Virtual reality is more impactful than simply making video games more exciting. It has the potential to make great strides in bringing health to many who suffer from mental illness. Imagine having the opportunity to overcome your greatest fear while physically being in a safe place. Virtual reality provides images that are realistic and compelling to real-life scenarios that may cause mental illness. This innovative technology is especially useful when treating those with anxiety and phobias but is making its way through all parts of therapy. 

Traditionally exposure therapy consisted of patients imagining their fears, which meant the treatment was only as effective as the person’s imagining skills. VR removes any barriers a patient may experience due to lack of imagination or visualization. It also allows a person to ease into their fears and anxieties by manipulating what is seen and/or repeating the steps multiple times. Patients are in a complete controlled environment, therefore optimizing the pace and allowing space for the therapist to walk through a relaxation process in each step. For example if a person has a fear of flying the VR technology can have them in a plane, they can look around see everything that is going on around them, depending on how quickly they move through that step, something a bit more frightening can be introduced like a thunderstorm or turbulence. The goal is to keep the patient engaged in each step because the longer they can withstand the fear inducing situation the quicker their fear will begin to dissipate. 

Another area VR has made an impact is through pain distraction. For example, a burn victim who has undergone excruciating pain can be distracted by it all after putting on a virtual reality headset and engage in playing a game or being in their own world. It keeps a person’s mind off of thinking about or worrying about the pain especially during wound care and even physical therapy. VR has the potential to help relieve pain by distracting the brain.

This technology has also made a way for assessing cognitive performance in those who may have ADHD and autism. For example, a child who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can step into a virtual classroom with kids all around fidgeting, and making paper airplanes, maybe even cars will be driving by the classroom window. The child’s goal despite all this distraction will be to pay attention to what is on the blackboard or what the teacher says. Assessment like this help therapists know how to offer the best treatment. VR has allowed those with autism to engage in social situations, helping therapists see where they are at socially and work to improve those skills. 

Virtual reality is a technology that has the potential to repair mental health in a way that is safe and controlled. It has impacted those with PTSD, as therapists are able to recreate moments and walk them through, it’s made its way through therapeutical targets, such as depression, acrophobia, eating disorders and gender dysphoria, to physical therapy and occupational therapy. This technology is making a difference. 

When two people fall in love and get married but have children from previous marriages it becomes a blended family. It is a beautiful thing when two people make a life long commitment to one another but it can be a process and a big adjustment when two families come together as one. You as parents may enter the remarriage with excitement and expectation, while the children may have different feelings. They may have feelings of uncertainty of how things will change and may be worried about living with a stepparent or stepsiblings. Blending families together may not be easy but with good communication, mutual respect and a ton of love, grace and patience, a bond can begin to form between stepparent and stepchildren creating a healthy and thriving blended family. So here are some tips to help your family be successful in growing together. 

Keep your marriage a priority: It will take some adjusting to being a married couple while parenting but without the marriage there is no family. The marriage must come first, so be sure to continue nurturing and strengthening your relationship by making time for you two. Your children will be looking to you two, so demonstrating love towards one another is the best way to be an example and to show how important the family being together truly is. 

Build a relationship with your stepchildren: Get to know your stepchildren. Include them in your daily life through conversation and even fun activities. Listen to them, become interested in what they enjoy, hear them when they share about life, school, work, friends etc. Become a safe, secure person in their life that they can trust and know is available whenever needed. Be intentional in building a relationship with your stepchildren.

Have open communication: Recognize that families coming together can be difficult for all parties, so bring ease to your children and stepchildren by letting them know they are safe to be open and honest about the new family dynamic. However, in the same way, you too need to be upfront with any problems you may be having with your spouse and anyone involved. If you want others to be vulnerable you will most likely need to pave the way. 

Form a partnership with the former spouse: As strange as it may sound, forming a partnership with your spouse’s ex is important when children are in the picture. There needs to be an agreement on how both sets of parents will parent when they have the child(ren). When a stepparent is willing to honor and respect the biological parent the better the relationship will be between stepparent and stepchildren. This is one that shows that you have the child’s best interest at heart. 

Have fun together: Make memories! With all the adjusting, focus on the positives of your new family. Learn and grow together over fun experiences and lots of laughter. Spend quality time together, whether it’s over an adventurous hike, making a mess in the kitchen while making a favorite dessert, or showing everyone’s competitive side over a board game. Regardless be reminded how blessed you are to have one another. Blending families is no easy feat but is absolutely worth it. God has brought you all together, and what a sweet blessing that is. Embrace the challenge and enjoy one another. 

When your normal routine consists of lots of hustle and bustle, from working all day to running errands and really only coming together as a couple in the evenings, then everything coming to a halt, can take some major adjusting. You may have been used to coming together mainly on the weekends, while the week was hit or miss. For some couples being locked down in a home together may be a dream, while for others it may bring some hardship and difficulty. Although, after several weeks go by, even the most devoted and healthiest couples may find the extra togetherness a bit overwhelming and begin to feel a little stir-crazy. However being in a pandemic and having to quarantine with your spouse doesn’t have to be a nightmare, in fact it could be an opportunity to strengthen your relationship. So lets discuss some ways that your relationship can remain intact while maintaining harmony.

Seek God first

With so many uncertainties and unknowns all around, fear can become all consuming, whether that fear is wrapped in the possibility of getting COVID or that there won’t be any toilet paper left in stores when your family needs some. So the best thing a person can do for themselves as well as for their relationship is to cling to the unchanging source of love, peace, strength, and comfort; God. A pandemic can bring a new weight to our shoulders and the only way to lift that burden is to run to God’s truth and promises. “ He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings” (Psalms 91:4). The time is now to not worry about anything but to pray about everything and then be thankful (Phil. 4:6). The best thing you can do with all the free time you now have is to seek God first: spend time in His word, pray together with your spouse, walk through a devotional with your kids but above all else run to God. 

Communicate Needs

Communication is always a vital component to a healthy relationship, however when quarantined together it becomes crucial. Take time each day to really listen to one another. Share your concerns about the crisis, being quarantined together and expectations. Discuss with your spouse how you both can give each other enough space while still being a team. Ask questions like: How much alone time do you need? How can we strengthen our marriage during this time? How can we grow closer to God together? What are some goals we can pursue during this quarantine? When you are starting to feel overwhelmed or frustrated don’t push your spouse away, rather come together, share all you are feeling, and work together at solving any issues that may arise. Confide in each other, be vulnerable, and have compassion towards one another. You will both be processing this time differently so empathize and practice active listening. Respect each other with what is needed. 

Balance Responsibilities

The responsibilities that worked well before may not work as well while being quarantined. When one person feels like they are left to do all the household chores, work tasks, and childcare while the other does whatever they want, this can become a source of argument. So to avoid this conflict redefine, renegotiate, and divide up what needs to be done. Decide who will take on what when it comes to the household and what your children may need. With everyone in the house together, and much more consistently, responsibilities need to be balanced out to keep a person from feeling burdened with everything 

Make New Memories

Find ways to laugh together, play games, cook something new, redecorate, or tackle areas of your home you haven’t previously had time to do. Whatever you end up doing, do it together with the sole purpose being to draw you closer. Learn to be more affectionate, give longer hugs, kiss no less than ten seconds, take walks together while holding hands and begin to dream together. Treasure this “slow down” time and allow yourself to fall in love with your spouse all over again. 

As the world around you crumbles create a safe place within your home, a place full of love and grace. It is then that your relationship will come out on the other side not only intact but much stronger.

The pandemic has not changed a person’s desire or need for human connection but it has changed the way a person must go about it. With “shelter in place” orders, social distancing that requires people to stand six feet apart and a mask mandate; it can seem nearly impossible to connect with someone. This for a single person desiring a relationship can be discouraging. However even though it is wise to be safe and heed to all precautions it doesn’t mean all chances of meeting someone is lost, if anything, it’s a chance to get to know someone in a different way, which can be just as meaningful. Remember God is bigger than the coronavirus and if it’s His will for you to meet someone and pursue a relationship even during a worldwide crisis, it will happen. With that said, let’s discuss some wise ways to date during Covid-19. 

Become a Better you

Often times it’s easy to enter into a dating relationship hoping a person is everything you want in a mate but forget to stop and think, “Am I the person that someone I desire would want?” The best way a person can set himself or herself up for dating success is by bringing into a relationship a healthy you. Before embarking on a dating adventure take this time to take inventory of your own healthy emotionally and spiritually. Be willing and intentional to take steps that will ultimately make you a great spouse one day. As you get to know yourself you will become more aware of what is a good match for you. 

Use Online Platforms

Even if meeting someone over Zoom, Skype, or Facetime doesn’t seem ideal or the most romantic, thankfully technology has allowed us to interact with others in the middle of this pandemic. It has given two people an opportunity to meet and get to know each other with out having to worry about whether or not you should kiss on the first date. It’s a chance to connect with someone while enjoying your favorite drink or meal without having to deal with waiting times or a loud crowd around you. Use creative conversation starters or as the relationship progresses watch a movie together by choosing the same movie and pushing play at the same time. Make the best of what technology offers, remove the pressure of figuring out an extravagant date and simply enjoy hearing the heart of another person. 

Take Precautions when meeting Face-to-Face

As the relationship continues to progress you may come to a place where you feel comfortable meeting up in person. However before you set a place and date be sure to lay down some ground rules on how you will interact to keep one another safe. Find a place that offers appropriate space to maintain adequate social distancing, wear a face covering and ensure you are both symptom free, or better yet, get tested for the coronavirus. Respect one another and do all you can to keep each other healthy and free from the virus. Even though you both have chosen to meet up in person still take your time in getting to know each other, don’t become desperate because you’ve been cooped up in your home. Be smart!

Dating ideas COVID style

Even though the coronavirus discourages touch it doesn’t mean romantic pursuits have to be, it just means you may need to get creative. But really, if there is good conversation and lots of laughter you can’t go wrong. Some ideas include: going on an outdoor picnic where you can sit six feet apart, find a drive-in theater, or have a game night…through a window (you may want to choose a warmer evening for this one since one of you will be outside), plan a romantic scavenger hunt, go skiing or snowboarding, walk around a local park or go through your favorite coffee shop drive thru and set out for a nice long drive enjoying new scenery. Simply being together should be the highlight of any date.

Covid-19 has brought its challenges but there are ways to overcome and conquer them. God has the right person in store for you and a pandemic won’t stop God from bringing that right person to you. Be patient, get creative and have fun!

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