly believe that.
[00:38:19] Andrew Rafal: I know. I mean, you look at Arizona. We had a very minimal situation in March, April, and then we opened back up and it was no holds barred and look at we’re like per capita, I think, one of the worst in the whole world in regards to it. So, we’re hopefully leveling off and I think it’ll be interesting these next few weeks to see what actually comes about to our hospitals or…
[00:38:42] Dr. Jen Hartstein: You guys are at max capacity, right? You’re like what we were.
[00:38:47] Andrew Rafal: And that brings up an interesting point, too, with the workers that are on the frontlines right now, a little different than 9/11. So, PTSD is a real thing, the studies and how this can affect. We don’t know. It’s going to take a while but if we have family or loved ones or we ourselves are right out there, like what are some of the things that you’re recommending that you’re talking to help keep that person sane?
[00:39:14] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Yeah. It’s a really hard question. And I think, truth be told, we’re only at the tip of the iceberg. I think a lot of traumatic responses come after you’re out of the crisis, and we’re not out of the crisis. So, I think that we’re only going to start to see the very tip of what’s really going on for people. And traumatic reactions can come out in so many different ways. It can be irritability, it can be sadness, it can be anger, it can be detachment, it can be like…
[00:39:43] Andrew Rafal: Domestic violence, right?
[00:39:45] Dr. Jen Hartstein: It can be domestic violence, it can be substance abuse, it can come out in so many ways that it’s not a nice tidy box, unfortunately. So, I think we all think communication is key. I think talking about it is key. So, for people who are essential workers either in health care delivery people, grocery store workers, people that are working in kind of medical labs that need to continue to work and go in, those are all essential workers. We have to just keep asking them how they’re doing. I had a joke with a friend who also lives in New York and when we talked, he said, “How are you?” And not that like bullshit way of answering like New Yorker to New Yorker like in April or March but New Yorker to New Yorker, like how are you really? And I think asking that way is important because how are you is such a throwaway phrase, right? “Hey, how are you doing?” “Great.” “Okay, bye.”
So, doing a deeper dive connecting, noticing changes in behavior for people and then asking about them, making sure people know that you’re there if they need them. And then I think just offering help. You know someone who’s a frontline worker. Can you drop off a meal? Can you ask them if they need help with childcare? How can you lighten their burden a little bit without taking on too much?
[00:41:08] Andrew Rafal: Well, even send them a text, 30 seconds, send them a text saying, “Hey, listen,” I know you’re going through a lot. I just want to thank you for everything you’re doing. Thirty seconds can go and you get that text, you put yourself in their shoes. It’s like, “Wow. Somebody appreciates me.”
[00:41:21] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Totally. And listen, every teacher you know needs that text right now. Like every educational person needs that text in addition to all of our frontline workers because those people are working overtime too.
[00:41:34] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. I try to find some silver linings in all this as it’s shedding light that the education system is so very important.
[00:41:43] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Yeah. If we don’t start to treat it better like it’s so broken and it’s so important and I literally don’t have an answer as to what to do, but we need to do something differently for sure. And appreciation goes a long way. I mean, we in New York, still have a seven o’clock class. Everybody’s outside clapping and it’s still going on. It’s not as loud as it was in March, April, and May, but it still happens. And it’s really kind of warming and loving and kind of awesome. Just when it was first happening, we would go outside, we have some outdoor space, and we’d go outside and people that had patios or terraces, we wave at each other, and it was a way to connect. And it was a way to just kind of express that appreciation, which I think it’s always a kind thing to do.
[00:42:30] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. And that’s the positive news that I’d love to see portrayed more. Put out the positive stuff out there. I guess it doesn’t sell and that’s a shame.
[00:42:38] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Well, it’s not sexy, unfortunately. But interestingly, right, to your point, John Krasinski’s Some Good News Network or what was it? Good News Network, like everybody glommed on to that because we were desperate for it. So, I think you have to find it in your life. You’ve got to find the things that will make you laugh. I think that we struggle with the duality of having joy during times of hardship and celebrating the good even when things aren’t great. And that duality is never more present than now. So, we are so much more aware of black and brown communities struggling and really having a hard time and people dying from COVID. Can we have that party? Can we celebrate that accomplishment? Can we do those things? And I believe yes. I think you can absolutely have celebrations as long as it doesn’t negate the fact that or help us ignore the fact that all these other things are also happening. So, kind of both things can be true.
[00:43:39] Andrew Rafal: Now, you’re on the board of the Active Minds, the organization that helps empower students to speak openly. So, how are you guys then? Like, what are you doing now? What does that organization do to help empower students?
[00:43:52] Dr. Jen Hartstein: So, they do a lot to write I think one of the things about mental illness as it carry so much stigma. And I think we forget that all of us have mental health the same way all of us have physical health. And not all of us have mental illness but all of us have periods of sadness, all of us have periods of anxiety and our mental health exists on a continuum with one end of the continuum being illness and one of them being kind of the epitome of mental health. So, Active Minds works with students to talk more about it on college campuses, they provide resources, and they’ve really pivoted to do a lot of things virtually. So, they’ve provided a ton of webinars about dealing with your mental health when you move back home, how to access help for yourself when you need it because your college counseling center might not be open. They’ve opened networks for communication among students through Active Minds. They’re working on legislation.
They’re really still kind of doing some awesome work in the face of not being able to be as face-to-face on campuses but the organization itself is providing a ton of resources to people as they need it and they’re all available on their website to kind of if you have a student they’re doing their start. They’re mostly college-based. They’re starting to do some more stuff with high school kids.
[00:45:21] Andrew Rafal: We’ll have a link. Yeah, we’ll have a link to that in the show notes and then the same with We’re All A Little Crazy. What is that?
[00:45:29] Dr. Jen Hartstein: We’re All A Little Crazy, same kind of organization. So, We’re All A Little Crazy was started by my friend Eric Kussin, who his story is pretty fascinating and one that I think resonates and that he was a very hard-working, determined go-getter working in the sports world, and he had a crash. And he had a two-and-a-half-year battle with major depression and part of his kind of coming to awareness of all the things that were going on for himself was the fact that we do have this discussion of like one in five people will have a mental health disorder in their lifetime. And he was like, “Well, that’s not me.” So, it never occurred to him that he could be part of the one and five, not part of the four and five. And so, his real mission is to talk about the fact that like five and five of us have mental health, like let’s talk about the five and five. Because the more we can talk about our mental health, when we have a mental health blip, when we have an issue, we are better equipped to ask for help and handle it. And how do we do that? And that’s kind of his mission after having his own pretty intensive experience with a mental illness and a mental health problem.
[00:46:44] Andrew Rafal: That’s awesome. I love how you’re part of these organizations, these groups to help build awareness and it’s your passion. It’s always been. So, on a business note as we get to the end here and I know a lot of the listeners, this show is Your Wealth & Beyond so a lot of business owners trying to find purpose in things but on a PR note because as you are the contributor for Yahoo Lifestyle, Yahoo News on the mental health side, you’ve been on Dr. Oz, The Today Show, MTV, this is great PR for you, obviously, doing really good stuff to get your messaging out there, how did you start building those relationships to get your name out there and be able to reach so many people and to provide the good advice?
[00:47:27] Dr. Jen Hartstein: That’s a great question. It really comes down to networking in a lot of ways. So, I had an ex-boyfriend who was a PR guru and he introduced me to someone who needed a child psychologist in an article. And there was a misstep in some ways in that. I was working in a hospital. I was supposed to run it by the hospital. I didn’t know that. So, then all of a sudden, I’m on the hospital’s radar, but then they were like, “Oh, but you can do this.” So, then I started getting put into media through the hospital I was working at. When I left that hospital, I went to a new hospital and I said, “Hey, I already media trained. I have all of this stuff. I want to be your media go to.” So, I became their media go to. And then when I left the hospital system altogether to do private practice, I reached out to all of the contacts that I had made through media and said, “Hey, I’m on my own. Reach out to me.” So, it’s been the kind of laddering up in just building relationships and maintaining relationships.
And then you kind of I’m known for this area that I’m an expert in and I can get asked to do other things or ask me to be the Yahoo mental health person. So, really, I think I built my brand through networking, and I built my practice through networking. I’m a big believer of kind of what’s your niche? I think there are a lot of people who are good at all things but in my office, we are experts in kind of adolescent depression, suicide, and anxiety like that’s our hotspot, 13 to 24. We are known for the treatment we provide in that hotspot. And so, I’ve been able to kind of build my brand through networking and all of that in kind of just taking that stance of this is the area that I know and this is the area I support and let’s make it work. And it has.
[00:49:11] Andrew Rafal: Yeah, I think that hit it on the head there, find a specific niche, don’t try to be everything to everybody and with those clients that you know you’re going to be able to help the most. And in your business like ours and like most in service that it’s referral-based, referral, referral, and then with you having the ability to get your messaging out there and really being good on TV and getting your articles, they’re going to get referred to your practice and then they’re going to do some research on you and they’re going to see, “Wow, she knows what she’s talking about. I want to work with her team.”
[00:49:45] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Yep. And I think it’s about finding your area and it’s about kind of using your networks, following up in TV, producer A was on CBS. Now, producer A is at NBC. So, can I maintain that relationship? Don’t be, some silly advice, like don’t be a jerk. Like, there’s no reason to be a jerk. And so, I try and make the people who are asking me to be part of a segment or an article or whatever lives as easy as humanly possible, so that they want to keep using me. I want to be their go-to so how do I make it easy for them?
[00:50:22] Andrew Rafal: And you don’t have a PR firm anymore. You basically have built the relationships?
[00:50:24] Dr. Jen Hartstein: I do not.
[00:50:26] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. That’s awesome.
[00:50:27] Dr. Jen Hartstein: I built a relationship and I have an agent for if something big comes in and I need someone to negotiate a contract, but I haven’t really engaged with a PR firm because I haven’t felt like I’ve needed it. My name carries enough on its own. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t at some point but because I still have my full-time private practice, I can’t give all of my time to media so I do what I can do in the middle.
[00:50:52] Andrew Rafal: And you’re an author too. So, the book you wrote a few years ago, Princess Recovery: A How-to Guide to Raising Strong, Empowered Girls Who Can Create Their Own Happily Ever Afters. So, that’s I think so important in today’s world especially with just trying to teach and to have their own voice.
[00:51:12] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Yes, 100% really into fight for what they want and not be diminished in the face of that. It’s really great.
[00:51:20] Andrew Rafal: And we’ll have that the link to the show notes as well. So, I mean, we covered so much today, we could probably spend another two hours going through things but to summarize to high level with where we are today, it’s going to be by the time this releases, I’m sure the world will change even more but take a breath, pause.
[00:51:40] Dr. Jen Hartstein: My brother’s favorite phrase is that I haven’t adapted and use all the time is everything can wait five minutes.
[00:51:47] Andrew Rafal: Everything can wait five minutes. Yes. And then the other thing I think I heard you might have even said this on one of your interviews, but with Hamilton coming out in on Disney, Aaron Burr had some really good advice, “Talk less and smile more.” Easy stuff.
[00:52:03] Dr. Jen Hartstein: Yeah. And you know what, I think one of my, especially for parents, my biggest piece of advice is very often talk less, listen more, and validate. Everybody’s struggling. Validate yourself, validate your family, validate your coworkers, validate all the people. Yeah, it really sucks. And what can we do? And kind of in those that language, we can really get very far.
[00:52:27] Andrew Rafal: Stay positive. We’re going to get through this together. Humans, we always can muddle through. We’ll come out better.
[00:52:34] Dr. Jen Hartstein: True. We’re all in it together. That is true.
[00:52:37] Andrew Rafal: Awesome stuff. Well, this has been tremendous. Been an honor to have you on. I really appreciate the time we went and I learned a lot which is always fun, and hopefully the listeners as well.
[00:52:47] Dr. Jen Hartstein: I hope so as well. Thank you for having me.
[00:52:49] Andrew Rafal: All right, listeners. Stay tuned for another episode of Your Wealth & Beyond later this month. Happy planning, everybody, and most importantly, stay healthy. Thanks!