Friday Feature: Therapist Jackie Shapin's Tips for Post-Pandemic Life

Friday Feature: Therapist Jackie Shapin's Tips for Post-Pandemic Life

This week we're proud to share sisterhood member Jackie Shapin, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. She provides therapy to adult individuals and specializes in treating OCD, anxiety and eating disorders. We're grateful to share her and her wisdom with you, especially as we're all trying to reintegrate into society now that pandemic restrictions are subsiding.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us Jackie. Tell us about your work as a therapist. What do you specialize in?

I am a licensed marriage and family therapist. I treat individual adults who are struggling with anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, and life transitions. I also treat trauma using EMDR. I have had my private practice since 2017. Currently, I am putting together a OCD psycho-ed treatment group for anyone in California who has OCD and has not gotten treatment for it.

What inspired you to do the work you’re doing?

My family and my experience. I have many family members who have had careers helping others. There was already so much pressure to appear a certain way when I was in school, and that has not changed. I was a dancer, and this only added another layer of pressure on image and perfectionism. This experience peaked my interest in helping others who have been a product of a similar experience. My first helpful therapist, who I saw in college, also inspired me to help those with eating disorders in particular.

How can we create a connection with ourselves and others, especially post pandemic as we get back in the real world?

My answer may change depending on the day… To connect with ourselves I’d say practice mindfulness. We are often disconnected 24/7. Distraction and keeping busy can feel “productive” however it also disconnects us from our present, which includes noticing ourselves in our current space. We aren't aware of how we feel in our body physically or how we feel emotionally when we are constantly on  the go. Purposely noticing yourself in the present moment connects you with your mind and body. I often say, “notice your feet on the floor.” I find this to be the quickest way to ground, or bring yourself to the present moment. Reflecting on the year and evaluating how you are feeling, with curiosity and not judgement, can help you connect with yourself. 

"Being vulnerable skyrockets connection!"

Now with others. Being vulnerable skyrockets connection! Share your fears, anxieties, grief etc with those you trust. I promise they will feel more understood and will feel more open to be vulnerable back! Most of the time, others are feeling what you are feeling. Check it out! 

It may feel awkward at first to spend time with others. And you might feel sick of zoom hangouts. Face the awkwardness and start making plans with people you miss, care for, and want to be around. Try not to make too many plans at once because this may cause you to focus on the next plan while you're not even done with the first! Go out to a meal, take a hike together, relax at the beach. When you are there, try to focus on your senses and the people around you so you can connect with them in real time. Ask other people how are they are doing. Inquiring about others adds a deeper connection versus just updating someone on yourself. If you are vaccinated, hug. Making contact increases not only connection but mood.

Why do so many people struggle with change and how can we make it easier for ourselves and others?

Change is difficult because it ultimately forces us to face the unknown. Routines help us feel safe and stable, and they are helpful. But nothing is black and white and change is inevitable. How can we make it easier - easier said than done - accept that you cannot know the future, as much as you try and plan or ruminate on possibilities. Understand that change may bring discomfort and we can handle feeling discomfort. It's not fun, but when we fight it, i really only makes things harder. Invite the discomfort and notice your physical sensations. This type of exposure can really make change less scary in the future.

Can we connect with others when we’re feeling disconnected from ourselves?

I believe so. I know that this could easily be a cliche popular quote. Like “you can't love others if you don't love yourself “(which I also don't agree with.) I don't think you'll feel as connected as you would if you were feeling truly present, but I do think having some connection is better than none at all.

Any tips for those who have anxiety going back into the real world after being secluded in our homes over the pandemic?

Exposure truly works. This doesn't mean your first plans need to be going to Coachella, but start with making short plans with someone you feel comfortable around. If that’s nobody, face the discomfort and make plans where you have control. You can leave at any time if you drive yourself :)

"Feel fear and do it anyway."

In short, feel fear and do it anyway. Utilize your support as well! Let your friends know you are anxious, you don't have to hide your feelings. Remember, vulnerability skyrockets connection.

One of your specialties as a therapist is working with people who have disordered eating. Can you share why you specialized in this, and what you’ve learned through your practice?

I have strong opinions on diet culture and fatphobia. This is one of the reasons why I speak up when I read or hear things that have a negative impact on others. I have worked with clients with eating disorders for over 10 years now. It has strengthened my voice and passion for changing the way we are brainwashed to think we aren't enough as is.

How can we support someone struggling with an eating disorder?

To give a short short answer: stop diet talk. Notice how often you talk about food and body and try and stop yourself. Especially during meals. Instead of asking someone about their food, body, exercise, say,” How are you?”  Don’t give advice, believe me, that's not going to help unless you are offering resources. Even then it may not be helpful. Helpful is letting someone know you are there for them if they ever need anything. Helpful is also understanding that the way you talk about others and yourself impacts those around you. 

Is there something you consider yourself an expert in? What has it taught you?

I consider myself to be an expert in treating eating disorders. Even with so much experience in it, I still have a lot to learn. I love learning and have a  hard time thinking I’m an expert at most things.

What does choosing yourself mean to you? 

Choosing yourself means standing up for yourself, asserting your needs and setting boundaries. Choosing yourself is choosing to see the skewed way our society and the media portray “normalcy.” Choosing yourself means learning that most things we hear are opinions and not backed up by fair research. Dr. Jen Douglas said the following when sharing about challenging perfectionism, “It’s really about elevating what matters to us rather than what matters to the greater society.”

How do you practice self love and care on a daily/weekly basis?

I try to balance every day with work and me time. This includes getting adequate sleep, fueling my body throughout the day, connecting with someone I love, and crashing on the couch at the end of the day to watch silly tv shows. I also practice self love every time I stick with my boundaries related to not taking on too much!

What is your advice to your younger self at different stages of your life so far?

10: What feels embarrassing now will be an experience where you overcame teasing and bullying.

18: Enjoy your experiences and try to be a little more thoughtful of others. Learn how to cook!

30: Trust your instincts. If you have a feeling something is not okay...don't take no for an answer or know that not everyone is transparent. Life gets less dramatic from here :)

35: Everything will be okay. Accept your choices and enjoy the ride! You can do big things. Don't stop, keep going with your career!

What do you love most about yourself?

I love that I can be easy going when it comes to adventures and rolling with things. I am also very persistent and see that as a huge strength!

Anything you have going on right now that you want to promote or share?

My OCD Psycho-Ed Treatment group begins Tuesday June 15th! It is 6 weeks of group where you will learn about OCD and the best treatment, Exposure Response Prevention. This is open to anyone with OCD that is a California resident.

Connect with Jackie on Instagram @jackieshapintherapy or via her website