Tagged Quarantine (Life and Culture)

Need to Dust Off Your Social Skills?

After a year of virtual gathering, getting back to real-life relationships can be intimidating. These eight simple exercises can help.

As we move through the spring of The Great Vaccination, many of us are feeling cautious optimism, and also its flip side: creeping dread.

Maybe you have a sense of ambivalence about how to interact with others again. If you used to work in an office, you might be worried about returning to work — but eager to see people again. Or you find yourself having to confront a neighbor about a longstanding problem — but you’re out of practice with conflict resolution. (I’m not sure I remember how to talk to another human anymore, let alone one I disagree with.)

Whatever the specifics, “there will be new forms of social anxiety, said Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology and the director of the Social Interaction Lab at the University of California, Berkeley.

“People are really anxious about being out in restaurants with friends, or about dancing with a big sweaty group of people — or even about sharing a yoga mat,” he said. “It’s always good to remember individual differences — there’s a lot of variability. But there will be a lasting societal legacy around intimacy, the noise that comes with returning to school, the complexity of the playground and of work.”

Dr. Keltner has studied human behavior and the biological and evolutionary underpinnings of emotions for decades, with a focus on “pro-social” states — behavior that strengthens connections between individuals — that are especially good for society.

“We’re hyper-social mammals — it’s our most signature strength,” said Dr. Keltner, a co-founder of the Greater Good Science Center who was also a scientific consultant on emotions for the Pixar film “Inside Out.” “It’s what sets us apart from other primates: We help, we laugh, we collaborate, we assist.”

Lately, we’ve been living our lives siloed away online, missing many of the essential face-to-face experiences that are key to human interaction. It’s notable that Dr. Vivek Murthy, the newly reappointed U.S. Surgeon General, has talked not only about the physical and economic toll of the pandemic, but also of “the social recession.”

Before Covid, this kind of post-isolation anxiety was most often suffered by people who re-enter the civilian world after prison, wartime deployment, humanitarian aid work or remote expeditions. The challenge now is that so many more of us will be experiencing some aspect of this all at once, and coming back to social situations with others who likely have their own fears too. It is stalled social development, on a societal level.

Debra Kaysen, a clinical psychologist and a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, said that coming back to so-called “civilian life” can be disorienting, surreal and difficult — and not just for combat veterans. Her clinical and research work focuses on anxiety disorders and trauma, and she has worked on developing coping strategies for health care workers dealing with mental health concerns during the pandemic.

Now, everyone is trying to navigate conflicting threat levels in a way that used to be specific to those populations, she said. Cues that used to be neutral or positive, like being around other people (I love my friends and family!) are now associated with threat (my friends and family might infect me with Covid!). And we are confronting the challenge of how to turn off that alarm. “What’s a true alarm and what’s a false alarm has gotten more confusing for all of us,” Dr. Kaysen said.

So how do we relearn how to be together?

Give yourself permission to set small, achievable goals. And accept that other people are going to have different responses than you — the friend or family member who wants to eat inside the restaurant when you don’t, for example, or who is ready to get on a plane and take a vacation.

Accept that certain activities may feel tough for awhile. Driving an hour to a meeting. Flying a red-eye to a conference. Attending a family reunion, say, or four pandemic-postponed weddings in one month.

All of this can prompt you to ask, of your family or your boss or even yourself: “Is it really worth the time?” and “Now that I know things can be different, do I want to go back to my old life?”

Recovering doesn’t mean you go back to the way you were before, Dr. Kaysen said, using kintsugi, the Japanese technique of repairing broken pottery with gold, as an analogy for coming out of hard times with awareness of the change, and stronger than before. “It’s that you create a new normal, one that’s functional and beautiful — and different.”

Dr. Keltner agreed that we may need to “re-educate ourselves” — “like, how do we hug again?” Your timing might be off for a hug, or a joke or even a compliment. “How do you look someone in the eye so that it’s not intrusive? How do you compliment someone? You might not have done it for a year.”

Rather than be overwhelmed by everything at once — for example, going to a party where you have to adjust to greeting acquaintances, eating with others and attempting to make small talk — all at the same time — why not take things step by step? This moment can be an opportunity.

8 Exercises to Strengthen Your Social Muscles

Here are eight small, science-based exercises Dr. Keltner recommends to help ease back into your community. Go at your own pace.

Share food with someone.

Eating a meal together boosts mood and is a potent antidote for loneliness — aiming for in-person interaction around the ritual of eating is a great goal, even if you don’t meet it every single day. An outdoor picnic or a distanced backyard happy hour is a great and safe option for reconnecting with friends and family.

Tell someone a joke in person.

You may be out of practice and have to work on your timing. But making eye contact and laughing together is essential to feeling connected to someone else — even if the joke falls flat, being silly together will feel really good.

Ask someone what they’re listening to or reading right now.

Music and literature can be a community-building gift. Listen to music together; exchange books and have an in-person discussion afterward. This is a social exercise, but also one that will give you a much-needed hit of novelty along with the insight.

Reach out to someone you’ve lost touch with.

Make a phone call, send a meaningful text, write an email. It’s time to start rebuilding the larger social infrastructure outside our immediate circles.

Strike up a conversation with a stranger.

Pick someone with whom you have passing contact: a fellow dog-walker, the cashier at a grocery store, a delivery person on your doorstep. Make eye contact; talk to each of them as a person rather than as a function. It’s so easy to ignore the human behind a mask. Make the effort to ask something outside the normal transaction — what’s changed since the last time you saw each other, what they’re looking forward to.

Move with someone.

Dance, walk, run, swim, bike — or even do the dishes and fold the laundry together. Physical synchronicity is one of the most important ways we have to connect with someone else.

Sit quietly with someone …

and remember how to comfortably be, without talking, in companionable silence, with someone else. Let the other person know it’s OK to not always fill the air. Nonverbal communication is important to practice — and it’s a way to deepen your relationship.

Make a date for the future.

Think of something fun to do with someone you love — it could be a summer beach weekend, or maybe a ski trip next winter. Having something to look forward to is essential for well-being. Practice optimism, in anticipation of normalcy. Plan with hope.


Bonnie Tsui’s books include “Why We Swim” and “The Uncertain Sea.”

What Is Normal Life?

And when will we get back to it?

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Welcome. What constitutes a return to “normal” life? Is it when schools and offices are open consistently? When we’ve reached herd immunity? When we no longer wear masks in the supermarket? On planes? (Will we ever not wear masks in stores and on planes?) Is it when the boredom lifts? When we’re out more than we’re in?

For now, the in-between feeling persists, the feeling of being on the verge of something but not quite there yet. Home is still where we’re safest, and, remarkably, there’s still more to discover there. Sourdough days may be long past, but Claire Saffitz will teach you to make your own croissants. You could listen to the Brahms intermezzo that influenced Branford Marsalis as he composed music for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” There’s still time to tap your backyard maples for syrup. Or just spend a while out there among the trees, senses open, forest bathing.

There is, of course, adventure yet to be mined — and beauty, too — in our own neighborhoods, as the travel photographer Roff Smith found when he began treating his morning bicycle rides like magazine assignments, taking pictures as he rode through his marshy seaside town on the south coast of England. “It’s brought home the truth that you don’t need to board a plane and jet off to the far side of the world to experience a sense of travel or the romance of difference,” he writes. “It lies waiting on your doorstep — if you look.”

P.S.

Tell us.

What does “back to normal” mean to you? Is it an activity resumed, a reunion with loved ones, a feeling? Tell us: athome@nytimes.com. Include your name, age and location. We’re At Home. We’ll read every letter sent. As always, more ideas for leading a full and cultured life at home and near it appear below.

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Covid Victims Remembered Through Their Objects

The special project “What Loss Looks Like” presents personal artifacts belonging to those who have left us and explores what they mean to those left behind.

Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.

As the art director of the Well desk, I’ve spent the last year looking for images to reflect the devastation of the pandemic and the grief it has wrought. As the crisis has stretched on, I’ve thought of all the people who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 — not to mention those who have lost loved ones, period — and how they were cut off from the usual ways of gathering and grieving. Watching the numbers rise every day, it was easy to lose sight of the people behind the statistics. I wanted to find a way to humanize the death toll and re-establish the visibility of those who had died.

To help our readers honor the lives of those lost during the pandemic, we decided to ask them to submit photographs of objects that remind them of their loved ones. The responses were overwhelming, capturing love, heartache and remembrance. We heard from children, spouses, siblings, grandchildren and friends — people who had lost loved ones not only to Covid-19 but from all manner of causes. What united them was their inability to mourn together, in person.

Dani Blum, Well’s senior news assistant, spent hours speaking with each individual by phone. “It’s the hardest reporting I’ve ever done, but I feel really honored to be able to tell these stories,” she said. “What struck me the most about listening to all of these stories was how much joy there was in remembering the people who died, even amid so much tragedy. Many of these conversations would start in tears and end with people laughing as they told me a joke the person they lost would tell, or their favorite happy memory with them.”

The photographs and personal stories, published digitally as an interactive feature, was designed by Umi Syam and titled “What Loss Looks Like.” Among the stories we uncovered: A ceremonial wedding lasso acts as a symbol of the unbreakable bond between a mother and father, both lost to Covid-19 and mourned by their children. A ceramic zebra figurine reminds one woman of her best friend, who died after they said a final goodbye. A gold bracelet that belonged to a father never leaves his daughter’s wrist because she is desperate for any connection to his memory.

For those who are left behind, these items are tangible daily reminders of those who have departed. These possessions hold a space and tell a story. Spend time with them and you begin to feel the weight of their importance, the impact and memory of what they represent.

Museums have long showcased artifacts as a connection to the past. So has The New York Times, which published a photo essay in 2015 of objects collected from the World Trade Center and surrounding area on 9/11. As we launched this project, we heard from several artists who, in their own work, explored the connection between objects and loss.

Shortly after Hurricane Sandy, Elisabeth Smolarz, an artist in Queens, began working on “The Encyclopedia of Things,” which examines loss and trauma through personal objects. Kija Lucas, a San Francisco-based artist, has been photographing artifacts for the past seven years, displaying her work in her project “The Museum of Sentimental Taxonomy.”

Saved: Objects of the Dead” is a 12-year project by the artist Jody Servon and the poet Lorene Delany-Ullman, in which photographs of personal objects from deceased loved ones are paired with prose to explore the human experience of life, death and memory. And the authors Bill Shapiro and Naomi Wax spent years interviewing hundreds of people and asking them about the most meaningful single object in their lives, gathering their stories in the book “What We Keep.”

As the pandemic continues to grip the nation, the Well desk will continue to wrestle with the large-scale grief that it leaves in its wake. Other features on this topic include resources for those who are grieving, the grief that’s associated with smaller losses, and how grief affects physical and psychological health. As for “What Loss Looks Like,” we are keeping the callout open, inviting more readers to submit objects of importance, to expand and grow this virtual memorial and provide a communal grieving space.

Use Your Newspaper to Make Flowers

Colorful paper blooms are easy to make and perfect for a spring table top.

“There are always flowers for those who want to see them,” Henri Matisse said. Even in this newspaper — just glue a skewer between two pieces of colored or painted newspaper and snip it into simple flower shapes.

Group the flowers together for an everlasting and inexpensive centerpiece for your spring table, or place one at each place setting. Mini versions can be used as place cards; they’d make even a tiny gathering feel special. If you leave the bottom of the skewers undecorated, you can poke the flowers into a cake or cupcakes for an instant decoration. Or cheer up someone’s work-from-home situation with a potted paper bouquet; they’ll thank you a bunch.

Jodi Levine for The New York Times

Supplies

  • Newspaper (find colorful spots or paint it)

  • Acrylic craft paint and paintbrush (if you want to paint the newspaper)

  • Pencil

  • Scissors

  • Wooden skewers

  • White glue

  • Small bowl and a paintbrush (optional, for the glue)

  • Glue stick (optional)

  • Small flowerpots, vases, recycled bottles or jars.

  • Fine gravel or sand (available in craft stores, optional)

Make the flowers

1. If you’d like to, paint a few sheets of newspaper.

2. Cut two pieces of paper to the height and width of your planned flower, leaf and stem or just the flower head.

Jodi Levine for The New York Times

3. Brush or squeeze a thin strip of glue down the center of the paper, place your dowel on top and apply some more glue over it. Apply a think layer of glue over the rest of the newspaper and place the other piece on top. Gently press it down. (If you want to use as cake toppers, leave the end of your dowel bare.)

Jodi Levine for The New York Times
Jodi Levine for The New York Times

4. Lightly pencil a design (you can use the ones here as a guide or make up your own) and cut out. Let Matisse’s flowers inspire you.

Jodi Levine for The New York Times

5. “Plant” the flowers in small flowerpots, vases or repurposed bottles or jars. Pour an inch or two of sand or fine gravel into the container to anchor the stems.

Car Maintenance During the Pandemic

Many people may have deferred maintenance because their cars mostly sat around in the pandemic. But that creates its own ills.

You may have put off going to the doctor, the dentist, getting hair cuts, abandoned your commute and reduced your driving to essential errands during the pandemic. Staying put has most likely made you safer, but you weren’t doing any favors for your car, especially if you were also putting off maintenance.

Cars need regular use and upkeep to stay in shape, even if you are barely driving them.

Make that: Especially if you’re barely driving them.

That said, there is some car maintenance you can delay and some you cannot. The “can” list is shorter, so let’s start with that.

Consider miles driven, not time.

Maintenance obligations can be loosely divided into two categories: those based on miles driven and those based on time since the last service. One of the chores based on miles is tire rotation, and a car that has barely been used can relax the routine that’s intended to even out the wear on all four tires. Usually, after about 5,000 miles you would move the positions of the tires, like putting the right front tire on the right rear, though the pattern to follow can differ from car to car.

Also, while tires deteriorate over time, the past year of diminished use won’t have much affect on that deterioration.

You can also relax about the engine coolant and the air and cabin filters, which are all tied to usage. John Ibbotson, the shop supervisor for the auto fleet of Consumer Reports, said that some automakers don’t call for the system to be flushed and new coolant installed until 100,000 miles, or 10 years. He also said the filters should typically be “looked at every 15,000 miles and changed at 30,000.”

The general maintenance guidance he relies on is the owner’s manual, but he cautions that the patterns of life in the pandemic have complicated matters. With people driving only short local trips, the typical family car has shifted from normal service to what automakers regard as severe duty. In other words, making those quick hops to the Starbucks may be functionally the equivalent of towing a trailer or pounding down dusty farm roads, as far as your engine’s oil is concerned.

Short trips do not bring the engine up to operating temperature, which is necessary to rid the oil of moisture that accumulates in normal use. Nor does the engine coolant circulate and deliver anti-corrosion additives to vital spots. Longer drives also help make sure that vital components like gears and bearings maintain a coating of lubricant.

The most important task: changing the oil.

If you are not taking longer drives, then you really don’t want to delay changing your oil. It’s the most familiar maintenance task and perhaps the one that is most important to your car’s good health.

On an older car, following the owner’s manual mileage recommendation for severe conditions will help to keep the lubricant and its blend of protective additives fresh (if you no longer have the manual, they are often available online and from the automaker). The systems built into many new cars that remind you of required service, like oil changes, take into account the length of trips and will recommend changes based on actual driving.

Changing the oil is also the ideal time to look in on other maintenance tasks, including checks of all belts and hoses; while both suffer the effects of engine heat under the hood, they can also develop cracks while the car just sits.

Add car batteries to the time list. They have a limited life that’s not based on miles driven. They often start to decline after three years and give up altogether after five to seven.

Jill Trotta, a certified technician and vice president for marketing at RepairPal, a website that provides cost estimates and connects car owners with qualified mechanic shops, knows how to properly care for a car. Yet even she let a battery run down past the point where it could be revived with a charge, which is exactly what happened to her 2014 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid when it sat in the driveway for months without being driven during the pandemic.

The solution: a low-power battery maintainer, which keeps the charge topped up between drives. Basic ones start at about $25. Keep in mind, too, that while battery replacement is an entirely straightforward swap on most cars, some electronics-intensive models make it more painful. BMWs going back nearly two decades require a registration and programming process, which means added expense and a possible visit to a dealer. It’s worth preventing a dead battery in the first place.

Another maintenance task that should not be deferred is replacing the timing belt in engines that use them. The belt turns the camshafts that open the engine’s valves and can cause major engine damage if it fails. Typically good for 80,000 to 100,000 miles of service, the belt can degrade even while sitting, so stick to the automaker’s recommendation on years between renewal.

Don’t forget the brakes.

A telling sign of a car not being driven is a layer of rust on the brake discs. A light coating is no problem, though it may be noisy for a few blocks; it will be polished off by the first few presses of the brake pedal on a careful drive around the neighborhood.

More critical are brake parts you can’t see. The hydraulic fluid that makes the system work absorbs water from the air, potentially reducing stopping power. The fluid can be tested for water, but if it’s visibly dirty have the system flushed and refilled with fluid that meets the specifications in the owner’s manual.

Also look for corrosion that can keep the brake calipers, which squeeze the discs to stop the car, from working correctly. If your car doesn’t roll freely at low speeds when driven for the first time in awhile, have the brakes checked immediately — and ideally nearby.

One downside to dormancy that doesn’t fall under normal maintenance routines: rodent occupation. Lift the hood to see whether mice or squirrels have taken up residence, a problem that may be more common than you’d think. Clear out any nesting materials or droppings before starting the engine, especially from areas near an exhaust system that will get hot.

At the same time, knock off accumulations of dirt, leaves and bird droppings, which can damage the paint. Ms. Trotta suggested a gentle pass with a yard blower; in any case, don’t rub accumulated dirt with a cloth or a brush because the abrasion will leave scratches. You can also rinse the surface with plain water to remove as much as possible. Pay attention to the tracks where a sunroof or the power windows slide, clearing debris that could jam the glass.

The yearlong hiatus in regular car use calls for a bit of special attention to the car’s mechanical and cosmetic needs, but for the most part it is not disastrous for every aspect of a car’s well-being. As Covid restrictions loosen around the country and with warmer weather, drivers will be putting their vehicles back into regular service, and there may be a crush at the local shop or dealership. Taking care of deferred maintenance soon may be a smart plan to avoid a wait for service.

Things To Do At Home

This week, whip up a drink while learning about art, meditate with the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco or listen to an audio play.

Here is a sampling of the week’s events and how to tune in (all times are Eastern). Note that events are subject to change after publication.


Monday

Cook the ultimate ratatouille with the help of Joel Gamoran, formerly the national chef for Sur La Table, the kitchenware retailer. Mr. Gamoran will guide viewers through an online cooking class, presented by Homemade and TiVo. An ingredients list will be sent in advance to participants and closed captioning will be provided. This event is free to attend, but registration is required. Attendance is capped at 1,000.

When 7 p.m.

Where withhomemade.com/collections/free-virtual-cooking-classes


Abbey Lossing

Tuesday

Tune in to a conversation between Gloria Steinem and Amanda Tyler, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley’s law school, who was a co-author with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on her final book, “Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue.” The discussion will center on the legacy of the justice, who died last year, and examine how her life and work affected the American legal system. Tickets to this event, which is presented by 92Y, are $20.

When 7 p.m.

Where 92y.org/event/gloria-steinem-and-amanda-tyler


Wednesday

Take a dance class from Dance for PD, a program from Mark Morris Dance Group that offers dance, movement and singing classes to people with Parkinson’s disease, as well as their family, friends and caretakers. In a drop-in, hourlong class, participants will learn the fundamentals of dance in a program designed to address concerns such as balance, motor skills and physical confidence. This event is free, and attendance is capped at 250. Mark Morris Dance group also offers a drop-in Flamenco for beginners class today, at 11 a.m.

When 3 p.m.

Where danceforparkinsons.org/resources/dance-at-home


Thursday

Learn about the culture of the Rarámuri, an Indigenous people of the Sierra Madre in Mexico, in a presentation from the American Museum of Natural History in New York and Fundación Marso, a nonprofit working to promote and protect contemporary Rarámuri craftmanship and traditions. This family-friendly talk will teach viewers about Rarámuri history and contemporary culture by looking at the museum’s collection of archival photographs, as well as hearing from Sabina Aguilera, a Mexican ethnologist, and María Luisa Chacarito and Adolfo Fierro, two Rarámuri artists and activists.

When 2 p.m.

Where amnh.org/calendar/raramuri-today


Friday

Make a drink while learning about art during the Frick Collection’s “Cocktails With a Curator” happy hour series. Each Friday, a curator at the New York museum shares a cocktail recipe while chatting about a piece of art from the museum’s collection. This week, Xavier Salomon, the museum’s deputy director and the Peter Jay Sharp chief curator, will talk about Saint-Porchaire ware, a rare style of ceramics produced in Renaissance France. This event is free, and participants under 21 are encouraged to join with a non-alcoholic beverage.

When 5 p.m.

Where frick.org/interact/miniseries/cocktails_curator


Saturday

Unwind with a relaxing meditation session from the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. This class, led by an instructor from the San Francisco Zen Center, will touch on the benefits of meditation, as well as on the importance of maintaining a balanced and calm posture during one’s practice. This class is suitable for beginners, and tickets cost $5.

When 1:30 p.m.

Where calendar.asianart.org/event/san-francisco-zen-center-meditation-session-04-10

Spend the evening watching dance performances from the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, presented by the South Orange Performing Arts Center in South Orange, N.J. For 30 years, the company, named after its founder, choreographer and artistic director, has created contemporary dance that draws from ancient Chinese cultural traditions. The program will consist of four recorded performances, two of which are world premieres, as well as a conversation between Ms. Chen and the dance critic Robert Johnson. Tickets cost $10.

When 7:30 p.m.

Where sopacnow.org/events/nai-ni-chen-dance-company


Sunday

Listen to a six-part audio play released as part of the Playwrights Horizons’ fictional podcast anthology, Soundstage. “The MS Phoenix Rising,” a mini-series that looks into the future as the cruise ship industry embarks on its relaunch after a long shutdown, was created by Trish Harnetiaux and Katie Brook and stars the voices of performers like Eric Berryman and Jeremy O. Harris. This podcast is free to stream.

When Anytime

Where playwrightshorizons.org/watch-listen/soundstage/ms-phoenix-rising/

Explore a grand-scale game of telephone in the form of an interactive art exhibit. Each artist involved received a work in the form of poetry, music, film or a visual from another artist and translated that piece into one of their own before continuing the chain. Created with contributions from 950 artists from 479 cities in 70 countries, this game began on March 23 of last year, and after running for more than a year, will be on display as a web of interconnected artworks. This exhibit, presented by the Satellite Collective and in partnership with Crosstown Press, Human Hotel, The Baltimore Review and the Ki Smith Gallery, is free to view.

When Anytime

Where phonebook.gallery/

What to Do This Weekend

Signs of spring.

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Welcome. It’s a weekend of holidays for some: Passover ends, Easter’s on Sunday. Spring break is happening even if spring breakers are staying put. There are signs it’s not forever, though: Vaccinated boomers are partying in Boca. Air travel is getting back to normal in some places. There are deals to be had. Your vaccine card may have its privileges.

In the meantime, there’s this weekend.

Consider music as therapy. The bassist, vocalist and producer Esperanza Spalding worked with music therapists and neuroscientists on a trio of songs, coming on Saturday, “meant to bolster listeners, physically and emotionally.” Here she is performing live in San Sebastián in 2009, to get you in the mood.

WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn” is streaming on Hulu. Pedro Almodóvar’s first English-language film, “The Human Voice,” starring Tilda Swinton, is only in theaters, but the trailer is exciting on its own. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s three-part series on Hemingway starts Monday; here’s an interview with the filmmakers. And you can plan out your whole month with the best stuff coming to the Netflix and the other major streaming platforms. (Justin Theroux’s adaptation of his uncle Paul Theroux’s 1981 novel, “The Mosquito Coast,” on Apple TV+ looks promising.)

If you can, find someplace warm outside to tuck into one of the 11 new books we recommend this week. (Jesse McCarthy’s essay collection, “Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul?,” sounds particularly gripping.) We’ve got five recent classical albums we think you’ll love, reviews of the 2021 Oscar-nominated short films and a roundup of cultural happenings you can attend virtually, like the Joyce Theater’s digital spring season and a Josh Gondelman-hosted Zoom comedy showcase.

And from our Well desk, some resources for tending to your health and family: Check out Perri Klass’s guide to spotting depression in young children. We have some tactics for attending to the grief of the past year. And it turns out what we thought was maskne might be a mask-induced facial rash. (Don’t worry: It’s preventable and treatable).

A reader recommends.

Sam Ferrigno in Houston gets solace and inspiration from the music video for “Tilted,” by Christine and the Queens:

The video makes me move just as much now as when I first saw it five years ago. What never gets old are the dancers’ humble and energetic bursts of movement, and the casual grace with which they fall from and return to the stage. The unassuming charisma of the singer, Chris, carries anguish, humor and strength from beginning to end, and the choreography translates those feelings into a kind of anthem simply saying, “I am here, and I am kicking, and I am falling, and now I am gliding. I am living.”

Don’t miss the finale of Season 2 of “Better Things” wherein some of the cast do their own version of the dance.

Tell us.

Is there one song that encapsulates the past year for you? A song that you’ll forever associate with your time in quarantine? Send it to us, athome@nytimes.com, and we’ll make a playlist of everyone’s tracks. (Mine’s definitely “Fire” by Waxahatchee, a constant accompaniment for me since last March. The line “Tomorrow could feel like a hundred years later” will always remind me of how time seemed to stretch and contract by the hour this year.) As always, more ideas for leading a full and cultured life at home or near it appear below. I’ll see you next week.

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Are Spring Sports Safe for Kids?

Youth sports are ramping up in many parts of the country. But without a vaccine for children, we still need to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

Leila Manuel is rarely without her soccer cleats. The 10 year old does drills at a field near her home on days with no practice and wears her club soccer jacket everywhere.

“She identifies as being an athlete,” said her mother, Solmaz Manuel. “Soccer is her favorite thing.”

For many athletic kids like Leila, the last year of social distancing has meant sidelining not only school and friendships, but also sports. For five months, Leila’s San Francisco team canceled practice altogether. Then it was another six months of no-contact drills.

Last week, though, Leila finally got to scrimmage again — the beginning of what she hopes will be a normal spring season.

Following a year of stops and starts and changing levels of Covid-19 precautions, many youth players are back on the field and court this spring. And the safety measures that teams are taking vary widely.

Earlier this month, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its Covid-19 guidance on returning to sports and physical activity. In this latest version, the guidelines place more emphasis than previous versions on avoiding shared travel and meals, after a joint study by the N.F.L. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed transmission during both.

But most of the advice hasn’t changed: maintain distancing and wear masks when six feet isn’t possible. Disinfect equipment and “prioritize non-contact activity such as conditioning and drills.” And to transition gradually into high-intensity exercise to avoid injury.

So what are coaches and parents doing to keep sports safe this spring? And how are they prioritizing safety without compromising the things that make sports so important: social connection and fitness, but also fun?

The Spectrum of Safety Measures

In San Francisco, Leila’s soccer club, Girls Unite, is taking careful precautions. Coaches, spectators and kids all wear masks, even while playing. Parents are distanced on the sidelines, and players must fill out digital health forms before each practice and game.

“Parents are entrusting me with their children,” said Lindsay Kauffman, Girls Unite’s founding director. “It’s absolutely my responsibility above and beyond any game to make sure their kids are happy and healthy.”

In Frisco, Texas, on the other hand, a Little League game looks no different than it did five years ago, said Andrew Rah, a recreational youth soccer and baseball coach. On his 7-year-old son’s baseball team, all masking and social distancing requirements have been dropped. Parents sit in the bleachers unmasked.

“The feeling around here is that outside is safer than inside and baseball is a totally outside sport,” Rah said. “We’ve been happy with the way sports have been run here, and happy with the normalcy we’ve been able to have compared to a lot of other places.”

There are many factors to consider when making decisions on sports and safety, said Sankar Swaminathan, the chief of the division of infectious diseases at University of Utah Health and a member of the medical advisory committee for the Pac-12 Conference, one of the five major Division I conferences in collegiate sports.

“Where’s the worst place you can be?” Dr. Swaminathan said. “In a small bar with a lot of people without a mask who are talking and singing. And the best place you can be is by yourself on a mountaintop. Every other activity lies somewhere between those two.”

When making decisions about sports and safety, parents and coaches should consider transmission rates in their community, the safety protocols the sports league is taking and whether the activity is outdoors. Consider also the risk to society, including other kids with compromised immunity, he said.

Playing volleyball and soccer outdoors and masked is relatively low risk, Dr. Swaminathan said. Same goes for sports with minimal contact, like cross country, swimming and tennis. Indoor basketball is higher risk, he said, but if people are masked, and there’s no crowding in the showers or locker rooms, that risk goes down.

Creative Approaches to Playing

Eric Worley, co-founder and program director of Philadelphia Youth Basketball and Philly Triple Threat, a sports-based youth development program serving young people from underserved communities, also requires his players to mask up at all times, even on the courts, which are indoors. Early on, players were uncomfortable wearing masks while playing, he said. “But as time has elapsed, it’s become quite normal.”

Last May, all of the gyms in the city that his teams used for practice — in recreation centers, district schools and local college campuses — had been shut down. Leagues in nearby suburbs simply switched to private facilities, but Worley’s organization rented the floor of a armory, converted it into two basketball courts and set up a basketball-themed learning pod, where children complete virtual schooling during the day and play pickup games during breaks.

The armory, located in Philadelphia’s city center, has an open floor for drills and a cargo bay door big enough to allow plenty of ventilation. This season, the space also doubles as a practice space for his six competitive teams.

“I really am a firm believer that sports unite people and bring people together in a way that other things just aren’t able to do,” Worley said. “There are so many things in the sport of basketball that translate to life. Learning how to win and lose and do it in stride. Being part of a team.”

Teams are taking other creative approaches to safety in order to stay active this spring. Kauffman prepares “P.P.E. kits” for all of her soccer coaches to use in practices and games. Kits include extra disposable masks, gloves, disinfectant spray and hand sanitizer.

At GMS Gymnastics in Manassas, Va., the gymnasts, who are separated into pods, carry their personal items around the gym in a milk crate. Using hand-held machines they call “foggers,” coaches sprays a disinfectant mist onto the balance beams, uneven bars and floor mats between pod rotations. Parents aren’t allowed inside at meets, so they watch their kids’ events on Zoom from the parking lot.

‘Let’s Help Them Have Joy’

Al Bazley, president of the West Tampa Little League, in Florida, which reopened this spring for the first time in nearly a year, said he’s seen more financial hardship among families this year than ever before, meaning sponsorships and donations are down. To save money, he personally pressed 250 jerseys rather than rely on third-party vendors.

“The job loss is really gut wrenching,” he said. “It’s hit a lot of people hard.” And while baseball can’t fix their problems, he said, it does provide a sense of normalcy.

It’s the inclusiveness that helps children, Bazley said. “It’s the cheering and the sounds when you go up to bat and you make a good play and all the parents go nuts and you feel this sense of accomplishment.”

Making the game fun is especially important right now, said Kauffman, who occasionally shows up to soccer practice in a tutu and suspenders, just to get the kids laughing.

“We’ve made birthdays a big freaking thing this year,” she said. The kids remain socially distanced while they celebrate, and everyone gets a squirt of hand sanitizer before getting a cupcake. “But also, we’re singing and dancing around the birthday kid. We’re making each kid feel like, ‘We see you.’”

Kauffman encourages parents to have perspective this season and to forget about the wins and losses.

“Let’s just help them have some joy and be active,” she said. “These kids just need fun in their lives right now.”


Jenny Marder is a senior science writer for NASA and a freelance journalist. She was formerly digital managing editor for the PBS NewsHour.

Balancing Caution and Optimism

Can we hold two thoughts in our heads?

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We’re holding two facts in our minds these days: In some places, virus cases are rising; across the U.S., cases are up by about 20 percent from two weeks ago. Meanwhile, people are getting vaccinated, and the CDC has reported that the vaccines are effective. These two realities often seem to be at odds with one another. Virus and vaccine. Caution and optimism. The fact that things are scary, the fact that there is hope.

It’s not easy.

In his 1936 essay “The Crack-Up,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” By now we’ve been at it for 13 months, trying to reconcile the contradictions. We’ve tried to be courageous without getting ahead of the case rate, to make plans while anticipating reversals. Can we acknowledge that this is difficult? That it’s exhausting and that we feel, at times, as Fitzgerald did, like “cracked crockery,” fragile and in need of careful handling?

Some days it’s easier than others. What’s helping me today: Elisabeth Egan on the author Beverly Cleary, who died this week at 104:

“To read Cleary’s books as a child in the 1980s was to feel not just seen, but noticed by a benevolent soul. The country was rebounding from a recession; divorce was on the rise; anti-bullying initiatives were as far in the future as the internet. If you grew up during this time, you may remember an every-kid-for-himself vibe (perfectly captured in ‘E.T.,’ where a 10-year-old boy hides an extraterrestrial in his closet, and his mother is too distracted to notice). Yes, today’s helicopter and tiger parents were once latchkey kids, nuking solitary French bread pizza dinners in the microwave.”

I love Anna Katz’s examination, on Smithsonian Magazine’s website, of the five artists who illustrated Cleary’s most famous character, Ramona Quimby. (Alan Tiegreen’s drawing of Ramona and her sister Beezus trashing the kitchen while making dinner remains especially vivid for me.)

Speaking of cooking, you should read Dorie Greenspan on baked alaska, then make it yourself. Here are seven podcasts you can consume in a single day. Tammy Duckworth has a new memoir, “a book whose contents are far more gripping, gritty and original than its bromide of a title — ‘Every Day Is a Gift’ — might suggest,” wrote Susan Dominus, in her review. And here’s yet another reason to wear a mask: It can help alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms.

A reader recommends.

Mary Duncan, a piano teacher and cat owner in St. Paul, Minn., is getting ready for post-Covid travel.

I’m nurturing a desire to visit Paris by studying French from two sources: Duolingo and Ann Williams’s course on French and French-speaking cultures in The Great Courses. To help the immersion even more, I’ve watched “Call My Agent,” “Emily in Paris” and “Lupin” on Netflix and “Balthazar” on Acorn. Next will be to find a French teacher online through the platform Italki.

P.S.

Tell us.

How are you maintaining equilibrium these days? How do you balance caution and optimism? Write to us: athome@nytimes.com. Include your full name and location and we might use your contribution in a future newsletter. We’re At Home. We’ll read every letter sent. More ideas for leading a full and cultured life at home or near it appear below. I’ll see you on Friday.

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Eating Disorder Symptoms Have Spiked During Covid

Anxiety, disrupted routines and loneliness are fueling people’s food issues as they hunker down during the Covid-19 crisis.

Malinda Ann Hill decided to resume treatment for her eating disorder almost as soon as she shifted to working remotely in March 2020. She knew even before the pandemic that isolation at home would be detrimental to her ongoing recovery from anorexia nervosa. “I had made a really distinct decision not to work from home, so that sent me into a tailspin,” said Ms. Hill, 49, who lives with her daughter in Wynnewood, Pa., and works as an art therapist and bereavement coordinator for a local hospital.

The community and structure of her workplace were helpful for someone who had struggled with disordered eating since her early teens. Sudden loneliness, mounting fears about the unfolding pandemic and a new lack of boundaries between work and home all helped tip off a relapse that Ms. Hill said had already been brewing.

“I thought maybe I should get back into treatment now,” she said. “Because this is going to be bad. And this is going to set off a lot of other people, too.”

Indeed, some doctors, therapists and dietitians who treat eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder, are reporting an overwhelming spike in the need for their services, with waiting lists growing at many practices and treatment centers across the country.

The National Eating Disorders Association reported a 41 percent increase in messages to its telephone and online help lines in January 2021 compared with January 2020. And in a study of about 1,000 American and Dutch people with eating disorders published last July, more than one-third of subjects reported that they were restricting their diet and increasing “compensatory behaviors,” like purging and exercise. Among the Americans, 23 percent also said they would regularly binge-eat stockpiled food.

“I’m seeing more clients, and I’m getting clients who are sicker when they come to me, because we cannot get them access to a higher level of treatment,” said Whitney Trotter, a registered dietitian and nurse in Memphis who provides one-on-one nutritional counseling for adolescents and adults of color with eating disorders. She noted that many in-patient treatment centers are fully booked due to the heightened demand.

The uptick in her practice stems from a mix of relapse cases, like Ms. Hill’s, and disorders that have newly taken hold in the past year. “I’m treating more teenagers, and also more teachers, doctors, nurses and other first responders and essential personnel,” Ms. Trotter said. “An eating disorder can manifest as a trauma response. Our nervous systems were not meant to deal with a long-term pandemic.”

How food scarcity can stoke eating disorders

Early on in the pandemic, fears around grocery store shortages and food access re-triggered some people’s disordered eating. “I found myself lying awake at 3 a.m., thinking, ‘What if there is no more baby food at the store?’” said Aneidys Reyes, 33, a stay-at-home father in Madison, Wis., who had been in eating disorder recovery for more than six years before the pandemic.

Mx. Reyes, who was raised as a girl, said that their eating disorder originally began as a coping strategy for the gender dysphoria they experienced as a teenager. Now that they identify as transgender, the urge to restrict food is less connected to body image anxieties. “It’s weird for me, because it’s not the same old eating disorder,” they said. “But once I’m at a certain level of anxiety, then my brain is like, ‘Do you remember these neuropathways? What if it’s what you’re eating? What if your clothes don’t fit tomorrow?’ All these old, familiar thoughts come back.”

Even after grocery store shortages eased, patients who were being treated for eating disorders struggled with how pandemic rules required them to navigate eating with less professional support. “For a patient who would previously have spent the day at a treatment center having all their meals provided for them, a virtual program requires so much more autonomy than they would have previously had,” said Lauren Muhlheim, a psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles.

Ms. Hill deliberately chose an in-person treatment program, even during the early days of social distancing, because she knew she needed hands-on help making decisions around what and how much to eat. When her program switched to virtual support, she had to think about meal planning again. “Suddenly I had to be in charge of the food,” she said. “They wanted me to have more variety, but I didn’t want to go back to the grocery store. I started having panic attacks.”

Our societal tendency, on social media especially, to demonize quarantine comfort eating and pandemic-related weight gain hasn’t helped. “The pressure to have used the pandemic time to have gotten or kept in shape is a big theme,” said Dr. Muhlheim. Ms. Hill said that “diet culture noise” had felt louder to her in the past year.

Why treating eating disorders over Zoom is harder

The majority of residential eating disorder treatment programs have stayed in-person, but they are typically reserved for patients who need the highest level of care due to the severity of their eating disorder behaviors or related medical complications. The next step down is known as a “partial hospitalization program,” where patients live at home and manage some meals themselves, but attend a mix of individual and group therapy meetings, plus meal support sessions (where eating is monitored so patients cannot restrict food or purge afterward), for anywhere from six to 11 hours a day.

Many such programs, as well as individual outpatient services (where patients have daily or weekly check-ins with a therapist or dietitian), have shifted to a virtual treatment model. In addition to leaving patients to navigate food shopping and meal preparation alone, the virtual model makes meal support sessions trickier. “You can’t tell as well from a camera how much someone is eating,” Dr. Muhlheim said.

Dr. Muhlheim said that she is also concerned about the loss of casual interactions that normally take place between participants in group treatment. “You can only have one conversation at a time on Zoom,” she said. “You can’t just pull someone over to chat, so you lose a lot of that connection.” In fact, in a recent survey of 63 eating disorder patients, 68 percent said they would not choose to continue with online therapy once in-person services resumed.

But some therapists said they are thrilled that virtual services have increased access for patients who would otherwise not be able to travel for treatment. “For my teacher clients, especially, virtual therapy is much more accessible because they can do a session on a planning period or right at the end of the school day,” noted Ms. Trotter, the dietitian. Virtual care can also be more affordable than residential treatment programs.

Sometimes it’s even free. In March of 2020, Diane Summers, a nutrition therapist in Seattle, asked her colleagues if anyone had time to offer no-cost meal support via Instagram Live. “I was kind of hoping for maybe two or three people a day to go live,” she said. “But we were just flooded with willingness to be a part of the project.” Therapists and dietitians signed up in every time zone, enabling the account (@covid19eatingsupport) to offer live meal support 24 hours a day for several months of the pandemic.

When teens fixate on restrictive eating

Teenagers have been particularly vulnerable to developing eating disorders during the pandemic, both because adolescence is already the most common time for such struggles to emerge and because of the added pressures they face now. “It’s a combination of the loss of structure, the loss of peer connections and the loss of their usual activities,” Dr. Muhlheim said. “They have all this time and they decide to focus on an exercise program, or maybe it feels like running is the only thing they can really still do. But we know exercise is a huge trigger.”

That’s how it started for Lily, a 16-year-old high school sophomore in Los Angeles who said that body image anxieties weren’t a big part of her life until the pandemic. “I don’t think weight loss was ever on my mind at all,” she said. “It was more of, ‘I love running, I have all this time, so why not push myself and see how far I can run?’” She began working out every day to fill the time previously occupied by school and team sports. “Lily is super book smart and school comes easily to her, so she’s had a lot of extra time,” with the switch to remote learning, her mom, Nikki, explained. (The family asked to use only their first names to protect Lily’s privacy.)

After a few weeks of intensive exercise, Nikki noticed that Lily was eating less at family meals, too. “I wasn’t necessarily skipping meals, but I was trying to eat less meat and dessert and more vegetables,” Lily said. “I thought I was being healthy.” But she also became more fixated on her weight and further curbed her eating.

In those who are vulnerable to eating disorders, even unintentionally dipping into a negative energy balance, which happens when you expend more energy than you consume in calories, can trigger the rigid, restrictive mindset that is the hallmark of most eating disorders, said Dr. Kenisha Campbell, director of adolescent medicine outpatient clinical services at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“Eating disorders are brain disorders because the brain cannot function without appropriate nutrition. So once the ‘eating disorder brain’ is in control, they can’t make any decisions around eating,” explained Dr. Campbell, who specializes in eating disorder treatment. “We have to feed the brain, so the brain can fight the eating disorder.”

By December, Lily often felt dizzy and had developed a resting heart rate of 40 beats per minute, which was dangerously low for her. She was put on bed rest by her family doctor, and a psychologist prescribed an intensive family-based treatment in which her parents planned meals and monitored everything she ate. On tough days, it felt like the whole family was trapped in the house with her eating disorder, Nikki said.

Lily knows that once going out for dinner or getting ice cream with friends is again an option, she’ll be presented with more challenges than she currently has when eating in the safety of her own home. “It doesn’t feel like I have to miss out on things because of my eating disorder,” she said. “I’m missing out on everything because of the pandemic.”


Virginia Sole-Smith is the author of “The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image and Guilt in America,” and writes the newsletter Burnt Toast.

Your Pandemic Baby’s Coming Out Party

Haven’t seen your family in a while? Have a grandchild you’ve never met? Visiting may be awkward at first but you can get through it.

No one in Deena Al Mahbuba’s family has met her daughter, Aara. She was born at the end of 2019, extremely premature. By the time Aara left the hospital for her home outside Boston in mid-June, the world was already months into Covid-19 lockdowns. Ms. Mahbuba’s close relatives, along with her husband’s, all live in Bangladesh. The couple moved from there in 2013.

Family members have done their best to stay connected, but Ms. Mahbuba, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wishes her relatives were nearby. Her older siblings have kids of their own and could help her soothe Aara when she’s sleepless.

Or they could show her how they introduced foods to their own babies; Aara, now 15 months old, struggles with new foods after having been tube-fed in her early life. Ms. Mahbuba also hopes Aara will learn to speak Bengali, but worries she needs exposure to the language from people besides her parents.

“Sometimes I feel really sad,” Ms. Mahbuba said. “I feel like there is a gap happening, and sometimes I worry this gap is going to be stretched out day by day.”

Even grandparents, aunts or uncles in the same country as babies born during Covid-19 have been kept away by travel restrictions and other precautions. Darby Saxbe, an associate professor at the University of Southern California, said her lab started following 760 expectant parents in the spring of 2020 to study their mental health, social connection and other factors. In open-ended survey responses, many participants reported that they hadn’t been able to see extended family.

The first pandemic babies are becoming toddlers this spring, which means entire infancies have passed while children and their parents were isolated from their loved ones. Even as families mourn the missed cuddles, though, experts say the gap isn’t likely to have any long-term effects. Kids and their relatives can make up for lost time when they reunite. In the meantime, families can take steps to keep those missing relatives present in a child’s mind.

Reaching Across the Gap

Infancy is an important window of time for bonding, said Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, an Ohio State University child psychology professor, and not just because it’s your only chance to catch those squishy cheeks and sniffable heads. “Infancy is the period during which children are biologically predisposed to form close relationships with important caregivers,” Dr. Schoppe-Sullivan said.

This is an element of attachment theory, an area of psychology research that’s been around for several decades. (Not to be confused with attachment parenting, a philosophy from the 1980s that espouses a whole lot of baby-wearing.) Studies suggest that babies are primed to bond tightly with one or more caregivers. Once a child has a strong attachment to someone, that person becomes a “secure base,” the theory goes. The child looks to that person for reassurance in moments of distress. In calmer times, secure attachments give kids confidence to explore and learn from their environments.

But relatives who miss this window don’t need to worry, Dr. Schoppe-Sullivan said. The theory says that when infants form secure attachments, they’re also forming the capacity for relationships in the future. That means the bonds parents have built with their babies during coronavirus-induced isolation may help those babies connect with relatives who live far away — whenever they finally visit.

And today’s infants and toddlers won’t recall these absences. The older siblings of the pandemic babies may not remember a gap in visits from Nana, either. Because of what’s known as childhood amnesia, most people remember few events that occur before age 3 or so. Even though grandparents may be grieving for the milestones they missed this year, “The child will not remember who attended their first or second birthday party,” said Lorinda Kiyama, a psychologist and associate professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology.

As an American living in Japan, Dr. Kiyama often counsels couples who come from different countries or international couples who are adopting a Japanese child. She pointed out that separation from relatives isn’t always a bad thing. “The distance is often a relief when relationships are fraught,” she said. However, “it can be agonizing when you want to be close.”

She suggested building familiarity by talking about absent relatives while pointing to photos of them. Babies as young as nine months may be able to recognize an object they’ve seen in a picture. And even if children seem too young to grasp what you’re saying, Dr. Kiyama said, they usually understand more language than they can produce.

With a parent’s help, a distant family member can use video chat to play peekaboo, sing songs with a child, do pretend play, or show off their pets. (And don’t worry if you’re trying to limit screen time: The American Academy of Pediatrics says video chatting doesn’t count.)

Ms. Mahbuba uses FaceTime to keep Aara in touch with her family in Bangladesh, though the time difference is a challenge. When Aara is alert and playful after her nap, it’s 2 a.m. for her grandparents.

Ms. Mahbuba said the enforced separation of the pandemic has given some of her friends and co-workers a window into what her life is like as an immigrant living far from her family. “They kind of understand now how it feels to be stuck,” she said.

Jumping the Gap

When long-absent family members finally get to meet those babies — or toddlers — it will be important to take their time building a relationship, said Carola Suárez-Orozco, a professor of counseling psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, who has studied the effects of family separation on immigrant children. “Help the adults slow it down when they first encounter the baby.”

First, prime relatives for some amount of rejection from the child, Dr. Suárez-Orozco said. From a child’s point of view, “They’re meeting strangers.” Although younger infants might happily go from one set of arms to another, stranger anxiety develops by eight months or so. This fear of new people usually lasts well into the child’s second year.

“If a child is reluctant to hug an extended family member they just met, that should be seen as a healthy sign,” Dr. Kiyama said.

She suggested preparing toddlers for meeting relatives by using toys or stuffed animals to act out scenes like picking them up from the airport. You could also keep an empty chair at your kitchen table, or leave out a bath towel or other object, and tell the child it’s going to be Grandma’s when she visits, Dr. Kiyama said.

Older toddlers, or preschool-aged siblings who will be seeing relatives after a long absence, might like practicing what they’re going to say. “Give the child a script to follow, with some variations for flexibility,” Dr. Kiyama said. Or share memories of that relative from your own childhood.

For grown-ups who are connecting or reconnecting with a toddler or preschooler, parents are an important source of information, Dr. Schoppe-Sullivan said. Parents can help relatives get on a kid’s good side by updating them on the child’s temperament, interests and weird obsessions of the moment.

“From the emotional point of view of the adults, they have connected to an abstraction. They haven’t been bonding in those moment-to-moment interactions,” Dr. Suárez-Orozco said. In her study of immigrant children who had been apart from their parents for months or years — a much more extreme form of separation than what most families face during the pandemic — she saw that family reunifications were usually “messy.”

Even so, Dr. Suárez-Orozco and her co-authors wrote, the psychological distress these children felt after reuniting gradually ebbed, showing the “extraordinary adaptability and resilience of youth.”

Now that Ms. Mahbuba’s family in Bangladesh is in the process of getting their vaccines, she’s looking forward to her own reunion. Her mother-in-law is planning to come to the United States to help out with the baby, and Ms. Mahbuba can’t wait. “The day will come. Hopefully,” she said.

The gladness that parents feel to finally see their absent relatives will be one of the most important factors in helping a child warm up, Dr. Schoppe-Sullivan said. “Do things that are fun and that make them laugh. I think that makes a big impression on kids.”

Dr. Kiyama agreed. Young children are highly sensitive to how their caregivers feel about other people, she said. The best way to help kids accept a new family member? “Genuine joy in each other’s presence.”

Elizabeth Preston is a Boston-area science journalist and mom to a preschooler and a pandemic baby.

Behind Closed Doors, ‘the Difficulty and the Beauty’ of Pandemic Hospice Work

“I did not really understand when people would ask, ‘Why me and why my family?’” a hospice chaplain said. “Now I was asking the same questions.”

Hanane Saoui is used to death. Sudden deaths and slow deaths. Painful deaths and peaceful deaths.

This year was different.

The coronavirus pandemic dramatically changed Ms. Saoui’s work as a home hospice nurse in New York. Safety precautions created a physical distance between her and her patients and even cut some of her hospice colleagues off from their clients’ homes altogether last year. It deprived families and caretakers of ways to grieve together, and confronted hospice workers, however familiar with death, with a staggering scale of loss.

Through all the pressures, Ms. Saoui and other workers continued to provide solace and even moments of happiness to dying patients and their families.

Hanane Saoui, a home hospice nurse in Queens, meeting with her colleagues on a video call while in her car.
Hanane Saoui, a home hospice nurse in Queens, meeting with her colleagues on a video call while in her car.James Estrin/The New York Times

“You sit down and you listen,” she said. “They express their fear, they express their emotions, and you guide them and tell them what to expect.” After a patient dies, she added, “I often want to hug the family members, but I cannot do that now.”

Instead, Ms. Saoui said, “I pray and do the best I can.”

More than half a million Americans have died from the coronavirus, and many have died in pain, isolated from their families. Ms. Saoui contrasted those conditions with what she called a good death: “peaceful, pain-free, at home and surrounded by their loved ones.”

While nurses have continued in-person home visits, some chaplain, social work and therapy sessions moved online because families preferred it. By August, most of that care switched back to in-person visits but with strict precautions, including wearing full P.P.E. at times and keeping six feet apart whenever possible.

Ms. Saoui examining Pedro Torres, while his wife, Gloria, and his son, Darron, look on.James Estrin/The New York Times

Though a vast majority of Ms. Saoui’s patients in the last year did not have the coronavirus when they entered hospice, challenging restrictions have been placed on all patients and caregivers. Home hospice care can last for many months, and workers often develop close relationships with patients and their families.

But the pandemic has meant fewer occasions for families — and hospice workers — to mourn together in person at funerals or memorial services. For over a year, the size of those gatherings has been strictly limited by many states to try to stem the spread of the virus.

Nurse Hanane Saoui visits Diane Wilcox at her home in Queens.James Estrin/The New York Times

When hospice patients die, their caretakers often work through their own grief and loss in weekly staff meetings and gatherings with colleagues who shared the same client. These staff meetings are now online, but the loss of being able to hold each other and shed tears together has deeply affected hospice workers, said Melissa Baguzis, a social worker who specializes in pediatric cases. She has developed her own ways to handle the loss of her young patients.

“I take a moment, light a candle and read their favorite book or listen to their favorite song,” she said. “I have my own time for them. We do become connected with their families, but when I’m in their houses, that is their grief and I’m going to support them. I need to process my own loss outside of that.”

A nurse, Ozail Bennett, dressing in protective equipment before going to see a home hospice patient that has the coronavirus. Mr. Bennett also contracted the virus last April.James Estrin/The New York Times

The hospice workers in the MJHS Health System, a nonprofit that covers New York and Nassau County, are comfortable around death in a way that many Americans are not. But the pandemic has put an extra weight on them and their patients, Ms. Baguzis said. “We all share in each other’s grief now more than ever,” she said.

The Rev. Christopher Sigamoney, an Episcopal priest who is a hospice chaplain, said he has tried to be there for his patients “even with their frustration, anger, hopelessness, depression and anxiety.”

Father Christopher Sigamoney talks with Joseph Lai.James Estrin/The New York Times

He often told patients’ family members that it was “OK to be angry at God” over the loss of their loved one. But he said that the death of a beloved cousin from the coronavirus had changed his understanding of his work.

Father Sigamoney and his family were unable to be with his cousin, a retired doctor visiting from India, during the three days while she was on a ventilator in the hospital at the end of her life. He and a handful of relatives said “a few prayers” in the funeral home, he said, but they were unable to have a “proper burial” or ship the body home to India because of virus restrictions.

Father Christopher Sigamoney prays with patient Diane Wilcox at her home in Queens.James Estrin/The New York Times

“I did not really understand when people would ask, ‘Why me and why my family?’” he said of the time before his cousin’s death. “Now I was asking the same questions. I said to God, ‘Now I’m angry at you, and I hope you can forgive me.’” Father Sigamoney said he was slowly recovering through prayer and helping his patients.

Last month, Josniel Castillo was hooked up to a battery of medical machines and monitors, surrounded by his parents and a multitude of stuffed animals, as Javier Urrutia, a music therapist, and Ms. Baguzis entered his cramped bedroom. Despite his declining medical condition because of a rare genetic disease, this was a happy day. It was Josniel’s 11th birthday.

Mr. Urrutia launched into “Las Mañanitas,” a traditional Mexican birthday song. Josniel’s mother and father, Yasiri Caraballo and Portirio Castillo, joined in. Ms. Caraballo wiped away tears. They were, she said, “tears of joy” because she had not expected her son would live to be 11.

She requested another tune, and played tambourine as Mr. Urrutia launched into “Que Bonita Es Esta Vida.” They sang the final chorus together, part of which can translate to:

Oh, this life is so beautiful

Though it hurts so much sometimes

And in spite of its sorrows

There’s always someone who loves us, someone who takes care of us.

Afterward, Mr. Urrutia said most people are “unaware of what’s happening behind closed doors, both the difficulty and the beauty.”

Melissa Baguzis, a MJHS hospice social worker, visiting Josniel Castillo on his 11th birthday.James Estrin/The New York Times

This year in countless homes, there has been “a lot of pain and suffering, it cannot be denied,” he said. But in hospice work, he said, “you also see all of the heroes out there doing the simple things of life, caring for each other. The husband taking care of his wife or the mother taking care of her son.”

“Dying is a part of life,” he added. “Only living things die.”

Write a Golden Shovel Poem

A form called the Golden Shovel honors the poet Gwendolyn Brooks, and you just need a newspaper to get started.

Celebration and honor are two touchstones of the poetic tradition. With April’s National Poetry Month approaching, let’s write a poem in honor of another poem, and another poet.

Say hello to the golden shovel.

The golden shovel is a contemporary poetic form that follows a set of rules invented by the acclaimed poet Terrance Hayes in homage to Gwendolyn Brooks, the former poet laureate and the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize. When Mr. Hayes created his poem, “The Golden Shovel,” originally published in his 2010 collection “Lighthead,” it was inspired by Brooks’s classic, and the name of his form came from her poem’s epigraph, “The Pool Players./Seven at the Golden Shovel.” Mr. Hayes’s created his poetic form in honor of a poet he deeply respects, and also in honor of something he does in many of his poems, play.

Poetry is very much about play. That is the joy of writing a poem and of being a poet. As Brooks herself once said: “Words can do wonderful things. They pound, purr. They can urge, they can wheedle, whip, whine. They can sing, sass, singe.”

Poets are always celebrating one another, as all poems are really inspired by other poems. You are going to do the same thing: Use what has come before you as inspiration to create your own golden shovel. In doing so, you too, are honoring Gwendolyn Brooks, one line at a time.

So, what exactly is the golden shovel?

It’s a poem that takes a line from another poem or text (often a Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem, but not always) and uses each word in that line as the end of a line in the poem. For this poem, you will be using a headline from the newspaper as your line.

In honor of this poetic form, think about focusing your poem on the notion of “celebration” or “honor.” What do you celebrate in your life? What do you honor?

Here’s how to do it:

Be Picky. Search the paper for a headline of five or more words that speaks to you; you might cut out a few, so that you have options. Each word in the headline will be the final word of a line in your poem, so the length of your composition is dictated by the headline you choose.

Examine. Spread your headlines out before you and examine them. Which ones have the most potential? When you look at them, can you already imagine where those end words might take you? Pick one.

Credit. Be sure to write down the author of the article your headline came from, as well as the date of the issue. You will need to give credit to that writer at the bottom of your poem. (The poem above is drawn from an article by Jason Zinoman in the March 14 print edition of The New York Times.)

Layout. Cut out your words and place them on a piece of paper at the end of each line in the order in which they originally appeared, following the pattern in the poem above.

Write. You are ready to write or type your poem (you might want to do this on scratch paper). Each line must end with your end word, but your actual sentence can flow over into the next line, though the final word of each line should feel like some kind of ending. In the poem above, for example, the first line ends with “aching,” which corresponds to the first word of the selected headline. See if you can include a simile, a metaphor or maybe some imagery to evoke the five senses. Do you want your poem to “pound” or “purr” on the page? Then, focus on sound and musicality. Have fun with this.

Ta-Da! Write in your poem (or print it out and place each of your end words with its line). Congratulations, you’ve written a golden shovel. If the form intrigues you, check out “The Golden Shovel Anthology,” published by the University of Arkansas Press.

Virtual Concerts to Watch

Looking for signs of a return to normal? Sitting back to enjoy a live-music performance might be a good place to start.

The performing arts have endured a year like no other, but the decimation of touring and in-person shows has in no way squelched music fans’ love of a live performance. And in many ways, the pandemic has yielded creative new ways for artists to engage with their listeners.

Since March 2020, for example, the wildly popular Instagram Live series Verzuz, created by Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, has recruited some of the biggest names in rap, hip-hop and R&B for nostalgia-driven battles. Highlighting their musical oeuvres and mimicking D.J. battles, each artist plays a song, then their opponent follows with one of their own works, chosen with the intention of one-upping. Engaged audiences argue passionately about the victor. (In a testament to their popularity and relevance, the voting rights activist Stacey Abrams appeared on a November show featuring the Atlanta artists Gucci Mane and Jeezy to promote voting in the Georgia Senate runoffs.)

At the same time that small concerts with socially distanced audiences are gradually beginning to return, livestream musical events allow the unvaccinated and those across the country to take part in intimate shows from some great artists. Here is a selection of performances in the coming week that are worthy of a festival lineup, but with a comfortable front-row seat guaranteed.

March 30

Pandora LIVE Powered by Women

Pandora is honoring Women’s History Month with a streamed all-female event, hosted by Hoda Kotb, which will include performances by Jazmine Sullivan and Gwen Stefani. They will also sit down with the fellow artists Becky G and Lauren Alaina for a round-table discussion on issues facing women in music. 9 p.m. Eastern, free for Pandora members; pandoralivepoweredbywomen.splashthat.com/PR

April 2

Blind Boys of Alabama Easter Weekend Special

The Grammy-winning gospel group will perform a Good Friday show to celebrate the Easter holiday with a slate of new and old hits. The ensemble began performing in the late ’30s — its first members were children attending the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind — and since then there has been a rotating roster of band members, many of whom are visually impaired. The socially distanced, in-person show, held at Nashville’s City Winery, will be livestreamed. 9 p.m. Eastern, tickets start at $18; boxoffice.mandolin.com

April 3

Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle, “Woofstock at the Winery”

Steve Earle, who was recently featuted on a cover of “The Times They Are A-Changin’” to benefit Feeding America, will perform live with the country-music icon and avid dog-rescuer Emmylou Harris. Filmed at City Winery Nashville, the performance will benefit the animal charities Crossroads Campus and Bonaparte’s Retreat a canine-rescue initiative founded by Ms. Harris and located on her property. 9 p.m. EST, tickets $15; form.jotform.com/210543759066156

April 4

Dionne Warwick At Home With You

The legendary songstress has had a very busy past year, increasing her fan base by becoming a must-read on Twitter, appearing on the third season of “The Masked Singer” (she was disguised as a mouse) and popping up for a guest appearance on the Gladys Knight vs. Patti LaBelle Verzuz battle. Ms. Warwick, who was nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in February, will be performing two virtual shows on Easter Sunday, plus another two on Mother’s Day. She is also expected to resume touring in October. 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. EST, tickets $20, boxoffice.mandolin.com/pages/dionnewarwick

April 4

Verzuz: Isley Brothers vs. Earth, Wind & Fire

The Verzuz battles have become one of the singular joys of quarantine Following the esteemed pairings of Snoop Dogg and DMX, and Alicia Keys and John Legend, the Isley Brothers and Earth, Wind & Fire will appear in the next round of the beloved series, the first time that two bands have duked it out on the series. 8 p.m. EST, free to view on Instagram Live @verzuztv or on Triller.

Return to the Dining Table

Have you been “zombie eating” during the pandemic? If you put down your phone or turn off the TV, you might enjoy your food a bit more.

If you have found yourself over the past year increasingly eating dinner in front of the TV, or scrolling endlessly through your phone over breakfast, you certainly are not alone.

“Quarantine permissiveness” is what Susan Albers, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and a best-selling author who focuses on mindful eating, calls the nearly universal phenomenon of allowing yourself bad habits during the pandemic.

But it may be time to consider a return to the table.

It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate, but setting a nice table can encourage you to sit down and eat with your family, roommates or even solo with a good book.

“Eating should be an experience and something you enjoy,” Dr. Albers said. “You don’t have to take a lot of time to eat, but when you do it, give it your full attention.” That means putting your phone away and sitting at the table.

“Your phone should not be your dining companion,” said Dr. Albers, who calls that familiar habit of eating with one hand and scrolling with the other “zombie eating.” But she acknowledges that sitting at the table instead of in front of the TV, or eating without scrolling on your phone can feel like daunting tasks, because “it’s hard to unlink those two behaviors when you’ve done them day after day.” This can be especially difficult if you’re working from home during the pandemic, or if you feel that eating on the sofa while binge-watching a show is a sort of reward for making it through another hard day.

The good news is that sitting down and eating meals at the table doesn’t have to be a chore. When you reframe mealtimes as special parts of the day, a time to connect with loved ones or to unwind alone, they become something to look forward to.

Fallon Carter, an event planner based in New York City, recently bought a new dining table. She has found that sitting down to proper meals during the pandemic has been a great way to connect with herself. “When you set the space and set the zone,” she said, “you can turn any place into something special,” she said.

Nothing about dining at a table has to be fussy, but a little effort can go a long way toward making the experience enjoyable. Ms. Carter added a floral arrangement to her dining table, with flowers she bought at Trader Joe’s. “It wasn’t a big lift,” she said, laughing, but it made the space feel more inviting. She also suggests using cloth napkins and proper glassware and acquiring a set of dishes that you really love.

Many people have leaned into cooking during the pandemic, and setting the table is a great way to honor the work that goes into preparing a meal. Even if you prefer takeout or microwave dinners, the advantages of setting a table still apply. No matter how you get your meal, you can always transfer it to proper dishes.

There are lots of good reasons to sit at the table for meals, but don’t stress yourself out. Meals are meant to be enjoyed. Ms. Fallon suggests even getting a little fancy with your table if you want.

“Don’t save the good stuff! You deserve the good stuff. We’ve been in a pandemic!”

5 easy steps to make mealtimes special:

Set the table with cloth napkins, flatware, glassware and dishes that you love.

Add candles, flowers or something decorative

Keep the TV off and your phone and laptop in another room.

Sit with your feet on the floor and your back against the chair (as you would in a restaurant).

Relax and enjoy your food!

Save Money at the Store

Food is pleasure and connection for most of us. Staying within your budget can bring peace of mind and keep your overall spending on track.

How do you spend the right amount on food?

According to an online survey of more than 1,000 people by LendingTree and Qualtrics published in October, weekly household grocery bills in the United States were up 17 percent on average last year compared with before the pandemic. Thirty-one percent of the respondents said that they “almost always overspend” at the grocery store.

Regardless of how large or small your food budget, staying within it can bring peace of mind and keep your overall spending on track. Whether you want to establish a food budget for the first time, or you want to get back to one, here are strategies to save money in your kitchen and at the grocery store.

Adam Glanzman for The New York Times

Plan simple meals, light on meat and dairy.

Cooking does not have to mean hovering over a stove for hours or complex meal plans. Cooking is sautéing some garlic in oil then adding canned tomatoes instead of opening a jar of pasta sauce. In addition to saving money, you will also have more control over your health. Meat and dairy are costly, so plan more meals that use them for flavor rather than bulk, enjoy more vegetables and fruit in their many affordable forms, and keep meals simple so you don’t burn out on cooking.

Rely on cheap, flexible staples.

Consider inexpensive staples like rice, pasta, oats, bread, canned and dried beans, canned tomatoes and eggs: How do they already play a role in your routine? Then think about what you can easily procure. You should discover a solid Venn diagram revealing the meals you can make more often; start stocking up on the basics that form their foundations. (Store-brand or cheaper versions of these staples can be found by looking to the bottom or top of store shelves. See what savings you find.) As you get more comfortable, take it further. If you normally enjoy a rice dish with lamb and sausage, can you try chickpeas and half the sausage this week? Cheap staples are a starting point, not a cage.

Embrace vegetables: fresh, frozen and canned.

If you begin to use meat and dairy more sparingly, rely on vegetables and fruits to add flavor. It can sound expensive or work intensive to eat more produce, but that’s not a certainty. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables don’t have to be lower quality. Canned squash is puréed and ready to make a silky soup at half the cost and effort of a fresh squash. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often already chopped without the markup you see on pre-cut fresh versions.

And no matter how careful a meal planner you are, you’ll have times when something you bought with the best of intentions is past its prime. Find a recipe that calls for you to throw just about anything into it, like a soup, stew or stir-fry. Think of leftovers and past-prime produce as an asset rather than a burden.

Tim Gruber for The New York Times

Choose versatility by purchasing the basics.

You can save money by eating a smaller variety of food in a given week, but if you stick to the versatile stuff it won’t get monotonous. Cut out single-use items unless they’re important to you (keep the hot sauce). A cake mix is limited and comes at higher cost, whereas flour, sugar and baking soda hold boundless possibility. Single-serving yogurts cost more and can be eaten only as is, whereas plain yogurt can be eaten for breakfast with a swirl of honey, made into a sauce, baked into a tea cake or added to smoothies.

Let the seasons be an inspiration.

When planning your food shopping, stay open to the changes of the seasons to create natural variety and liveliness without added cost. Fruits and vegetables are usually less costly in season — think of those midsummer four-for-a-dollar deals on corn on the cob. If you have the space and time, freeze or can the bounty. But don’t think you have to plan hundreds of new menus every time the wind changes. Let the seasons be an inspiration, not a burden.

Limit packaged snacks.

If you snack between — or instead of — meals, remember that packaged snacks get expensive. This goes for drinks too. Limiting prepared snacks and drinks can be one of the quickest routes to a grocery bill that lets you breathe easy. If you need guidance to pare it down, think about your pleasure-to-versatility ratio. Kombucha isn’t all that versatile, but it may be your only way to get through the long afternoons. Plan around that if you can.

But keep the treats.

For some, the pleasure of saving money itself is enough; the absence of worry creates motivation to continue. Food is pleasure and connection for most of us. So don’t budget pleasure out of the picture. If you used to have dessert and a glass of wine with a friend on Friday evenings, consider an inexpensive replacement, like a piece of chocolate and a cup of chamomile tea.

Leanne Brown is the author of Good and Cheap and Good Enough (January 2022).

Naturally Dye Your Easter Eggs

Using ingredients straight from your kitchen, these dyed Easter eggs make a fun and festive way to celebrate.

Egg decorating is a festive activity that celebrates the arrival of spring, a season of renewal. The egg, an ancient symbol of rebirth and new life, has a long and storied history tied to holidays and seasonal celebrations around the world, including Easter. In fact, if you’ve hand-dyed eggs, then you have, perhaps unknowingly, participated in one of the oldest known decorative art forms. In 2010, archaeologists in South Africa discovered engraved ostrich eggs dating back around 60,000 years. Since then, eggs have been decorated in every way imaginable, including traditional pysanky (Ukrainian Easter egg decoration) and arts-and-craft inspired decoupage eggs.

This tutorial keeps things simple and relies on natural ingredients, which result in rich, jewel-toned dyes that cover the egg in a wash of color but also let the shell’s speckled beauty show through. Drawing on spring’s color palette for inspiration — from robin’s egg blue to daffodil yellow — the dye recipes shared here require little more than a few kitchen ingredients and a bit of patience.

These dyes are not fast-working like their commercial counterparts; the eggs need to soak for a few hours at a minimum. To achieve the vibrant colors shown here, you must soak your eggs overnight. If you prefer more pastel tones, a shorter soak is effective. Keep in mind that this is not an exact science — colors will vary greatly depending on a number of factors, including the color of your eggs’ shells and the amount of time you soak them for.

Christine Chitnis for The New York Times

Materials

Natural dye ingredients, such as

  • 3 cups of yellow onion skins from roughly 8-10 onions

  • 3 cups of red cabbage, roughly chopped

  • 3 tablespoons ground turmeric

  • 3 cups of beets, chopped

  • 3 cups frozen blueberries

  • 3 tablespoons hibiscus loose-leaf tea

1.5 quarts water per dye ingredient

12 tablespoons white vinegar

2 dozen white or brown eggs, or both, hard-boiled

To create a dye bath, combine a single natural dye ingredient (listed above) with one and a half quarts of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat to low and simmer for roughly 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool before straining the liquid into a large glass jar or bowl. Avoid using stoneware as the dye can stain. Compost or dispose of the solids. Stir two teaspoons of white vinegar into the dye.

Repeat these instructions for each of the dye ingredients in separate pots, or use the same pot washed thoroughly after each preparation.

Christine Chitnis for The New York Times
Christine Chitnis for The New York Times

To dye the eggs, add a single layer of hard-boiled eggs to a jar or baking dish, and pour the dye over them until they are completely submerged. For soft, pastel colors, allow the eggs to soak for two to three hours; for vibrant, richer colors, place the dye bath of eggs in the fridge and allow them to soak overnight. You can experiment with the vibrancy of the dye by giving the eggs multiple soaks in the dye, but just be sure to dry them in between soaks. You can also dip the eggs in different baths to achieve different colors; the purple eggs resulted from dyeing the eggs in the beet dye, and later, in the cabbage dye.

To remove the eggs from the dye, it’s best to use a slotted spoon. The key is to remove them gently and allow them to dry completely before you handle them — the dye can rub off or streak if you handle or wash the eggs before they are dry. Use a cooling rack or empty egg carton for drying.

As long as the eggs are properly refrigerated and stored according to food safety guidelines, they are perfectly safe to eat for up to a week, and the dyes leave no discernible flavor.

Christine Chitnis for The New York Times

Closing the Social Distance

After a year spent social distancing, mask wearing and sheltering in place, the prospect of readjusting to in-person social engagements can be a daunting one.

As the days grow warmer and vaccination shots reach more arms, you may be looking ahead to getting out and about. An Axios-Ipsos poll released this month found that “the number of Americans engaging in social interactions outside the home is increasing.” And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued new recommendations that individuals who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus can start to gather in small groups, without masks, offering a measure of hope in particular to those who have missed the intimacy of double dates and dinner parties.

But after a year spent internalizing public health precautions for social distancing and mask-wearing, the prospect of readjusting to in-person social engagements may be a daunting one. For many, it provokes a sense of profound discomfort, apprehension or ambivalence.

“It’s a new version of anxiety,” said Dr. Lucy McBride, an internist in Washington who writes a newsletter about managing the coronavirus crisis. You may discover that your continuing concerns about the virus are colliding with a new set of worries about seeing others more regularly: What am I comfortable with? How do I act? What do I say?

“There’s two feelings that are continuing to exist for me,” said Allison Harris-Turk, 46, an events and communications consultant and mother of three in San Diego. Mrs. Harris-Turk created the Facebook group Learning in the Time of Corona, where many among the roughly 16,700 members are discussing the pros and cons of re-entry. “There’s the excitement and the optimism and the hope, and then there’s also the grief and the trauma and ‘oh, my goodness, how are we going to recover from this?’”

Here’s how some individuals and experts are starting to think about closing the social distance.

Start small.

Though you may be chafing at the confines of the lockdown, remember that it’s still not entirely safe to resume social activities as before. Across most of the country, the risk of coronavirus transmission remains high.

If you’re wary of re-entry, begin with a lower-stakes outing. “It’s like little baby steps getting back into it,” said Dr. David Hilden, a Minneapolis-based internist who hosts a weekly radio show during which he answers listeners’ pandemic questions. He’s observed this firsthand: Earlier this month, he met up with a friend to share a beer for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. “Now that we’ve dipped our toe in the water, a lot of Zoom meetings end with, ‘Hey, I think we can get together now,’” he said.

Understand that hanging out might take more effort.

After receiving her first shot of a coronavirus vaccine, Aditi Juneja, a New York-based lawyer, expected to feel the same flood of relief that some of her peers had described after getting theirs. While on the phone with a friend, she started to consider future late nights and travel to far-off destinations. “I was like, ‘Man, I want to dance on bars,’” Ms. Juneja, 30, said. “There was a euphoria about imagining the possibilities.”

But after 10 minutes, she found even the fantasy versions of these scenarios exhausting. The reality can be, too; she described the sensory overload and disorientation she felt while dining outdoors with a friend for the first time in months. “I think our ability to take inputs has really lowered,” Ms. Juneja said.

This is especially true for individuals suffering from social anxiety, for whom the lockdowns have offered some relief, and for whom reopening presents new stressors. But even extroverts may experience an adjustment period as our brains adapt to planning and monitoring responses to unfamiliar situations. At the beginning of the pandemic, people had to change their behaviors to comply with social distancing, mask-wearing and sheltering in place. But learning those new behaviors — and now, relearning old ones — can take a cognitive toll.

“Social settings are particularly demanding,” said David Badre, the author of the book “On Task: How Our Brain Gets Things Done” and a professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown University. “When we have to really focus and plan what we’re doing, that comes with an experience of mental effort,” he continued. “It feels like a mental fatigue.”

There is good news, however: You’ll most likely find it easier to relearn old behaviors than learn entirely new ones. “The key is to not avoid that effort,” Dr. Badre said. “By re-engaging, you will get used to it again.”

Set boundaries for yourself.

Though the past month has seen a spate of reopenings across the country, some scenarios might still set off a siren in your head. And because these facilities are open, doesn’t mean you need to go.

But what if a friend or family member does want to see a movie, or dine out? If you express disagreement over what is safe, you might feel as though you are implying your companions are less responsible or unethical.

Sunita Sah, a professor at University of Cambridge and Cornell University has researched this phenomenon, which she calls “insinuation anxiety.” In studies, Dr. Sah has found that patients frequently follow medical advice from their doctor even if they believe their doctor to have a conflict of interest, and that job candidates often answer interview questions they know are illegal to ask. These reactions come partly out of concern that to disagree would suggest the other person — the doctor or the job interviewer — is not trustworthy.

A similar situation can play out if you’re confronted with someone whose attitude toward public-health protocols differs from your own. Dr. Sah’s research has shown that when individuals have the opportunity to weigh their decisions in private, they are less likely to experience this anxiety and do something that makes them uncomfortable. She recommended writing down the boundaries that you would like to adhere to and taking time before agreeing to someone else’s plan.

“Assess your own risk level and comfort,” Dr. Sah said, “so you’re very clear about what you would and would not like to do.” This will also provide you with a clear document of how your comfort levels are changing over time as you readjust.

Brace for tough conversations.

Over the past year, public-health guidance often wildly varied on federal, state and even city levels, with some areas flinging open their doors while experts still advised caution. This has also been reflected in interpersonal relationships. It’s created friction between couples, families and friends, and prompted individuals to ask challenging, sometimes seemingly intrusive questions. Now, you may be adding “Are you vaccinated?” to that list. (On Twitter, one woman recently proposed “re-entry doulas” to help families navigate conversations about setting boundaries.)

Still, it will continue to be important to have these conversations in the coming months. “This isn’t abstract,” said Marci Gleason, an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin whose lab has been surveying relationships in quarantine. “It comes directly to the question of whether we can socialize with others or not, in the way that they want to.” Sometimes, it can feel like a proxy battle over how much you value each other’s friendship. Be open about your own fears and vulnerabilities, and make it clear that when you disagree, you’re expressing your own preference and not rejecting the other person. Keep it simple, too, especially with friends or relatives with whom you don’t frequently have emotional, candid talks.

This empathy and candor will also be an asset if you find that your friends and peers have developed the tendency to over share, either out of anxiety or being starved for conversation. (You may be doing it yourself, too.) If a conversation subject makes you uncomfortable or anxious, say so.

“Being really open and direct is the best way,” said Dr. Danesh Alam, a psychiatrist and the medical director of behavior health services at Northwestern Medicine Central Dupage Hospital. Dr. Alam suggested studying up for conversations, preparing some questions and topics in order to chat with more intention and keep things on topic.

Take your time.

It’s OK if you don’t feel ready to see people socially again. Through the challenges of the lockdown period, you may have found that “your mental health is served best when you have time for calm and rest and introspection,” Dr. McBride said.

So pace yourself while considering the benefits of getting back out there: Even casual interactions have shown to foster a sense of belonging and community. “Social interaction is critical to our existence,” Dr. Alam said. Remember, too, that there are bound to be some weird moments as you start seeing others more regularly and your pandemic instincts (no hugging) and before-times instincts (“Do you want a bite of this?”) collide.

“If you’re comfortable going to a dinner at a small family restaurant, you can do that,” Dr. Hilden said. “If you want to wait a month or two, that’s OK, too.”

Things to Do at Home

This week, tune in to a Buddhist ritual chant, learn about botanical art or make a new cocktail.

Here is a sampling of the week’s events and how to tune in (all times are Eastern). Note that events are subject to change after publication.


Monday

Draw along with the writer and artist Mari Andrew in a workshop into her artistic process. She will also discuss her new book, “My Inner Sky: On Embracing Day, Night and All the Times in Between,” with the author Katherine May. Attendees will be entered into a lottery to receive an original print by Ms. Andrew. Tickets to this event, presented by 92Y, are $10.

When 7 p.m.

Where 92y.org/event/mari-andrew


Tuesday

Watch a Shomyo Buddhist ritual chant performed by Shomyo no Kai, a chorus of monks from the Shingon and Tendai sects of Japanese Buddhism. The event, which is presented by the Japan Society and the University of Chicago as part of Carnegie Hall’s “Voices of Hope” festival, will include a millennium-old chanting ritual from An’yo-in Temple, outside of Tokyo. The program will conclude with a Q. and A. with the Rev. Kojun Arai, the head monk of the Shingon sect. Tickets cost $15. A recording of the event will be available to view through April 30.

When 8 p.m.

Where japansociety.org/event/shomyo-buddhist-ritual-chanting-mantra-of-moonlight


Wednesday

Listen to a conversation between the poet, essayist and cultural critic Hanif Abdurraqib and Wesley Morris, a New York Times critic at large. In a presentation by the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Greenlight Bookstore, Mr. Abdurraqib will discuss his new book, “A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance.” This event, which will include American Sign Language interpretation and closed captioning, is free to attend.

When 7 p.m.

Where bam.org/hanif-abdurraqib

Tune in to a discussion between established and emerging filmmakers in honor of Women’s History Month, presented by the Future of Film Is Female, an organization dedicated to amplifying and supporting the work of women in movies, and Black Film Space, an organization that works to improve the careers of Black filmmakers. Six female filmmakers, each of whose shorts will be available to stream, will speak about their work and answer questions from the audience. This event is free.

When 8 p.m.

Where futureoffilmisfemale.com/bfs


Thursday

Learn about botanical art and pioneering female scientists and artists like Maria Sibylla Merian, Marianne North and Rachel Ruysch during a virtual lecture presented by London Drawing Group. The class, which will be taught by the artist Luisa-Maria MacCormack and is the first of a three-part series, will delve into the history of women in botanical art, guide attendees through sketching their own pieces and teach basic watercolor techniques. Viewers are encouraged to come prepared with a variety of plants — such as leaves, dried flowers or houseplants — a selection of paintbrushes and watercolor paints. This event is free to attend, but a $20 donation is suggested. Registration is required, and attendance is capped at 500.

When 1:30 p.m.

Where www.londondrawinggroup.com/


Friday

Mix cocktails, enjoy a D.J. set and watch a live discussion on the climate crisis in a program presented by the radio station KCRW and the National History Museum of Los Angeles County. Elle Nucci, the owner of an event planning and catering company, will teach viewers how to create a “Central Avenue” drink at home, and the radio host and D.J. Francesca Harding will spin before a conversation between Leah Thomas, an environmental activist, and Nick Shapiro, an assistant professor of biology and society at U.C.L.A., moderated by Knatokie Ford, a biomedical scientist and founder of Fly Sci Enterprise. Brittney Parks, the songwriter and violinist who records as Sudan Archives, will close out the evening with a musical performance. This event is free to attend.

When 9 p.m.

Where nhm.org/first-fridays and YouTube

Watch a round-table discussion on language revitalization and reclamation as part of the Mother Tongue Film Festival presented by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of the American Indian and Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in collaboration with the Endangered Languages Project. The conversation will be moderated by the Smithsonian curator Mary Linn and will include commentary from Ruben Reyes, a director of the film “Garifuna in Peril,” and Kari Chew, the project lead for Growing the Fire Within, an initiative dedicated to revitalizing Indigenous languages for adults. Captioning and A.S.L. interpretation will be provided for this free event.

When 1 p.m.

Where mothertongue.si.edu/ and Facebook


Saturday

Spend the evening watching “Wojnarowicz,” a documentary about the artist David Wojnarowicz and the ways his art and life were affected by the AIDS epidemic. Glenn Kenny, writing in The New York Times, called the movie “exemplary.” The film is available to stream online from Film Forum in New York, and screenings are good for 48 hours from the time you start viewing. Tickets cost $12.

When Anytime

Where filmforumhome.org/main/wojnarowicz-


Cécile Gariépy

Sunday

Celebrate Easter with your little ones by participating in the White House Historical Association’s Easter scavenger hunt. Children will have the chance to virtually tour the Executive Mansion and collect clues to fill in a worksheet, which families can submit to be entered in a raffle to win commemorative White House Easter eggs. Kids can also play bingo, download coloring pages and complete a digital jigsaw puzzle, all of which are available for free online.

When Anytime

Where whitehousehistory.org/white-house-easter-egg-roll-virtual-activities

Join the Harlem Gospel Choir for a special Easter Sunday concert, live at Sony Hall in New York. The choir, which has performed alongside Diana Ross, Bono and Pharrell Williams, will sing contemporary gospel music, with some jazz and blues. Tickets cost $25, and the concert is available to view online until April 11.

When 7:30 p.m.

Where harlemgospelchoir.com/events/easter-sunday-concert-livestream

What to Do This Weekend

Books, drinks, white noise.

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Welcome. I was chatting with a colleague yesterday about how loose our relationship to time has become over the past year. Last summer still feels weirdly recent; things that happened in November may as well have occurred a decade ago. The months are slippery, but March feels a bit more substantial: one year passed. The ground feels a little more solid as April approaches.

A foothold, perhaps, and a lot of promising books.

There’s “The Man Who Lived Underground,” a previously unpublished novel by Richard Wright. “Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty,” from Patrick Radden Keefe. Memoirs from Hunter Biden and John Boehner, essays from Rachel Kushner, stories by Haruki Murakami and a new novel by Jhumpa Lahiri.

I’m tearing through Becky Cooper’s “We Keep the Dead Close,” about a murder at Harvard in the 1960s, then it’s on to April’s bounty.

Ring in this final weekend of March with a honey-sweetened cocktail — the Atlanta-based bartender Tiffanie Barriere says using honey “makes it a dish more than a drink” — or try a zero-proof concoction. Pharoah Sanders and Floating Points could provide your happy hour soundtrack.

Why not have an at-home film festival of documentaries about women artists? “American Masters: Twyla Moves,” about the dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp, premieres on PBS on Friday. HBO’s Tina Turner doc, “Tina,” arrives on Saturday.

Read Edmund White’s piece about Patricia Highsmith in T Magazine, then sign up for T Book Club’s virtual conversation about Highsmith’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” The conversation, which White will be leading, is scheduled for April 22.

Check out James Poniewozik’s ode to the forever GIF-able Jessica Walter, who died this week. (“Play Misty for Me” is streaming on all the usual platforms for $3.99. All five seasons of “Arrested Development” are on Netflix.)

And don’t miss Tara Parker-Pope’s investigation of a uniquely 2021 phenomenon: “How Did You Qualify?’ For the Young and Vaccinated, Rude Questions and Raised Eyebrows.”

Two recent tales of deception from Toronto Life are worth a read: “Heartbreaker,” about a dating-site fraudster, and “The Sting,” about an elaborate, failed scheme to nab a man suspected of murder.

I never met a creative white-noise generator I didn’t love, and “A Soft Murmur” is doing it for me this week. You can create your own custom mix of sounds: rain, crickets, birds, a coffee shop. Recommended for apartment dwellers with galumphing neighbors, parents who can’t seem to find a minute of quiet and other restless souls.

And the pianist and composer Tom Kincaid has created 20 free versions of “Happy Birthday” that you can download or stream as needed. There’s a theremin version, a ’90s TV version and one featuring “Unenthusiastic Colleagues Who Can’t Remember Your Name.”

A reader recommends

Paul Mougey in Grand Junction, Mich., has found inspiration in the Late Show archive.

My husband and I keep going back to the clip of Jennifer Hudson’s performance of “I Am Changing” on David Letterman from years ago. She is so clear, and so present, and so absolutely, optimistically rousing. The audience is jolted alive by how good she is, and so are we.

Tell us.

What’s helping you live well at home? Is it a movie or book, a recipe or tradition, a white-noise generator? Write to us: athome@nytimes.com. Include your full name and location and we might use your contribution in a future newsletter. We’re At Home. We’ll read every letter sent. More ideas for leading a full and cultured life at home or near it appear below. See you next week.

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Teenagers, Anxiety Can Be Your Friend

Think of it as a personal warning system that will help you notice when things are on the wrong track.

For many teenagers, anxiety is riding high these days.

A new report from the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health found that one in three teen girls and one in five teen boys have experienced new or worsening anxiety since March 2020.

And a year into the pandemic, there’s certainly plenty to worry about. Maybe you’re feeling nervous about catching or spreading Covid-19, or about returning to in-person school. You might be feeling tense about where things stand with your friends or perhaps you’re on edge about something else altogether: your family, your schoolwork, your future, the health of the planet.

While I wish there were fewer reasons to be anxious right now, I do have good news for keeping yourself steady. Psychologists actually understand a lot about anxiety — both the mechanisms that drive it and interventions that get it under control — and what we know is quite reassuring. So if you’re looking to feel more at ease, start by letting go of these common myths.

Myth: I’d be better off if I never felt anxious.

Without question, anxiety feels bad — it’s no fun to have a pounding heart, sweaty palms and tightness in your chest — and for that reason, it’s easy to assume that it must be bad. But the discomfort of anxiety has a basic evolutionary function: to get us to tune into the fact that something’s not right.

You can think of anxiety as the emotional equivalent of the physical pain response. If you accidentally touch a hot burner, the pain makes you pull your hand away. In the same way, if your friends want to take a Covid-safe outdoor event and move it into a cramped indoor space, you should feel a surge of discomfort. That odd feeling in the pit of your stomach will help you to consider the situation carefully and be cautious about your next step.

Try to view anxiety as your own personal warning system. It’s more often a friend than a foe, one that will help you notice when things are on the wrong track.

Given this, when is anxiety unhelpful? While most of the anxiety you feel is likely to be healthy and protective, psychologists agree that anxiety becomes a problem if its alarm makes no sense — either going off for no reason or blaring when a chime would do.

In other words, you should not feel anxious when all is well, and when you do feel anxious, the intensity of your nerves should match the scale of the problem before you. Feeling a little tense before a big game is appropriate and may even improve your performance. Having a panic attack on the sidelines means your anxiety has gone too far. It may be worth talking to a mental health care provider for advice on how to manage it, but first you can try the proven techniques below.

Myth: There’s not much I can do about anxiety.

You do not need to feel helpless when your anxiety alarm goes off, and even when anxious feelings cross the line from healthy to unhealthy, there’s a lot you can do to settle your nerves. Keep in mind that anxiety has both physical and mental components. At the physical level, the amygdala, a primitive structure in the brain, detects a threat and sends the heart and lungs into overdrive getting your body ready to fight or flee that threat. This is helpful if you’re dealing with a problem that calls for attacking or running — you’re about to miss the school bus and need to break into a sprint to catch it — but bothersome if your one-note-Johnny amygdala gets your heart pounding and your lungs hyperventilating while you’re trying to take a test.

A really good way to curb the physical symptoms of anxiety? Controlled breathing. Though it can sound like a daffy approach to managing tension, breathing deeply and slowly activates a powerful part of the nervous system responsible for resetting the body to its pre-anxiety state. There are many good breathing techniques. Find one that you like. Practice it when you’re feeling calm. Put it to work when your amygdala overreacts.

For the mental component of anxiety, watch out for thoughts that are extremely negative. Are you thinking, “I’ll probably get sick if I go to school,” or “I’ll never find someone to sit with at lunch”? Such intense pessimism will almost certainly set you on edge. Counter your own catastrophic thoughts by asking yourself two questions: Am I overestimating the severity of the problem I’m facing? Am I underestimating my power to manage it? Weighing these questions will help you keep your concerns at healthy levels.

Myth: If something makes me anxious, I should avoid it.

Understandably, if we’re scared of something, we’re inclined to stay far away from it. Avoidance alleviates anxiety in the short term, but here’s the rub: In the long term, avoidance entrenches it. There are two separate factors at work here. The first is that it feels great when we steer clear of the things we dread. If you’ve been doing school remotely this year and get nervous when you picture your return to in-person learning, resolving to stay home will cause your worries to instantly drain away. It’s human nature to want to repeat any behavior that leads to feelings of pleasure or comfort, but every boost of avoidance-related relief increases the likelihood that you’ll want to continue to avoid what you fear.

The second factor in the avoidance-feeds-anxiety double whammy is that you rob yourself of the chance to find out that your worries are exaggerated. For example, the realities of in-person school are sure to be more manageable than the harrowing scenarios your imagination can create. Going to school would likely bring your worries down to size.

Facing our fears can reduce anxiety. But you don’t have to dive into nerve-racking experiences when wading in is an option. If social distancing has left you feeling unsure about the status of your friendships, you might be tempted to isolate yourself. Instead, come up with a small first step, such as making a plan to hang out with just one or two buddies before returning to the broader social scene. Get your feet wet and then take it from there.

With the world beginning to open up, it makes sense that you might feel nervous about easing back into it. Knowing what’s true about anxiety — and not — will make it easier to navigate the uncertain times ahead.


Opening Up, Slowly

Looking ahead, with mixed emotions.

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Welcome. I received a letter recently from Karen Mencotti in Ona, W.Va.:

I’m overwhelmed with guilt admitting this, but I’m thoroughly enjoying being home for months on end. Not the fear and tragedy part, but the social absence part. As a reclusive retiree, it’s heavenly to realize I have no obligations to meet so-and-so for dinner, nor do I expect sudden visitors. Perfect! I rather dread going back to “normal.” I’m reading, indulging in crafts and saving the socializing for family get-togethers — every three or four months.

I’ve been thinking about Karen and others who’ve written — some sheepishly, others proudly — confessing to a preference for being at home and a dread of returning to pre-quarantine activity and industry.

Even those of us who are craving more human contact, more distraction and travel and general coming and going, may have found things to love in the slowness and interiority of the past year. If we’re lucky, our time inside and apart has still been culturally rich, full of things to watch, read and cook. Our clothes have been more comfortable, our calendars perhaps more manageable.

It’s a luxury, of course, to get to stay inside, away from the outdoors where the virus’s peril persists. I understand Karen’s guilt, her internal conflict. This year has been full of so much heartache, and isolation has been so brutal for so many.

But it’s natural to have mixed emotions about another existential twist, another unfamiliar transition: from closed down to opened up, from here at home to out there in the world.

So how do we do it? Slowly, with care. “I would say that we are less afraid, but not fear-free,” one person told the reporter Jennifer Steinhauer of life after being vaccinated. Small outdoor gatherings for now. Plans for travel down the road, as we’re still working out how the vaccine affects transmission. It’s a good time for dreaming and planning, plotting our futures, but still staying close to home when we can.

At home, where a man found what he insists are shrimp tails in a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Where we’re celebrating spring holidays and taking our fashion cues from costume designers. Parents are still primal-screaming, cinephiles are digging ever deeper into streaming libraries for something good to watch.

We’re peering out from behind the curtains at a world that’s stirring. How much of this at-home life will we preserve? How much will we leave behind?

Top 5

Bianca Giaever is an audio producer at The Times. These are her top 5 documentaries that focus on a single person.

1. Mayor” (2020). This documentary follows Musa Hadid, the mayor of Ramallah, in the West Bank, as he manages a municipality under Israeli occupation.

2. “The Cruise” (1998). A love letter to New York City starring the tour bus guide Speed Levitch.

3. “The Show About the Show” (2015). The filmmaker Caveh Zahedi leads us through a deep exploration of his daily life, his relationships, and his own psyche.

4. “American Movie” (1999). A documentary about the filmmaker Mark Borchardt’s struggle to make a horror movie in small-town Wisconsin.

5. “Actress” (2014). The director Robert Greene finds inspiration in his neighbor, Brandy Burre, a stay-at-home mom attempting to relaunch her acting career.

P.S.

Tell us.

Which elements of life during the pandemic will you be sorry to let go? Which ones will you try to preserve? Tell us: athome@nytimes.com. Include your full name and location and we might use your contribution in a future newsletter. We’re At Home. We’ll read every letter sent. More ideas for leading a good life at home or near it appear below. See you on Friday.

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As People Reflect on Their Bodies, Museums Turn to Artists for Answers

The pandemic has led to new contemplations of fragility, and sick or disabled artists are using new attention to imagine a more accessible art world.

Many artists with chronic illnesses or disabilities feared the worst when the pandemic started. Like those who are immunocompromised or have underlying conditions, accessing care and continuing to work would be tough. And it was. Some artists moved to remote areas to save money and protect themselves; others maintained strict quarantines in their homes.

But the creative juices never stopped flowing, at least not for Panteha Abareshi, whose first major solo exhibition opened online, with the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.

“It was a massive, frantic crunch,” Abareshi, whose work pulls from a lifetime of experience with chronic pain, said about the three-month planning process.

Through videos, performances and sculptures, Abareshi examines the disabled body as a depersonalized object in the medical system. It’s a feeling now understood by more of the general public.

“Able-bodied people have never had to think about the politics of their bodies as it pertains to sickness,” said Abareshi, who is 21. “And now they want to experience that subjectivity.”

Panteha Abareshi’s art in a first major solo exhibition online, at Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. For Abareshi, the nuances of disability and chronic illness are often lost on able-bodied  individuals.
Panteha Abareshi’s art in a first major solo exhibition online, at Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. For Abareshi, the nuances of disability and chronic illness are often lost on able-bodied  individuals.Panteha Abareshi

And, Abareshi said, “There is a real expectation by the public to find some superficial positivity within the disabled experience, a portrayal that follows notions of empowerment or emancipation.”

“People want that kind of message because it means they can stop being critical of their own relationships to illness,” Abareshi went on, even when living while sick is more complex.

As the public becomes more aware of chronic illness through the coronavirus’s lasting effects on the body, artists who focus on it, like Abareshi, are receiving more inquiries from cultural institutions that are interested in work commenting on the health system. Some of these artists have mixed feelings: happy for the opportunities but painfully aware of how many museums lack accessibility options.

Abareshi’s  “Aggregation” (2020), an installation featuring video of the artist connecting to an EKG machine, part of the exhibition at Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.Panteha Abareshi

In a normal year, Alex Dolores Salerno might not have had the opportunity to become an artist-in-residence at the Museum of Art and Design, in New York. But virtual programming opened the door, as organizers became more receptive to artists who often have to stay close to home.

Salerno has taught audiences about the history of artists who have worked from their beds. Salerno’s own work — sculptures designed from bed frames, linens and mattress toppers — explores interdependency and care. But the artist is still navigating how much to disclose about their disability.

“I think about this demand that marginalized groups have to give a diagnosis or explanation to prove their identities,” Salerno said. “Why are marginalized groups always the ones asked to provide the public with an education?”

Alex Dolores Salerno’s “At Work (Rest) no. 1” (2019), another example of the artist’s use of bedding materials to examine notions of care and interdependency.Alex Dolores Salerno
Salerno’s “Pillow Fight” (2019). Salerno became an artist-in-residence at the Museum of Art and Design in New York in the last year.Object Studies

A similar question had flicked through the mind of Sharona Franklin, who moved to a small border town in Canada to save money after the pandemic shut down businesses associated with her work. Later, several high-profile institutions came calling for her kaleidoscopic jelloid sculptures infused with medicinal herbs and filled with syringes — sculpted shrines based on her experience living with a degenerative disease.

“I’m working so much right now and hoping it will pay off,” she said.

Since last summer, she has been contacted for various opportunities: a solo exhibition for spring 2022, which would be her first at a major institution, at the List Visual Arts Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; to have her work shown in a gallery in Brussels; and to participate in a group exhibition, which opened March 13, at the Remai Modern, in Saskatchewan, with artists whose work critiques the medical industry.

Such artists often find themselves explaining accessibility and how there is no one-size-fits-all situation, as well as navigating a system that wasn’t built for them. Some have created their own advocacy groups in the past year, like the artists behind the Sick in Quarters collective. Many have become impromptu consultants on disability rights, teaching well-intentioned curators how to talk about disease.

Franklin, in a self-portrait, “DTES Social Housing,” in her home. The artist is known for creating jelloid sculptures embedded with medicinal herbs and syringes.Sharona Franklin
Franklin’s “Mycoplasma Altar,” one of her jelloid sculptures infused with medicinal herbs and filled with syringes.Sharona Franklin and Kings Leap

Amanda Cachia, a curator and lecturer at California State University San Marcos, said, “I’m pretty exhausted.” Since the pandemic started, she has received requests to speak with institutions about accessibility, including at the Munch Museum, in Norway, and the USC Pacific Asia Museum, in California.

“It’s not just how much labor is demanded of the artists’ bodies,” she tells her audiences, “but how curators communicate their ideas, needs and interests without language that’s offensive.”

Bethany Montagano, director of the USC Pacific Asia Museum, said frank conversations about disability have changed her institution’s direction.

“Museums need to be far more than A.D.A. compliant,” she said in a statement. “We are working as a staff to lay out strategic priorities, which involve planning programs and planning exhibitions that not only include but buoy the voices of sick and disabled artists.”

The museum is also “prioritizing actively acquiring works from sick and disabled artists.”

A spokeswoman for the Munch Museum said that Cachia’s talk was inspiring. The museum is planning a variety of new accessibility initiatives, including the creation of a diversity council and plans to translate a contemporary art exhibition into sensory experiences for audiences.

Among other institutions that are turning to disabled people for guidance is the Shed, which also created a disability council — on it, a range of people with different disabilities — to advise curators on accessibility for programming. Those types of discussions will help inform curation decisions, said Solana Chehtman, the organization’s director of civic programs. “We wanted to put access and artistry at the center,” Chehtman said, mentioning an ongoing digital commissioning series. “And I think this is a time to recognize what sick and disabled artists have made.”

Local governments are backing the efforts. New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs says that it has invested $400,000 in the current fiscal year to support organizations that help artists, audiences and cultural workers with disabilities. Over the last three years, the agency has devoted $1.68 million for disability access and artistry.

“We are committed to fostering a cultural community that is accessible to all,” Gonzalo Casals, the cultural affairs commissioner, said in a statement. He added that the agency was working on being inclusive “by supporting and expanding disability inclusion within the buildings, programming, and hiring practices of our city’s cultural institutions.”

Last year, the Ford Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced the Disability Futures fellowship, a joint initiative to provide 20 artists with $50,000 grants.

Emil Kang, the program director of arts and culture at the Mellon Foundation, said, “What we have already done is only a drop in the bucket.”

“We wanted to show the world that disabled artists are and have always been making work,” he said. “There just hasn’t been a national program like this before.”

Ezra Benus, an artist who also helps administer thefellowship, said, “The world is experiencing illness, so people have turned to us.”

“There is also pressure on sick and disabled people to create work only based on our illnesses, which can be difficult to navigate,” he added.

As artists are more engaged with cultural institutions, some are now coming prepared with access riders, which outline the terms of their engagement.

Christine Sun Kim, an artist who performed the national anthem in American Sign Language at the Super Bowl in 2020, is writing her own document for organizations working with deaf artists like herself, with resources and tip sheets.

The pandemic has presented its own challenges for Kim, who said she reduced her workload after attending virtual events on Zoom, where it was difficult to focus on the host and interpreter. “It’s just too much for me,” Kim said. “My deaf friends often FaceTime separately with their own interpreters when on Zoom.”

But she also sees an opportunity for institutions to start thinking broadly about accessibility.

“There has definitely been a shift in the United States where people are becoming more aware,” she said.

Whether or not more accommodating policies survive in the long-term, artists like Franklin feel confident their work will.

“Friends think the world is going to forget about us once people aren’t scared for their own lives,” she said. “But the art we make is going to stick around.”

‘Una rosa podría oler a heces’: la COVID-19 altera el olfato de algunas personas

Samantha LaLiberte, una trabajadora social en Nashville, Tennessee, pensaba que se había recuperado completamente de la COVID-19, pero a mediados de noviembre —unos siete meses después de que se había enfermado— un pedido de comida a domicilio le olía tan mal que tuvo que tirarlo a la basura. En una ocasión visitó a una amiga que estaba cocinando en su casa, y tuvo que salir corriendo para vomitar en el jardín de la entrada.

“Dejé de ir a lugares, incluso a casa de mi mamá o a cenar con amigos, porque todo, desde la comida hasta las velas, me olía muy mal”, confesó LaLiberte, de 35 años. “Mis relaciones están en problemas”.

Ella sufre de parosmia, una distorsión del olfato, tan grave, que los aromas que antes eran agradables —como el del café caliente o el de una pareja amorosa— podrían volverse desagradables o incluso intolerables. Junto con la anosmia, o la disminución del olfato, es un síntoma que ha permanecido en algunas personas que se han recuperado de la COVID-19.

Se desconoce el número exacto de las personas que padecen de parosmia. Un análisis reciente descubrió que el 47 por ciento de la gente con COVID-19 presentaba alteraciones del olfato y gusto; de ese porcentaje, alrededor de la mitad dijo que había padecido parosmia.

“Eso significa que una rosa podría oler a heces”, explicó Richard Doty, director del Centro del Olfato y Gusto en la Universidad de Pensilvania. Mencionó que las personas por lo general recuperan el olfato al cabo de unos meses.

Por ahora, LaLiberte no tolera ni el olor de su propio cuerpo. Bañarse no ayuda; el olor de su jabón, acondicionador y champú le dan ganas de vomitar.

Además, identificó el mismo olor en su esposo, con quien está casada desde hace ocho años. “Ahora no hay mucha intimidad, y no es porque no queramos”, contó.

“Es un problema mucho más grande de lo que la gente cree”, afirmó Duika Burges Watson, encargada de la Red de Investigaciones sobre Alteraciones Alimentarias de la Universidad de Newcastle en Inglaterra; ella envió a una revista un artículo de investigación sobre el tema. “Es algo que afecta tu relación contigo mismo, con otros, tu vida social, tus relaciones íntimas”.

“Eso significa que una rosa podría oler a heces”.
“Eso significa que una rosa podría oler a heces”.Caroline Tompkins para The New York Times

Adiós a las cenas de citas y ‘los besos espontáneos’

Muchas personas que sufren de parosmia lamentan haber perdido ciertos ritos sociales, como salir a cenar o estar físicamente cerca de sus seres queridos, sobre todo después de un año en el que todos nos hemos aislado.

“Para mí es una batalla bárbara”, expresó Kaylee Rose, de 25 años, cantante en Nashville. Ha estado tocando música en vivo en bares y restaurantes de todo el país, y entrar a esos lugares se ha vuelto desagradable. “Estuve en Arizona para dar un recital, llegamos a un restaurante y casi vomité”, contó. Pero tener que enfrentar las reacciones de las personas a su afección resulta casi peor.

“Mis amigos insisten en que pruebe lo que cocinan porque creen que estoy exagerando”. Ahora mejor no va a las reuniones sociales o acude pero no come.

A Jessica Emmett, de 36 años, quien trabaja para una compañía de seguros en Spokane, Washington, le dio COVID-19 dos veces, primero a inicios de julio y luego otra vez en octubre. La parosmia ha sido un síntoma persistente. “Siento que mi aliento está rancio todo el tiempo”, afirmó.

Antes de tocar a su esposo, usa enjuague bucal y pasta de dientes. Incluso en ese caso no puede dejar de lado la sensación de que apesta. Y no es solo su aliento. “Mi sudor, lo puedo oler, y está un poco alterado”, dijo.

El resultado: mucha menos intimidad. “En realidad no hay besos apasionados y espontáneos”, comentó.

Su único consuelo es que ha estado con su esposo desde hace más de 20 años. “¿Cómo le explicas esto a alguien con quien intentas salir por primera vez?”, se preguntó.

Burges Watson dice que ha conocido a jóvenes con parosmia que se sienten nerviosos de hacer nuevas conexiones. “A veces, su propio olor les produce repulsión”, dijo. “Se les dificulta pensar en lo que los demás podrían decir de ellos”.

Cuando Rose comenzó a experimentar parosmia, su novio no entendía que era una afección real. Y, aunque ahora es más sensible a sus necesidades, todavía puede sentirse solo. “Ojalá pudiera ponerse en mi lugar”, dijo.

También tiene familiares que piensan que está exagerando. Recuerda una ocasión, era una fecha cercana al Día de Acción de Gracias, en la que su madre le pidió una comida especial con un olor que podía tolerar y su hermana se la comió por accidente. Y empezó una pelea. “Mi hermana pensó que estaba siendo demasiado sensible”, dijo. “Eso fue realmente frustrante”.

Muchos pacientes con parosmia se sienten aislados porque las personas que los rodean no entienden lo que están pasando, dijo Doty. “Esperan que las personas se identifiquen con sus problemas, pero a menudo no pueden hacerlo”.

LaLiberte dijo que finalmente puede sentarse junto a su esposo en el sofá. “Sin embargo, todavía estoy muy consciente de mí misma”, agregó. “Lo mío aún no ha mejorado”.

Encontrar una comunidad

Algunas personas que padecen de parosmia han recurrido a grupos de Facebook para compartir consejos y desahogarse con quienes entienden sus síntomas. “Fui al doctor, y me miró como si estuviera loca”, relató Jenny Banchero, de 36 años, artista en San Petersburgo, Florida, quien ha tenido parosmia desde inicios de septiembre. “No fue sino hasta que me uní a un grupo de Facebook que supe que la gente se lo toma en serio”.

Durante el verano, Sarah Govier, trabajadora sanitaria en Inglaterra que presentó parosmia luego de enfermarse de la COVID-19, creó el Grupo de apoyo Anosmia/Parosmia por COVID. “El día que lo abrí en agosto se unieron cinco o seis personas”, dijo. “Para enero llegamos a las 10.000”. Ahora hay más de 16.000 miembros.

Otro grupo de Facebook, AbScent, que empezó antes de la pandemia y está vinculado a una organización caritativa, también ha experimentado un aumento de interés en el tema. “La gente proviene de todas partes, de Sudamérica, Asia central, el este de Rusia, Filipinas, Australia, Nueva Zelanda, Sudáfrica, India y Canadá”, afirmó Chrissi Kelly, la fundadora de AbScent.

En marzo, Siobhan Dempsey, de 33 años, diseñadora gráfica y fotógrafa en Northampton, Inglaterra, publicó en el grupo de Anosmia/Parosmia de COVID: “Me alegra informarles que ya recuperé el 90 por ciento de mi sentido del gusto y olfato después de casi un año de haberme contagiado de COVID”. La inundaron de felicitaciones.

Fue un largo viaje para ella. Durante meses, todo tuvo un olor químico a quemado. Las verduras, que constituyen la mayor parte de su dieta desde que es vegetariana, eran intolerables. “Cualquier cosa dulce era terrible”, dijo. “Dr. Pepper, Fanta, era asqueroso”.

Sin embargo, en las últimas semanas ha notado un cambio. “Suena a cliché, pero el fin de semana pasado fue el Día de la Madre en el Reino Unido, y mi pareja y mi hijo de 3 años me compraron flores”, dijo. “Por fin pude decir ‘huelen muy bien’”.


Some Covid-19 Patients Say They’re Left With Ringing Ears

Scientists are examining a possible link to tinnitus. A businessman’s suicide has lent urgency to the research.

The suicide of Kent Taylor, the founder and chief executive of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, has drawn attention to a possible link between Covid-19 and tinnitus, the medical term for a constant ringing in the ears.

Mr. Taylor suffered from a variety of symptoms following his illness, including severe tinnitus, his family said in a statement, adding that his suffering had become “unbearable.”

Whether tinnitus is linked to Covid-19 — and if so, how often it occurs — is an unanswered question. Neither the World Health Organization nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes tinnitus as a symptom, although auditory problems are common in other viral infections.

But tinnitus is on the list of symptoms of long Covid published by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, along with fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness and more. And a few recent case reports and studies have hinted at a potential link.

A study published on Monday in the Journal of International Audiology that looked at nearly 60 case reports and studies found that 15 percent of adults with Covid-19 reported symptoms of tinnitus. The authors believe that the respondents were describing either a new condition or a worsening one, though they are following up with the 60 or so researchers to be certain about how the surveys were worded.

“In the 24 hours since we published, I’ve received about 100 emails,” said Kevin Munro, a professor of audiology at the University of Manchester and a co-author of the study. “Almost of all of them were people saying, ‘I was so happy to read about this, because my doctor thought I was crazy when I mentioned tinnitus and now I know I’m not the only one.’”

There is also some evidence that Covid-19 can aggravate symptoms among people who had tinnitus before they contracted the disease. A study published late last year in the journal Frontiers in Public Health surveyed 3,100 people with tinnitus and found that 40 percent of the 237 respondents who had contracted Covid-19 reported that their symptoms were “significantly exacerbated” following the infection.

“There are a lot of viruses that have an impact on the ears, including measles, mumps and rubella,” said Dr. Eldre Beukes, the audiologist at Anglia Ruskin University in England who led the study. “It could also be the case that medication taken to combat Covid is making tinnitus worse. And there is a well-known link between tinnitus and stress.”

Kent Taylor, founder and chief executive of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain.Ron Bath/Texas Roadhouse, via Associated Press

The study cited a variety of factors that have increased stress for nearly everyone in the pandemic, including fear of catching the coronavirus, and social distancing rules that have increased isolation and loneliness.

Home-schooling has also raised stress levels, as has greater consumption of coffee and alcohol, Dr. Beukes added.

Covid-19 has complicated life for tinnitus sufferers even if they have not contracted the virus, said Kim Weller, an I.T. specialist who lives in Houston and is part of a tinnitus support group based there.

“There’s a gentleman in Ohio who I text and talk on the phone with and I’d describe him as being at the end of his rope,” she said. “He’s not working, trouble sleeping, living alone. His situation is definitely worse because of Covid, because he’s just so isolated.”

Exactly why tinnitus affects certain people is a bit of a mystery. There are roughly 200 causes of the condition, including exposure to loud noises, stress, hearing loss and perforated eardrums. There is currently no cure. Patients are often treated with cognitive behavioral therapy — essentially, talk therapy designed to rewire thoughts and behaviors — or coached on how to habituate themselves to the condition.

The C.D.C. found in a 2011-2012 survey — the most recent data available — that 15 percent of respondents said they had suffered some kind of tinnitus. Of them, 26 percent said it was constant or near constant ringing, and 30 percent described the condition as a “moderate” or “very big” problem in their lives.

A very small group of people in Dr. Beukes’s study — seven — reported that Covid-19 brought on tinnitus for the first time. Just over half of people with tinnitus said the illness had left their symptoms unchanged.

Curiously, 6 percent said they were less bothered by tinnitus after contracting the disease. Dr. Beukes speculates that for these people, a life-threatening condition had the effect of reframing the noise in their head.

“Contracting Covid meant that in some cases they were struggling to survive, and that left them with a very different perspective,” she said.

The roughly 40 percent of respondents who said that Covid-19 made their tinnitus worse includes people like Aisling Starrs of Derry, in Northern Ireland. She’d coped with hearing loss in her right ear her entire life. Two years ago, she gave birth to a daughter and within minutes noticed a buzzing in both ears that did not abate.

“Then in September I got Covid, and it went straight for my ears,” said Ms. Starrs, who is an occupational therapist. “On a scale of one to 10, it was a three before Covid. Since then, it’s been a seven.”

She had no idea that exacerbated tinnitus might be a Covid-related problem until she learned otherwise on the website of the British Tinnitus Association, a co-sponsor of the Anglia Ruskin study.

“I thought, ‘Thank God’ when I realized I wasn’t the only one out there,” she said. “I’ve met people through my work who don’t realize that there’s a medical term for the ringing in their ears. Just knowing that other people have the same condition is an enormous relief.”