I tested positive for antibodies but still have COVID-19 anxiety

Antibodies test

The author, seen with her boyfriend, hanging at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, two days before lockdown. (Photo courtesy Beatrice Hazlehurst)

I thought contracting COVID-19 would feel different.

At the time, it should have. It was six weeks since I’d last seen my cross-coastal boyfriend, and six days before the entirety of New York City would be shut down when he called from California, nervous.

SEE ALSO: Let’s talk about sex (in self-isolation)

“This is serious,” he said. “New York’s looking really bad. Should I still come?”

Despite my determination to be in perfect health for his arrival – sleeping, exercising, chugging excessive amounts of water – I was nagged by a sore throat during our conversation. My hypochondriacal instincts were in full flight mode, but selfishness won out and I convinced him to catch his red eye regardless of the risk. I was manifesting via “immune health”-guided meditations, and dropping into downward dog whenever possible.

A headache hit when he arrived. During a sightseeing expedition the next day, my fatigue reached a point where just walking around Brooklyn was unbearable. Later, we sat in Prospect Park amid throngs of others enjoying an uncharacteristically warm spring afternoon in New York, eating pizza.

I couldn’t taste it.

A week after I lost taste and smell, it was added to the official list of symptoms. In that window, my boyfriend had developed a 36-hour flu: fever, body aches, you name it. When I didn’t get “sick” after his recovery, we figured it couldn’t have been coronavirus, and together, decided to leave New York for Los angeles. Two months later, the pair of us underwent a $10 dollar blood test for antibodies at a local Labcorp, sitting in strategically social-distanced chairs among other masked hopefuls. After two days, we received results, proceeding to open the official email with the same trepidation we might have viewing our end-of-year grades in school.

The wait was over: we tested positive.

Of course, this immediately raised a whole new host of questions. While the California mask mandate persists, should public protection be necessary for those who are no longer contagious (particularly in open spaces)? Are we only immune to one strain of COVID-19, and thus still might succumb to a mutated virus out in the world? Most importantly, can we now see friends without compromising their – or our own – health?

At this stage, answers are few and far between, but projections look good for those whose bodies have recovered in the wake of the virus. This week, a study in South Korea revealed that the appearance of “reinfection” is merely due to the fact that diagnostic tests are so effective that they pick up on any leftover virus particles in the body. In short: even if you test positive for COVID-19 after recovering from COVID-19, you likely aren’t currently infected or contagious. Worth noting, all of those tested also tested positive for antibodies.

“We can largely stop worrying about reinfection and address the next big questions,” Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University told ScienceNews. “How protective are immune responses in recovered patients, and how long does immunity last?”

The concept of eventual adaptation to the virus has become the beacon of hope in this time of uncertainty. But as much as we cling to the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s important to remind ourselves that everything anyone knows about anything is womb-fresh information. When I was infected with COVID-19, there were no respiratory issues involved, no fever. The doctor I contacted to inquire about my taste and smell offered “allergy season” as an explanation, advising nasal spray. Things are changing week to week, and as much it might pain us to admit it, any new revelation could make that tunnel just a little bit longer.

Still, when it comes to anxiety-reduction, proof of antibodies is a godsend. To anyone whose relationship with the virus remains unclear, or forced into contact with those with compromised immune systems, I’d recommend seeking out a test near you. Who knows, you just might surprise yourself.

Being an Asian American healthcare worker means you’re called a hero and villain

May is officially Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, celebrating the journey of Asian Pacific Americans, what they’ve accomplished, and what’s to come. For an entire week, Very Good Light is kicking off a series of Asian American stories, highlighting the future of Asian America. From Generation Z activists, healthcare workers on the front lines, music artists, and more, we’re uplifting Asian stories. We’ve partnered this week with Hate Is A Virus, a grassroots campaign that aims to raise $1 million to businesses affected by COVID-19. Together, we hope to spark conversations, change, and community. After all, the Asian American experience is the American experience. We’re in this together. For more on Hate Is A Virus, go here. 

Asian American healthcare workers

Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear scrubs.

Asian American frontline medical professionals are working to save the country despite falling victim to blatant racism.

As quarantine continues and coronavirus-related anxiety reaches fever pitch, hate crimes against Asian communities across the United States have also experienced an upswing. Asian Americans are being targeted, verbally and physically harassed at alarming frequency. It doesn’t help that President Trump’s branding of COVID-19 as “the Chinese virus” prompting insults such as, “Go back to China,” or inferring that a Chinese American reporter doesn’t belong. 

For Asian American medical professionals, weathering a pandemic on the frontlines is much more political than simply showing up to save lives. Not only do they work day-in and day-out in conditions they have never before encountered, but forced to confront and ease racial tensions in the process. A new video of Asian American healthcare workers published Tuesday, proving how these professionals are both heralded as heroes but also vilified as well. Another video from TIME tells the story of Dr. Chen Fu, a hospitalist at NYU Langone Medical Center who shared with of his experiences with racism as a health practitioner in a pandemic. “It’s tough to reconcile being both celebrated and villainized at the same time.”

Though Asians make up about 5.6 percent of the population according to the last U.S census, they compose 18% of the medical field according to a 2018 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges. They’re sacrificing their lives and putting themselves at risk for the betterment of others.

To celebrate the hardworking individuals in the medical field represented in Asian American communities, we’re uplifting 15 doctors and nurses around the country. We’ve asked them to share with us how they’re navigating this new world and what their important experiences have been. Here are their real stories: 

AJ Angelia , New Jersey, RN

I work as a registered nurse in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital. I graduated from nursing school in May 2019 and have been working as a nurse for 10 months now.

When COVID-19 hit my hospital, it was a shock to the system. Cases were rapidly increasing, the demand for staff shifted between departments, and policies and best practices were constantly changing. In the ICU, we quickly became short-staffed. We had reached our patient capacity. 

We are required to wear surgical masks at all times. When we enter the room of a COVID-19 patient, we must don personal protective equipment for “airborne” precautions, which include: a gown, two pairs of gloves, an N95 mask, and a face shield or goggles. We put on and remove each of these items with each pass into and out of a room. In efforts to preserve PPE (personal protective equipment), other nurses and I try our best to cluster our care so that we can do our job properly while entering the room the least number of times possible.

Being Asian-American during these times has shown how false the Model Minority Myth is as we were swiftly stabbed in the back by Yellow Peril. In the context of being in the medical field as an Asian-American, I have raised my voice louder for both the safety of my colleagues facing COVID-19 head-to-head and my Asian-American brothers and sisters experiencing racism. While I have yet to experience the levels of blatant racism that I have read about — and I hope I never will — I continue to see and hear microaggressions.

Sometimes when I’m in the store to pick something up from work, I often feel that my obvious Asian ethnicity coupled with hospital scrubs marks me as a target. I wonder if the person from down the aisle will be the one to break the silence and say, “Thank you for all that you do” or, “Please don’t come any closer,” with a touch of racial slurs. 

Dagny Zhu, California, MD 

I was born in Shanghai, China, and immigrated with my parents to the U.S. at a young age. I graduated from UCLA college and from Harvard Medical School where I discovered my love for ophthalmology. I now work as a cornea, cataract, and LASIK surgeon as an owner of a practice.

We shut down our clinic and furloughed about 75% of our staff for about one month. I continued to only see urgent patients about two times a week. As a small practice owner, it has been very difficult financially because, without surgeries, our clinic does not generate any revenue, but continues to accumulate high expenses like rent. It’s been especially difficult for my staff as they have had to file for unemployment during this time to get by. Fortunately, we are slowly opening back up as non-urgent surgery restrictions have been lifted in California, but we are continuing to be very cautious and taking multiple safety precautions.

I have had colleagues who have had patients refuse to see them because of their race, so every day, I am self-conscious about how my own patients view me and whether I may experience the same. It’s disheartening to hear about people of Asian descent including children and the elderly being attacked verbally and physically solely based on their race. They have to worry not only about contracting the virus but also about being attacked whenever they leave their homes. 

There’s irony in the situation. Asian Americans make up almost 20% of medical doctors in the country, many of whom are on the front lines risking their own lives to save others. Sadly, many of them have either been personally discriminated against or had their family or friends experience first-hand attacks. Regardless, as physicians, we do not discriminate against who we treat and will continue to provide the best care possible to all our patients. 

Jerry Tsong, New York, MD

I’m an ophthalmologist and retina specialist. I’m Taiwanese-American, both of my parents are immigrants from Taiwan but I was born in New Jersey and grew up there.

I am an attending physician in a private practice in a group of other eye doctors. We operate at the local hospital and cover the ER and consulting services too. COVID-19 has been very stressful to me, my fellow doctors, and my medical teams. We have had to provide eye care to patients with new diagnoses of COVID-19, we worry about getting COVID-19 and spreading it to our loved ones, and as small business owners we worry about keeping our business afloat in the face of severely reduced numbers of patients and lost revenue. 

In March we limited our practice to only seeing emergency patients and patients with unstable eye conditions. Instead of six doctors working full-time, we reduced it to one doctor each day, and for a limited number of patients. We stopped operating except for emergency cases. We have had to deal with shortages of PPE and have had to purchase directly on Ebay and online with a huge mark-up. We reuse masks and provide masks to patients who are not wearing them.

The federal government and other government leaders have not done enough to stand up against Anti-Asian racism during the pandemic. The President and other officials calling it the “Chinese virus” is clearly inciting racism and, in turn, Asian-American discrimination. This is incredibly disturbing and flat out wrong. There is a distinction between the Chinese government and Chinese citizens in America. Just like there is a distinction between the Chinese government and Asian-Americans – totally different groups that should not be lumped together.

As doctors, we are taught to treat everyone with the same compassion and care. I do this every day when I see patients at work. It’s the same with my fellow Asian-American physicians. There’s no hesitation involved. It’s what we’re trained to do. It’s just what’s right. But it’s especially painful to experience anti-Asian-American discrimination now. This is at a time when Asian-Americans make up a significant portion of healthcare workers and are fighting the virus on behalf of all Americans.

Fortunately, I have not had anyone shout racial epithets at me or experienced violence against me. But I know it could happen anytime, anywhere. I live in New York City and I avoid going outside at night, even in “safe” neighborhoods, out of concern for my safety as an Asian-American. This is the first time that I have avoided going out at night in NYC, ever. I am also more careful and more aware of others around me.

Racism towards any one group of Americans is flat out wrong and distinctly un-American. More Americans need to realize that and other minority groups need to come together to promote this. We are all Americans.

 Kimberly Shao, Connecticut, MD

I am a Chinese-Polynesian American. I was born in the States and I grew up in New York. I went to medical school at the University of Pennsylvania and I am currently in Connecticut doing my dermatology residency.

For dermatologists, limiting face-to-face encounters while still seeing urgent in-person patients in order to steer them away from overcrowding emergency rooms is key. The majority of our patient visits have been through telemedicine, with the exception of 4-5 clinics a week seeing in-person urgent appointments.  We stopped all elective procedures, and surgery has been limited to only melanomas (which are lethal if left untreated), and high-risk squamous cell cancers.

Being in the medical field as an Asian could mean I am tasked to treat patients who hold bigoted opinions. It means that I may be confronted with harrowing news of members of my ethnicity being attacked, while I have no other moral choice other than to maintain my job and oath to help others. It means that some Asian health care workers, especially those in major cities, may be harassed on public transport on their way to risk their lives to save others. 

I called a patient the other week to let him know we needed to change his appointment to a phone visit and reschedule his in-person appointment for a later date. He became frustrated and irate. Telling me that our clinic was making a big deal out of nothing, that this “China virus is hocus pocus.” Questioning how we could be real doctors. Though I introduced myself as Dr. Shao, I wondered if he would have said the same things to my face seeing as I was Asian. The next day we saw a woman with a diffusely pruritic rash. She thanked us profusely for seeing her and for what we do as physicians. It’s definitely a strange time to be an Asian doctor. On one end, doctors are being applauded for their sacrifice. On the other end, Asians have increasingly become the target of hate crimes.

It hit home for me when it started affecting my grandma. She normally goes to a senior center in NYC for Asian women. Obviously they had to put that on hold during the pandemic, but her senior center friends stayed in touch via WeChat. They would share stories – many about the uptick in verbal and physical hate crimes towards Asians. My grandmother became afraid to leave her apartment – just as scared of the virus as she was of the possibility of harassment.

This is all while racism against Black people runs rampant in China. Chinese-Americans have landed in the middle, and as a result, this has stirred even more negativity towards Asian minorities. I do not condone xenophobia of any nature. But it is disheartening to see Asian Americans here, many who have and continue to contribute to the health and wellness of our country be demonized. 

Leslie Kim, New York, MD & MPH

I was born in Seoul, South Korea, and emigrated to NYC when I was one-year-old. I’m a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and otolaryngologist (ENT). I practice exclusively in aesthetic and reconstructive procedures of the face, head, and neck.

Being a sub-specialist, I have been largely “sidelined” by the COVID-19 pandemic.  I stopped seeing patients in the clinic and doing elective surgeries in mid-March. For the past seven weeks, my practice has been reduced to virtual visits, post-op/urgent clinic visits, and cancer reconstruction cases. However, it is well-known that otolaryngologists or ENTs are one of the specialists at the highest risk of occupational exposure to COVID-19 due to our work in the nose/mouth/throat. So we have had to take extra precautions in surgeries and when seeing patients. 

COVID-19 has also impacted me because my mom is a registered nurse on Long Island, NY.  She has been on the frontlines, working tirelessly to treat all/only COVID-19 patients. She ran out of PPE and I had to mail her some. Despite this, she messages me after every shift to make sure WE are doing okay.  She is my personal hero and now has been a hero to many.

My heart breaks, hearing about fellow Asian-Americans struggle with racism and xenophobia during this novel coronavirus pandemic. Being attacked for no reason. It is not something I have personally experienced but I find myself being more vigilant these days.  So many of us are immigrants or the children of immigrants who came to this country to seek a better life and career in the land of opportunity. Now, many of us have become physicians and other health care workers who work so hard to give back to our communities. 

Especially in times of crisis, there is no place for hate. We are all human and underneath the color of our skin and our appearance, we are all the same people.  We all seek to live our best life of love, health, success, and happiness. We all struggle similarly in this pursuit with heartbreaks, losses, failures, disease, and death. Yet, our differences are what make this world, and this country in particular, so wonderful and interesting. 

Victor Liou, Massachusetts, MD

My parents immigrated from Taiwan and I was born and raised in the Midwest. My fellowship training is in ophthalmic plastic surgery, a small but amazing subspecialty of ophthalmology. We perform surgeries on the eyelid, orbit, and tear duct system as well as facial cosmetic and reconstructive surgery.

To protect the patients and staff, our hospital has postponed all “non-essential” surgeries and appointments. This means we are only seeing urgent issues that might potentially result in blindness. For non-urgent issues, I have had to find ways to help the patient virtually rather than in person. COVID-19 has forced me to make these decisions with a blurry photo or pixelated video call. Patients are afraid to come to the hospital because they do not want to contract the virus. I often give out my email address and phone number so patients can update me on their symptoms from home.

Still, we occasionally have patients who are very sick and need to stay in the hospital. I must examine them face to face. Early during the pandemic, COVID-19 test results took almost a week to come back. It was nerve-wracking to enter a room of a potentially infected patient. I was constantly worried there was a leak in my N-95 face mask. After exiting the room, I would wash my hands three times, my face once, and then use antiseptic. I was not worried about overkill. Fortunately, obtaining COVID-19 results is much faster now.

Though I am hopeful for a brighter future, we cannot expect discrimination and ignorance to cease overnight. It is important for us Asian-American physicians to recognize that our contributions are a product of not only our medical training but also our personal histories. We should acknowledge not only the expertise we provide but also the diversity in our understanding of each person and our approach to patient care. Both parts coexist and should be celebrated together.

Ari , Pennslyvania, RN

I am a second degree BSN, which means that I earned my first bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field (for me it was hospitality management) and then applied to an accelerated BSN program. 

I am not currently working in a hospital. I finished my ABSN program in December 2019 and passed my RN board exam at the end of April. Since my program ended, I have been volunteering my time with the Medical Reserve Corps to conduct COVID-19 tests. My husband is a physician and is also a frontline worker. We are anxious over every occasional cough or tickle in our throat. We have both been feeling a certain level of anxiety because of the pandemic. We are worried about our family in CA, each other, and our own health. 

It is difficult to put into words. Violence against Asians in America has been glossed over for decades. I would encourage any Asian American who does not know the name Vincent Chin to Google his name and learn his story. My message to other Asian American medical workers is to try and rise above hatred. We are integral parts of our country’s response to COVID-19. We play a vital role and no one can take that away from us. We are Americans, period. Pity those who throw hateful words at us because they are being un-American. 

I was called racial slurs in broad daylight by someone a few weeks ago after I had come off a string of days conducting COVID-19 tests. I feel that as much as all healthcare workers (HCWs) are celebrated right now, there needs to be equal energy directed at supporting HCWs of Asian descent. I implore HCWs of every ethnic background to support their Asian American colleagues and call out problematic speech and behavior when they see it (in a safe way, of course). 

Shim Ching , Hawaii, MD

I’m a board-certified plastic surgeon. I was born in Japan but was raised in Vancouver, Canada. I was trained in Canada and moved to the U.S 15 years ago. I specialize in cosmetic plastic surgery.

I no longer work at the hospital, but we shut down our private practice for five weeks for the good of our community. I do feel fortunate in that I have not experienced racism in our current situation. The population of Hawaii is predominantly Asian so we are sheltered from those concerns.  

Although the origin of COVID-19 may have been from China, blaming people of Asian heritage for this pandemic is ignorant and wrong. I would hope stories like Dr. Chen Fu will raise awareness of this issue and prevent this from happening to Asian American doctors and healthcare workers.

Scott Fujimoto , California, DO

I am a Japanese-American, born and raised near Philadelphia. I am an interventional radiologist, meaning I perform minimally-invasive image-guided therapies for anything from oncology to vascular disease. 

We have had to postpone many outpatient procedures to minimize risk to HCWs and at-risk patients. Unfortunately, this often means that patients with the diagnosis of cancer or potentially have cancer will have to wait for their diagnosis and treatment. However, much of our procedures are inpatient or considered urgent so we have remained pretty busy. Because of the essential nature of our service, we tried to split our teams as much as possible to prevent a mass exposure from causing illness or quarantine that would limit the availability of people throughout the hospital. Procedures done on COVID-19 positive patients are done at bedside if possible, or in a converted negative pressure cardiovascular lab in the operating room if fluoroscopy is required. 

Thankfully, I have not encountered any personal attacks or discrimination. I have had colleagues that have been heckled leaving the hospital or who have had patients themselves make comments about their race. The doctor who could save your life might end up being Asian, and we will treat you compassionately no matter your race.

The thing that struck me most about Dr. Fu’s story is the racism he encountered when he was in scrubs obviously on his way to the hospital. I have treated all kinds of people, from inmates to white supremacists, and everyone is respectful to their doctors because they know their lives are in the doctor’s hands. Now, with this irrational fear of Asians, that line of respect is being blurred. I don’t need to be treated like a hero, but I do need to be able to do my job without fear for my safety.   

Also, as a Japanese-American whose family was impacted by the internment during World War II, it has saddened me that there have been calls on Asians to increase their patriotism. This mindset led to the assimilation of Japanese-Americans to the point where their unique culture was lost. I don’t believe that we need to prove our American-ness, we are just as American as everyone else.  

Katrina von Kriegenbergh , California, MD

I am the daughter of Filipino immigrants. My parents immigrated in the ’70s during the large healthcare worker immigration- my father is a general surgeon who was educated in the Philippines, but completed his residency in the US. I am a double board-certified pain management physician and anesthesiologist

Prior to the pandemic, I was doing outpatient chronic pain management 90-95% of the time and surgery center anesthesia half a day a week. I performed injections and minimally invasive surgery for pain from the low back, neck, abdomen, pelvis, etc. Since the pandemic, I joined a group of anesthesiologists to form the invasive lines team to take care of COVID-19 patients

Some people have targeted Asian and Asian-Americans because the first outbreak of the disease was in Wuhan, China. I personally have not experienced anything, but I have read about Chinese and Chinese Americans being physically assaulted for not wearing a mask or for simply being Asian and may have also endured racial slurs. 

Many people are thankful that we continue to work and we will continue as long as we need to. Honestly, many healthcare workers, including myself, are uncomfortable with the “hero” title. I feel like I have a specialized skill set as an anesthesiologist that is of great use, especially during this time. However, I am merely showing up and doing my job. I am fortunate to have appropriate PPE at my hospital. I realize this is not the case everywhere. I feel like we are also being villainized when we try to give guidelines that people do not want to hear, especially regarding how and when to reopen the country. 

Micah Yu , California, MD

I am Chinese American and I decided to become a rheumatologist because of my own disease. A rheumatologist mainly treats arthritis and autoimmune disease. My struggles with my own disease have motivated me to help others and empathize with those who are dealing with the same medical problems.

My office has stopped all procedures and have switched to telemedicine. I am taking care of more coronavirus patients on top of taking care of rheumatology patients while in the hospital.

Being Asian-American in the medical field has not changed much for me. However, some of my colleagues have had racist comments made towards them just because they were Asian. It is hard being Asian-American at this time even though we are taking care of coronavirus in the hospital as we also have to fight the racist virus outside the hospital. Hearing about racist comments and hate crimes towards other fellow Asians in the USA has been heartbreaking.

It is very hard being an Asian-American doctor at this time. We are helping fight this virus in the hospital but at the same time when we are out of the hospital, people see us as Asians and possibly linked to the coronavirus despite the fact that we are doctors fighting the same battle that everyone else is fighting. 

Lyly Nguyen , California, MD

I am Vietnamese-American and I started my career as a general surgeon and am specializing in plastic surgery. Soon, I will be in my last year of plastic surgery fellowship.

During COVID, my plastic surgery program, as well as my institution, took great measures to decrease exposure to its staff. We decreased to half staff and alternated weeks on and off. As a plastic surgery fellow, many of our elective cases were canceled to maintain safety of our patients and hospital staff, however any urgent reconstructive cases still continued keeping us busy. 

I’m fortunate to not have experienced any racism or negative remarks firsthand. However, I have heard countless attacks or comments to fellow physicians, some risking their health and safety on the frontlines. Hearing these accounts always makes you concerned about how other people perceive your external appearance even if they haven’t outwardly expressed it. This looming fear or anxiety is unprecedented, something that I never felt I had to worry about before.  

I worry about how my race will affect how my patients perceive me and how it will affect their trust in me, not because of my skill or intelligence but because of my background. I am lucky and hopeful that I will never have to experience that. 

Christy Chen , Minnesota, MD

I was born in Shanghai, China, and grew up in Michigan. I have now been on staff at Mayo Clinic for six years, taking care of patients in the outpatient setting and nursing homes while educating learners on all levels including medical students, residents, and fellows.

COVID-19 impacted my outpatient practice and nursing home practice. In an effort to keep our patients and community safe, many long term care facilities were on strict lockdown, which limited our ability to care for them face to face. We needed to quickly adapt to these changes and discover other ways to take care of them including telemedicine options, which unfortunately had its limitations when dealing with multiple chronic health issues and complex care coordination needs. Despite maximizing our efforts, the infection still made its way into these vulnerable populations across the nation which was very devastating to see. It reminded us how ill-prepared we are for situations like these, not just in the hospital setting, but across the community and especially in our older adults. 

For me, being an Asian American in the medical field during this time is the same as it has always been. We are a part of a team, and that has not changed. We are all critical players despite our background and race, and we should not let the increase in discrimination downplay our skills, efforts, or worth. Our goals as healthcare workers are uniform- we want to keep our patients healthy, safe, and alive. We want to do everything in our power to meet these goals, which do not discriminate. Racial attacks may have increased, but I believe this is largely driven by fear and misconception. I still choose to believe that deep down, people have good intentions and hatred or fear can only be broken through building good relationships, listening to each other, and taking care of each other with kindness. 

It saddens me to wonder if the perception of Asian-Americans has changed permanently because of this pandemic. It saddens me, even more, to recognize that there are many people who feel discriminated against in some way every day of their lives and were born into this. Discrimination and racism of any kind should not exist, but the roots run deep and span many generations across many cultures. It is my hope that we will continue to break this mentality throughout time.

Austin L. Chiang , Pennsylvania, MD

I’m a gastroenterologist sub-specializing in advanced endoscopy. I’m an assistant professor of medicine at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia and I’m also the director of the endoscopic bariatric program and chief medical social media officer for the institution.

We aim to minimize exposure to our patients and staff, conserve resources while making sure that people who need urgent procedures can still get the care they need. We’ve had to postpone non-urgent procedures and reconfigure our schedules so we can take turns caring for patients in the hospital. We’ve also had to figure out our protocols for COVID testing and equipping ourselves with appropriate protective gear when encountering patients. Additionally, we are having to anticipate how to reopen our practice to prioritize those who need immediate attention.

It has been an interesting dichotomy. I have encountered one instance where someone shouted a racially-motivated coronavirus reference at me despite the fact that I was in medical garb. Fortunately, I consider Philadelphia to be a diverse city, and I can only hope that this translates to acceptance and understanding. Health professionals regardless of race are working hard to protect and treat our patients. It’s a difficult and stressful time for everyone, so we could all benefit from exercising a little more empathy through all this.

Daniel Sugai , Washington, MD & FAAD

I am a board-certified dermatologist in private practice. I am originally from Oahu and did my medical school training there at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine where I met my wife in our first year of medical school. We both moved to Boston to do our residency training. I did my internship in internal medicine and my dermatology residency at Harvard Medical School. My wife, Dr. Erina Sugai, is a hospitalist physician in the Seattle area on the frontlines battling COVID-19.

When the pandemic started, we immediately responded by cutting our outpatient clinic time to a small fraction where I was only working 1-2 half days a week and limiting my practice to high-risk medication follow-ups and emergency cases in order to lessen the burden on our local ERs and Urgent Care centers. I had diagnosed fast-growing skin cancers and helped treat serious skin infections and blistering rashes during the pandemic. Thankfully the curve has flattened, and we are able to slowly open up clinic hours to more patients.

My wife and I are Asian-American physicians and I have personally experienced racism during my medical training years before this pandemic. Thankfully we have not experienced racial discrimination or hate during this pandemic but I am very concerned for my fellow Asian-Americans. Our healthcare workers are on the frontlines fighting this virus and caring for our communities yet are facing racism outside of the hospital.  There is no way hate will be the answer to these dark times; only love will heal us eventually. It will take time to recover from this but we will get through this together as a community.

We as physicians have a duty to our communities, to serve and put our families and our own health on the line but the public should not take that for granted regardless of race. The profession of medicine is a noble one but I feel that it also keeps us from standing up for ourselves to not come off as “unprofessional” or “insensitive.” Physician burnout is a real thing that has led many to suicide and depression. Moreover, physicians are facing pay cuts during this pandemic despite risking their lives every day. Physicians do not deserve nor have the time or energy to battle the racial hate that is inflicted on them outside of the hospital — on the subway or in the grocery store. We need to not only flatten the curve of infections but also flatten the curve of hate during these dark times.

Haircut at home? Grab these must-have tools

So, the time has come to tame the beast: your quarantine hair.

Even though our social exposure is at a near zero, the possibility of stumbling on your own reflection has increased tenfold – and there’s only so much unruly poof our pride can take before a haircut is mandated. The catch is, of course, when stuck at home we can’t pay a professional to tidy things up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve a clean haircut all on your own.

SEE ALSO: Let’s talk about sex (in self-isolation)

Nonetheless, if you’re an amateur attempting an at-home haircut, you’re going to need to be prepared. Most hair stylists aren’t exactly endorsing taking your tresses into your own hands well in self-isolation (the concern being that you might make a mistake, try to correct it, and eventually resemble a hedge hog emerging from a house fire), coloring should be absolutely avoided, but if you’re desperate to get cutting, there are ways to make it work.

The first thing you’ll want to do is as much research on your hair type as possible, if you can get advice from a barber familiar with your hair, do, and secondly recruit someone with a delicate touch to help you navigate the more difficult areas (if they’re comfortable with doing your whole hair, let them). Otherwise, if you’re working alone make sure you have a great mirror set-up so you can do the back to the best of your ability. You’re also going to need tools — no, we repeat, NO kitchen scissors should come near your hair — to give yourself a haircut that you might have paid money for. You might not need all the tools, but we rounded up the best, just in case.

The best haircut cape

haircut cape

Courtesy of amazon

Okay, this may seem a little extreme, but if you’re stuck indoors with no access to an outdoor area or roof and what to avoid a whole heap of sweeping, vacuuming or discovering mini-hairs for months to come, this is a game-changer. Pop her on to protect your neck, clothes and floors — for $6, it’s worth it.


The best buzz-cut clippers

Conair Trimmer

Photo courtesy of Amazon

So you want to maintain a sharp, close cut without the whole to-do? You’ll be a Jason Statham lookalike in seconds with this little number, a handheld clipper that’s waterproof so you can touch-up in the shower. If you’re embracing facial hair in quarantine and want it in 5 o’clock shadow territory, permanently, this might just be your best friend.


The best neck hair guide

Neck hair guide

Photo courtesy of Ebay

This is for those of you weathering the pandemic solo (or with anyone reluctant to come near with your hair). Pop on this headband-esque contraption and enjoy the cleanest line that money can buy.


The best multi-directional trimmer

Multidirectional trimmer

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Ditto for this product, you’re going to want to get your mitts on this ASAP if you don’t have an extra pair of hands to work on the back for you (pulling a trimmer up the back of your scalp is no easy feat). This cordless wonder comes with four comb guides so you have options for hair length, and lets you get at your cut from all directions. Genius.


The best intricate razor

Hair engraver

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Oh, you’re fancy huh. If you’ve become accustomed to an expert fade with an engraved design that stops traffic and simply cannot bear for it to grow out, there’s a way you can stay looking sharp without the stylists touch. Proceed with caution, though, without a steady hand things can quickly get out of control with this trimmer, so make sure you’re ready to contend with whatever the outcome may be.


The best beard trimmer

Beard trimmer

Photo courtesy of Amazon

We can’t overstate this one, this beard trimmer is the industry’s Cadillac — and priced at over $150, we know it will last you a lifetime. It boasts expert precision, neck-clean-ups and all-round evenness. This may just be the sole tool to get you through self-isolation.

BUY HERE, $162

The best beard template

Beard template

Photo courtesy of amazon

Listen, there is no excuse for a wonky line — even if you haven’t seen your barber in weeks. This handy tool with keep your beard cut with absolute precision, serving as a stencil for you to shave down from your cheekbone. It comes in two different shapes (curved and straight), so whichever way you wear your beard, you can keep yourself looking clean.


The best cut template

Haircut template

Photo courtesy of Amazon

And speaking of stencils, never worry about keeping your cut even again with this little number. From aligning your part, to keeping your earline in tact to maintaining your taper for maximum blend, this purchase will halve your haircut time and is perfect for those who are on their own. Did someone say MVP?


The best cut kit

Remington haircut kit

Photo courtesy of Amazon

If you want to skip the nonsense and go back to basics, this haircut kit pretty much encompasses any needs when it comes to a trim. With a cordless trimmer, 11 different guard sizes (so you can avoid that too short cut) and clips to boot, anyone with this kit and a penchant for YouTube tutorials can give themselves a pretty passable haircut. Hey, you might even look pretty good.

BUY HERE, $47.50

The best clip guard

2 inch clip guard

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Across most clip guard kits, just one size (arguably the best size) is often overlooked: the two-inch. This is ideal if you want to tame the top without buzzing it all off. It may seem ridiculous to purchase a solo guard on top of a comprehensive kit, but trust us, once this puppy is in your hands — and on your head — it will be worth it.


I made a homemade bath bomb using everything in my kitchen

Your next DIY project during quarantine: Bath Bombs

While self-isolating, I decided to bring the outside in.

As I learned my 14th TikTok routine and put together my 8th 1000 piece puzzle, I decided to mix it up. I put on my Pinterest hat and researched DIY projects to distract my mind. 

SEE ALSO: Let’s talk about sex (in self-isolation)

Amazingly, I found a recipe for DIY bath bombs. As we all adjust to major lifestyle changes in order to not overwhelm health officials during the rapid spread of coronavirus, we are seeing more and more DIY projects on social media.

Collage of final bath bomb results

I decided to make bath bombs because as times are stressful with coronavirus abruptly changing my daily routine to online classes, and losing my job I needed to cope with the stress in a healthy way. 

Yes, bath bombs. Bath bombs are hand-packed circular spheres that can fit into the palm of your hand. They are usually created using essential oils and soaps and ingredients that react to water that upgrade your bath from dull to glamorous.

The best part: I didn’t have to leave my dorm room to find any ingredient. Most were already in my kitchen hiding somewhere.

Making your own bath bombs may sound intimidating, but I took on the challenge. Let’s just say I didn’t end up in a powdery mess like I thought I would.

While cooped up in the house, creating the bath bombs made for more than just a project to watch disintegrate in my tub. Actually doing something creative with my hands helped create a healthy escape from all the coronavirus news and counting what day of self-isolating I am in.

What you need

For reference, I followed Beauty Crafter’s recipe for their Rose Bath Bombs but tweaked it just a bit. The ingredients I used were as follows: 1 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup citric acid, ⅓ cup cornstarch, 4-8 drops of gel food coloring (the more drops the more vibrant the bath bombs), a cap full of Olive Oil and 2 tsp of water.

As I added water to the ingredients the familiar fizz of bath bombs began to happen in the bowl. I think I got too into my Billy Nye the Science Guy role because I ended up adding another tablespoon of water to watch the chemicals react.

To showcase ingredients for DIY Bath bombs

After adding water the second time, I tested the consistency and the ingredients began to stick together a little more than the instructions seemed to describe. Regardless, I scooped the bath bomb ingredients into each mold and pressed them together. Sooner rather than later, they held together so I let them dry overnight and checked on them the next day..

The final results:

Move over LUSH, you’ve got some competition.

They may not be perfect but now I understand why people decide to DIY rather than just buy products off a shelf. DIY projects give the satisfaction of watching your project come to life. You get to witness and be apart of a process. 

I’m not going to lie, at first I was intimidated by the idea of creating a bath bomb, thinking of all the majestic bath bombs from Lush I actually found this DIY project to be therapeutic and easy.

As I watch my bath bomb turn my New York City shower floor into a pink party, I never wished that I had a bathtub to soak in more than now.

5 steps to making DIY Bath Bombs:


Whisk together the dry ingredients.


Add rosehip oil and food coloring for smell and look (optional) Mix the ingredients until the dry ingredients have changed to desired color.


Whisk in the water (quickly). Test the consistency by trying to grab a handful, if the ingredients mold like damp sand does in your hand you can move to the next step. If not slightly add more water.


Place rose petals into the bottom of each bath bomb mold and then add the mixture on top. You can also add more petals while you fill the mold. Press down softly on each side, then overfill before pressing the two together.


Eventually the two sides of the mold will stick together to make a sphere, when they do store in a cool, dry area and let them sit overnight.

The best hands-free to tools to cleanse your face in the age of COVID-19

We may have self-quarantined, social distanced and stockpiled hand-sanitizer, but there’s one Coronavirus no-no that doctors say everyone is struggling to avoid: face touching.

SEE ALSO: A career coach on managing coronavirus-induced stress and anxiety

The problem is, it’s just so damn impossible. Scientists claim the average person touches their face up to 25 times an hour. And that’s just counting the ~average~ person. What about the beauty obsessive, who’s always poring over, well, his pores? So what does one do?

Turn to tools. If you’re a hypochondriac, it’s tools that will put your mind at ease. Below, five of the very best facial tools you need.

Best splurge

Clarisonic Mia Smart

Courtesy of Clarisonic

Oh, so you want to be cleansed, toned and sculpted? Well, look no further than this little number. Think all the tightening benefits of a face roller in a cleansing tool, massaging while ridding skin all the impurities. It comes at a steep price tag. At $120, it’s not the cheapest of purchases, but it will all be worth it when you have the tightest skin at the table (and by table we mean your own dining room table, because quarantine, of course).

BUY HERE: Clarisonic Mia Smart, BUY HERE, $118

Best body

Nurse Jamie Exfoliband Silicone Loofah

Courtesy of Nurse Jamie

Nothing ages like a drug store loofah. After barely several uses any exfoliator can start looking a little worse for wear, so if you want something to go the distance, silicone is the only way. Bonus, this little number can take you from body to face and back again when you need a scrub down.

BUY HERE: Nurse Jamie Exfoliband Silicone Loofah, nursejamie.com, $17

Best brush

Okay, so this might just be the tool from the heavens. This massaging face brush will smooth away all your sins and save you from purchasing any further exfoliating products (hello investment item). It also comes with two different heads: an anti-bacterial daily cleansing brush and a silicone head designed to tone and stimulate so your subsequent moisturizing routine really soaks into skin, with three different modes. In short, this is the MVP.

BUY HERE: Magnitone London BareFaced 2 Daily Cleansing and Skin Toning Brush, lookfantastic.com, $69

Best bang-for-your-buck

Erborian Charcoal Konjac Sponge

Courtesy of Erborian

If you’re looking for a little all-star performer on a budget, look no further. The konjac sponge has long been a staple in Korean beauty (which we all know sets the standard for the rest of the world). This one is also made with charcoal, leaving your face clean, fresh and most importantly, matte. Wave goodbye to your blotting papers, there will be no end-of-day oil here, folks.

BUY HERE: Erborian Charcoal Konjac Sponge, erborian.com, $13

Best acne-prone

Laxcare Waterproof Facial Cleansing Brush

Courtesy of Laxcare

If you find yourself breaking out with the stress of COVID-19, or maybe the lack of fresh air, look no further. This is the ultimate tool to tackle your acne, deeply cleaning out your pores without irritating or over-exfoliating. Tailor to your skin type with seven different speeds, and enjoy the fact that the hyper-hygenic silicone head is saving your from bacteria. Considering this puppy also comes in at just under $40, you’ll be doing your skin a huge favor without breaking the bank.

BUY HERE: Laxcare Waterproof Facial Cleansing Brush, BUY HERE, $38

Everything you need to know before your cut your own hair

On our third quarantined Saturday, my new roommate emerged shirtless armed with an array of clippers, combs and a vision.

His hair — which was stubbornly thick, wave-inclined and fast-growing — had reached a boiling point, he claimed.  The small, ‘self’-square on Zoom calls had not been kind to him, and he simply could not continue to confront an unruly mop every time he took a meeting. His hair, for a lack of a better description, was becoming a Chia Pet. As he handed over haircutting tools to myself and two other roommates, we became aware that his hair – and workplace clout – were now in our hands now.

This is maintenance in Coronavirus-mandated self-isolation. Not only do people attempt to DIY the beauty regimen they usually pay professionals for, but the constant confinement, countles distractions and more frequent exposure to mirrors is enough to drive anyone to a pair of scissors. Throw in dwindling self-esteem from a lack of social stimulation, and you’re in experiment territory.

For all tips, we asked Beverly Hills celebrity hair stylist, Philip Wolff, all about his best self-hair cutting tips. Philip says to temper yourself, warning against doing anything too dramatic.

“Even though it may feel so difficult and frustrating, be strong and be patient, you will regret making any drastic decision during this stressful time,” he says.

As for those whose hair has, for whatever reason, become completely unmanageable (and a mess!) there are definitely ways to approach it. Below, are some best practices!

Combat frustration with creativity

When your hair hits an in-between phase and is refusing to cooperate, bust out the accessories.

“A few ways men can navigate through a grow out is beanies, hats, bandanas, etc — this way weeks even months can go by during the awkward phases of grow out without being bothersome,” shares Philip. By the time quarantine ends, you’re hair will likely be much more manageable, or you’re hair will be primed for a stylist to work their magic.

It’s worth also experimenting with a different part for longer styles (think: 90s curtain style) without cutting, as a means of satiating your appetite for change. “Seek out a stylist or barber who does styles you particularly admire and start from there. Another way is to look up men’s styles, and find what you like on someone who is similar to you feature-wise.”

Philip also suggests experimenting with strong-hold products as a tool to either mix up your daily style, or encourage hair to follow an alternative growth pattern so it begins to fall differently.

Do your research

So you still want to cut? That’s okay, but start off right. Contact your stylist or barber (you can likely be connected with them via the salon’s Instagram), someone who has experience with your hair — “We are all in this together and us professionals are here to help via social media,” Philip assures. “[Reach out] to someone who has worked wit your hair and give techniques or ideas for home cuts or DIY-hair fixes, but make sure that’s what they recommend.

If you’re going to try do it alone, your primary fool-proof option is a full shave — try a two-guard, that will leave you with a length that will grow out nicely. For those not wanting to go the full Monty, have a partner use your clippers to trim the sides and avoid touching the top for a lighter, but still relatively easy update. Have them start off with the higher guards before going lower/shorter,  depending on your desired length, start blending out when it reaches the natural straight hairline at top of the forehead.

Get the right tools


This is crucial. Philip says that before coming close to cutting, you need the essentials: clippers, trimmers, guards, scissors, comb(s), clips, cape or towel, extra mirrors. Your scissors don’t necessarily need to be professional cutting scissors, but you should absolutely avoid using anything that’s primary purpose is as a kitchen utensil or for crafting. If you’re really digging in the bottom of the barrel, try nail scissors — they won’t take off too much.

Again, staying in contact with your hair stylist will serve you big time here — they can advise you as exactly which guard size, or general tools they use to style your hair.

Avoid coloring at all costs


Maybe you have a few grays, perhaps you went a Riverdale-red right before quarantine and it’s not pairing well with chocolate brown roots. Regardless of the situation, if you have no experience with color, walk away from the box dye aisle.

“Dying your hair at home, with no knowledge of the basics or foundation of chemically changing your hair in any way, is not advised at all,” says Philip. “You should contact a professional as there are so many variables to coloring hair — simply choosing a color off the shelf is not how the hair will turn out 99 percent of the time.”

If you are accustomed to the dynamics of box dye, by all means go ahead, otherwise, your perfect color will be worth the wait. This may an ample opportunity to give your hair time off from chemicals, giving it time to without anyone having to actually see you in the awkward re-growth phase.

Make sure you maintain


On that note, if you’re looking for methods to return your hair to its virgin state, Philip suggests really exploring your haircare — you have a lot of extra time, after all.  Invest in shampoo and conditioner that fits your hair needs and is free of parabens and sulfates, and really invest in hydration: leave in conditioners, sprays and masks can have a huge impact on your hair over time.

“Product selection is like shoes, not everyone fits the same — every situation can be very specific so it’s difficult,” he explains.”But if you have color-treated, chemically-treated, dry or brittle hair, hair health during any period of time should be at the top of the concern list, so make sure you’re using proper hair care.”

If you’re still antsy to dive into hair, Philip suggests learning to stye your partners hair — or alternatively, asking for a scalp massage if you’ve been trying to keep your tresses in place with hats or beanies. “Try to make the best out of it and turn this “hairy” quarantine situation into fun new ways to connect, relax and be creative.”

Let’s talk about sex (in self-isolation)

It was a Saturday with several hours left until we left for our much-anticipated weekly outing: A walk around the park with another couple, separated by six-feet.

We were one day away from New York’s implementation of the state’s version of shelter-in-place, and Jordan and Zach would be the only familiar faces we’d see in the outside world. We had exhausted everything on Netflix, binge-eaten everything in the kitchen and still had two hours to kill, so we settled on sex.

Our first foray into coronavirus-catalyzed BDSM was rudimentary at best. A fluffy hat served as stimulus, Glade candle wax counted as sadism; an airplane mask doubled as a blindfold and ribbon tied wrists to the Amazon bed frame.

This is life in lockdown, where it’s a blessing (and sometimes, curse) to be quarantined in close quarters, 24-hours a day with a lover. Then again, on the hunt for entertainment without daily distractions, physical intimacy is suddenly thrust into the spotlight — as are its, pun intended, shortcummings.

SEE ALSO: How to manage coronavirus-induced stress and anxiety

“I’ve seen a lot of couples noting that they’ve been trying extra out-of-the-box sex things,” Gigi Engle, sexologist and sex coach, tells Very Good Light. “I also think it reflects positively on the sex-positive shift millennials and Gen Z seem to be taking towards a greater appreciation and curiosity around pleasure.”

It’s an unprecedented shift, when just last year young adults were in the grips of a “sex recession” — that is, enjoying a notably less amount of sex than ones before. Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, sexologist and author of The Ultimate Guide to Seduction and Foreplay, says that while many may feeling more sexual than usual with additional time, there are many for whom things are different.

Keeping the spark alive

“Some people use sex as a form of stress relief; on the other hand, many people have lost interest in sex at this time,” she shares with us. “They’re preoccupied by the stress of uncertainty and change. It’s important not to prescribe sex as a universal stress reliever, as some people experience sex as a source of stress.”

Then there’s navigating loss of desire. If distance makes the heart grow fonder, surely being forever within a few feet of your partner can only have the opposite effect.

“One of the major tensions in modern love relationships is the desire for stability and security versus our desire for adventure and freedom,” reveals relationship psychologist, Stephanie Zuber. “One requires togetherness, the other separateness. With this pandemic creating a lot of togetherness, the need for distance is important. Anything that creates differentiation, difference and separation is good for couples right now. This will help your sex life.”

Thankfully, there are ways in which you can create distance even if self-isolation prevents you from spending time apart. Tantra expert and orgasmic meditation trainer, Lauren Harkness, believes the key to stoking sexual chemistry is by creating the illusion of “alone time” — be that meditation across the room, a shower or walk outside, even listening to headphones while working on individual projects.

“Solo practice is key, whether that’s meditation, masturbation or exercise,” Lauren says. “If you’re suffering from lack of desire, name it. There is great courage in vulnerability and often the deeper conversations and relationship patterns come to the surface to be worked through. This is a great time to build solid foundations in partnerships, by digging deep into things you may have been avoiding while staying busy out in daily life.”

“The largest sex organ is the brain,” adds Stephanie. “Shift your perspective from, “This is my partner I know everything about,” to “Who is this hot, sexy co-worker I can have a quickie with?!” Instead of thinking, Do I want to have sex right now?, ask yourself, Am I willing to get in the mood right now? Sex isn’t simply defined by intercourse. Expand your definition of sex and see where it takes you.”


Photo courtesy of Pexels/Dainis Graveris

COVID-19 casual sex

For those who don’t have an omnipresent partner to satisfy their needs, things are a little different. Fulfilling social responsibility and enjoying hook-up culture do not easily co-exist in the face of a pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy intimacy with a near-stranger. Based on the orgasm-gap data, Gigi explains, virtual sex has a better chance of getting you off than a tryst with a new partner — it’s also a chance to connect, without putting the health of you and the community at risk. “Think of it like pre-dating before you get a chance to spend time together in person,” she says.

“It seems that many people are following the rule of only have in-the-flesh sex with who you live with, or if you’re hooking up with someone new, do so digitally,” notes Dr. Jess. “You can have all types of sex online; I even know people who are setting up private orgies and dirty talk play parties online.”

“Lastly, washing up before and after sex is more important that ever. Make this a habit.”

She continues: “Voice messages allow you to tap into your lover’s audial desires. For those of us who are auditory learners, the sound of a lover’s voice can be overwhelmingly hot. Use a low, soft voice to tell them what you want to do. Ask them for what you want. Let them know you want to please them. Convey your desire and desperation for their touch. This is the time to get creative and those who do will probably find that the benefits far outlast the isolation of this pandemic.”

Psychotherapist Allie Lerner isn’t surprised the discourse around quarantine has for the most part ignored the dynamics of sex-in-isolation, particularly given our culture is so uncomfortable with the topic of sex, and as such the message, she claims, has been distilled down to: just don’t have it.

But it would be foolish to overlook the singletons for whom the sacrifice of regular sex is just too big. When possible, Allie suggests, view and use verbal communication as “extended foreplay.”

Then there are those who can’t resist meeting up with a potential partner – when their own horniness takes over and they’d risk it for a biscuit. Allie says while not the best idea, if you’re in need, you must keep a few protocols in mind.

“Pursing casual sex within the confines of this epidemic means washing your hands, taking your temperature regularly and understand the risk you are taking by continuing to engage at this current moment,” she says. “If you feel sick, are sick, or think you might be sick…please abstain until you know for sure that you are well. Casual sex can be exciting, but not at the expense of the welfare of yourself or other people.”

Stephanie agrees. “People are craving connection right now and for some, horniness will win out over social distancing,” she says. “If you do have sex outside your household, have as few partners as possible — avoid kissing anyone outside of your small circle of contacts. Use of condoms and dental dams can reduce contact with saliva or feces, especially during oral or anal sex. Lastly, washing up before and after sex is more important that ever. Make this a habit.”

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Masturbation station

And then, of course, there’s self-love. Recommended as the primary — and safest — method of getting off in a global health crisis, it’s unsurprising porn sites have seen massive engagement. Italy’s porn consumption spiked 57-percent the day government officials announced the borders were closing. And as of this week, worldwide porn viewing is still roughly 11-percent above average. Sex toy consumption is also on a consistent upswing, with products like Womanizer, and couples’ option, WeVibe, experiencing a 135-percent sales increase. Yes, we’re even stockpiling sex accessories.

“I think that’s indicative of the fact that people realize orgasms and pleasure are one of the few luxuries we’re able to have during this pandemic,” Gigi claims. “Now is the time to try stuff you’ve always wanted to or may have been afraid of.”

“Please abstain until you know for sure that you are well. Casual sex can be exciting, but not at the expense of the welfare of yourself or other people.”

But with all this time holed up at home, where we’re searching Pornhub for spicy new uploads, should we worry about the frequency of our masturbation?

The myth of masturbation addiction has run rampant for decades, says each sexologist, as a result of the leftover puritanical values discouraging sexual freedom that our society still endorses. If you notice your genitals are a little desensitized or it’s becoming more difficult to climax, it doesn’t mean you have to stop — just switch it up. Slow down on the porn and try your imagination or video sex with a partner for a change, maybe you use lube or experiment with a different technique or toy. New stimulation is what will keep you engaged and feeling on top of your sex game.

“Typically, ‘too much’ masturbation has to do with the context,” shares Stephanie. “Too much in your religion, too much for your partner, too much for the answer Google told you — there is way too much shame and guilt surrounding it. Masturbation is an amazing way to get to know your body, your likes, dislikes and practice with your erectile diversities. Especially during this pandemic, the safest person to have sex with is yourself.”

If you’re experiencing “death grip,” where your penis or clitoris is so accustomed to your hand that sex becomes unfulfilling, take a break for a week, then ease back into it. But the bottom line is: unless masturbation is really interfering with your work, relationships and so on, you’re fine.

SEE ALSO: What it’s like to date as an asexual man

“Masturbation is elemental to increasing desire in many cases, as it helps us to learn about our own bodies and reactions,” explains Dr. Jess. “Self-pleasure also increases the likelihood of an orgasm and is connected with higher self-esteem. Moreover, as your body relishes in the dopamine and endorphin release, you are more likely to crave more, resulting in an increase in desire for sex.”

And that’s not all masturbation is good for. According to sexologists, it’s known to increase circulation to the sex organs to promote erection, as well as teaching you more about your body’s sexual response to serve you better in partnered sex. It reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases, helps to de-stress and facilitate better sleep. Orgasms stimulate oxytocin — increasing your sense of connection, and bonding — increase immunoglobulin A, which strengthens your immune system. They also lower pain, producing a parasympathetic response in the body: calm, centered, safe.

“Masturbation is an amazing way to get to know your body, your likes, dislikes and practice with your erectile diversities.”

“In terms of what we’re actually getting wrong about masturbation, we just do it the same way all the time. Just as variety is the spice of life for couples, so too can variety enhance your solo sex game. Experiment with toys, positions and techniques so that you discover new pathways to pleasure.”

Photo courtesy of Pexels/Dainis Graveris

Spicing up partnered sex

With more time on our hands than ever before, it’s important that we also embrace sexual diversity in our relationships. Gigi Engle recommends masturbating in front of your partner to learn about their sexual responses, and pegging – “it’s really fun way to play with power dynamics.” Dr. Jess says partners should try complimenting each other daily, and practice “role rituals” like pouring a glass of wine, getting undressed to signal that you’ve slipped into a lover role.

Stephanie Zuber suggests sharing your erotic fantasies and pleasures, while Lauren Harkness says the sexually adventurous might enjoy experimenting with a different Karma Sutra position each time they have intercourse. Allie Lener believes constantly communicating your current approach towards sex will work wonders.

“Hopefully we’ll start to think outside the box and build tension, desire and arousal in the long-term, as opposed to waiting until we get into the bedroom and expecting our bodies to respond like light switches,” offers Dr. Jess.

As for our sexual standing when this is all over, only time will tell. This might be our chance to reset the aforementioned sex recession, which may very well have been catalyzed by our recent hyperfocus on sexual misconduct and violence (something that so often went “hidden and dismissed,” says Stephanie). Perhaps the fervent emphasis on health and safety will only further inhibit us sexually; or maybe, this is the much-needed break from the bustle of daily life we’ve been crying out for. A chance for us to reconnect, with our partners, but more importantly, our bodies.

“I believe that this period of isolation, for many people, will lead to an increased appreciation of and deeper connection to their sexual sense of self,” says Allie. “ [We will hopefully emerge] with a stronger commitment to using our voices and words to own and articulate who we want, what we want, and how we want to be fucked and loved.”

Tips to on surviving self-isolation, sexually

— Set a schedule that allows for time alone, time together, time spent with friends online.

— It’s okay to fight and you might find that the tension builds while you’re in close quarters. But if you catch yourself fighting about the little stuff, try to laugh it off. Admit when you’re being less than your normal stellar self.

— To spice up your sex life, slow down. Try mindful sex practices beginning with non-sexual mindfulness (breathing and visualizations) and then moving on to mindful touch.

— Visualize waves as you breath during sex, but as you become more comfortable being present and in your body, you’ll likely find that feeling in the moment comes more easily during sexual activity, and your anxiety may dissipate.

— If you’re living with a partner: flirt and tease, kiss with tongue when you wake up in the morning, compliment your lover every single day, ban technology for one hour per day, stop complaining about your body.

Try these oral/manual techniques

— The “Claudia”: Slather two hands in lube and wrap them both around your partner’s shaft while you slide up and down with extra pressure

— The “Cross My Fingers”: Cross your index and middle fingers as though you’re telling a lie. Slather them in lube. Slide them in and out of your partner as you rotate.

—The “Wet Trace”: Lick a line or S-pattern over their skin (collarbone, thighs, genitals — your pick!) to create a very wet path. Open your mouth wide and breathe warm air gently over the wet path. Purse your lips to alternate with cool air. Build anticipation to get their dopamine flowing rather than going in for the whole nine yards right away.

Try these sex positions

— Butt Buddies: Your partner lies flat on their stomach with their head in the upper right corner of the bed. You lie on your stomach on top of them in the lower left corner of the bed. Legs stretch out on either side and positioning deprives them of eye contact and exchange of facial expressions to facilitate “blind sex.” They both pop their hips upward far enough for the penis to angle backward comfortably and slide inside.

— Mile-High Club: One kneels on the floor with forearms resting on the bed in front. The other stands behind between their legs, lifts hips on either side of his hips and slides in.

— Upright Missionary: The ultimate shallow-penetration position, the Upright Missionary comes naturally and offers the benefits of intense eye contact, full upper body views, and one of the One lies on their back while the other kneels over her with his legs on the outside of hers. Holds the base of the penis while slipping in and out, while the other squeezes their thighs together for extra friction.

— Swinger: This sexy pose not only allows you to admire one another’s bodies face to face but also provides the clitoral friction most women need to experience orgasm during intercourse. She lies on her back with her legs hanging off the side of the bed or couch and her feet touching the floor. He kneels or squats between her open legs (atop a pillow, if necessary, to adjust for height) and slides inside. She wraps her legs around his body as he leans forward slightly.

7 creatives on how they’re staying sane in self-isolation

Creatives: We need them now more than ever.

In times of uncertainty, it’s art, music, books, television we turn to soothe our anxieties. But the cruel irony of it all is that creatives are now the first to go in the grips of an economic crisis. This means an aspiring musician must constantly confront potentially not ‘making it’; freelancers are frequently concerned with work drying up without warning; writers must weigh their great novels with paying their rents.

Diverse creatives, musicians, black guy dreads coronavirus

The insecurity creatives think about on the daily is increased tenfold in uncertain times, and yet, their output is never more vital. For those cooped inside without roommates or romance, the highlight of their week may be a new release from their favorite artist (hats off to The Weeknd). Others questioning quarantine turn to online publications to relate to others. Pandemics don’t discriminate — we’re all currently crammed in the same boat, and could really use some in-flight entertainment, or education. Here’s how 7 creatives are staying sane while in self-isolation and quarantine.

SEE ALSO: I’m surviving self-quarantining through beauty meditation

From self-care in self-isolation to navigating a dramatically different office environment (particularly with an overwhelming or newly decreased workload), we checked in with some creatives as to how they’re staying sane and stimulated when they’ve never been more vulnerable.

Cam O’bi, music producer
Los Angeles

Cam O'bi

Photo courtesy of Cam O’bi/Julian Dakdouk

How have you navigated the transition to operating remotely? Has your work been affected by current events?

Operating remotely has already been a big part of my industry, although I often like to meet with people face to face, and I seem to be in the minority among producers when it comes to my preference for scheduling in-person studio sessions rather than sending beats via email.

My father was laid off from his job as a dealer at one of the casinos on the strip in Las Vegas. The employees there were simply told to go home and to contact the unemployment office. Without the money, we’re forced to ponder the true value of our daily labor. Gambling is a huge part of the economy in Las Vegas and gambling addiction is a destructive epidemic among the families (mine included) who reside there. Whether they knew it or not, every person who earned a living down there was profiting off of the evil that happens [on the strip] daily. Without the money, we’re forced to ponder the true value of our daily labor.

Breakdown your work-from-home process, how do you ensure productivity?

This time has caused me to re-think the idea of productivity altogether. The word itself has a strong connotation towards economic productivity, and I’ve come to realize that it’s a mistake to understand it that way exclusively. I remember feeling sad recently, because I was trying to get some music work done and it simply wasn’t happening, when I told my sister, she responded, “productive to whom?” and that made me think.

What’s hidden beneath that need to feel productive is a need to feel important to society, like we’re apart of something greater than ourselves. Also, to many of us, being productive is proof that we have the right to exist. It’s okay to simply “be” and use our time to just rest. My career is only one small facet of who I am…The things that we do to make us feel productive are not always all that productive in reality.

Do you have a go-to mood booster or method to reduce anxiety?

Alcohol (just kidding).  I think that we first need to understand what anxiety is. Think of it as the “check engine” light on your car. It’s asking you to do something — not go in and disconnect the check engine light. In my answer to the question about productivity, my productivity-related anxiety was a signal to myself that I’d been ignoring all these different aspects of who I am to be productive as an artist.

I realized that there is an overwhelming feeling in the air of “every man for himself,” so I placed two baskets outside my front door. One of them I filled up with things I had in excess and left a sign encouraging neighbors to take what they need from it, and the other one I left empty, encouraging them to drop something they may have in excess. Doing this was enough to resolve my need inside to feel productive, and it had nothing to do with “work” or making money.

What’s your self-care routine? Walk us through it.

I think the most important thing is tending to myself as a whole like I’d mentioned before, by acknowledging that I am a son, a brother, a neighbor, etc. and taking action to strengthen those parts of myself because that is a way of taking care of others by taking care of myself.

What would you recommend to anyone spiraling in self-isolation?

Talk to your neighbors. Offer them something that you have in abundance. Check on them to see how they are doing, etc. Let them know that they can rely on you if they need anything. I believe that for artists specifically, we should be creating art that’s challenging for listeners when it needs to be. In times like this, art is put in its true place of value and importance in the world, as the world is experiencing a state of crisis and self-serving art is not enough to deliver people from their extreme worry and panic.

I saw recently Offset tweeted about not being able to find bread anywhere. According to GQ, his jewelry collection alone is worth more than $3 million, yet none of that jewelry could get him the bread he needed. I like to think of this coronavirus as ‘a great equalizer,’ it’s a signal to let go of those excuses for separating and come together.

Tobias Rauscher, Google marketing manager
New York

Tobias Rauscher

Photo courtesy of Tobias Rauscher

Breakdown your work-from-home process, how do you ensure productivity? 

I live in a small studio in New York. Space was never too much of a concern, as I would spend most of my time outside of the apartment. To keep some level of mental division between work and life now, I reconfigure my table every morning, adding a stool with my laptop on top, acting as a provisional standing desk. At the end of the work day, I take the stool down and hide the laptop. After that, I try to stay disconnected. 

I constantly remind myself of my own privilege, thinking about those who are more severely affected and those who play an active role in fighting this epidemic. Keeping perspective is important. 

How do you stay creatively stimulated?

I’m truly inspired by the creativity that goes into memes these days, especially on TikTok. My digital routine also includes my news app. Besides headlines, it gives me a personalized feed around my interests. Certainly spend more time online than I should. Quarantining also made me discover joy in small DIY and home improvement projects — I sanded an old wood box, hung up a painting, reorganized my closet. Some of them are truly minor, but completing them feels oddly satisfying. Lastly, I spend a good amount of time listening to the spoken radio (mostly WNYC). I particularly love getting exposed to topics my curated social feeds wouldn’t, often sending me down a Wikipedia rabbit hole with a whole new perspective. 

What’s your self-care routine? Walk us through it. 

I start the day by making my bed — it gives me the illusion of being organized. My morning routine continues with a basic workout and a healthy breakfast. Eating well seems to positively impact my mood and energy. So does immediately cleaning up after myself. In between work, I find time to sit in my window and find stimulation outside. For dinner, I alternate between pasta (my favorite) and dishes I haven’t tried before, often in video company of someone who’s eating as well. Socializing, even if it’s just digitally, has helped me a great deal to keep my mood up. 

What would you recommend for anyone spiraling in self-isolation?

Treat this period as an opportunity for personal growth — learn something you’ve always wanted to learn, read the book you’ve been procrastinating on, stream a documentary. I started taking online French classes, going deep on philosophy, and painting (all things I previously said to be too busy for).  Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Make use of technology and connect with a friend, someone who’s home alone or write to the person you’ve alway looked up to. Chances are they’re home alone too and excited to hear from you.

Berhana, singer-songwriter

Los Angeles


Photo courtesy of Berhana/Harry Israelson

How have you navigated the transition to operating remotely? Has your work been affected by current events?

It’s been alright. i miss being out in the world and seeing people but I’m still able to do a lot of work from home. i have a few shows that might get cancelled but that’s about it.

How do you stay creatively stimulated?

I have people that hold me accountable throughout the day. Watching movies, listening to new music, reading books and just talking with my friends.

Do you have a go-to mood booster or method to reduce anxiety?

I’m still figuring it out lol but making sure I go outside at least once a day has been important for me. I also watch movies with a few of my friends every week. we’re not physically together, but we’ll press play at the same time and talk to each other throughout. Anyway you can feel connected to the people you’re close with is nice.

What’s your self-care routine? Walk us through it.

Wake up kinda early, stretch, work out, shower, make breakfast/coffee and sit on my back porch.

What would you recommend to anyone spiraling in self-isolation?

It’s hard to say because people are going through so much. Recently, I put together a list of what I’ve been meaning to watch/listen to/learn. it’s been nice to look at that when I’m done working or am feeling stuck.

Jordan Samuel Pacitti, professional dancer/founder of Jordan Samuel skincare

Photos courtesy of Jordan Samuel Pacitti/Angela Sterling

Breakdown your work-from-home process, how do you ensure productivity?

Being an internal team of two, my business partner Erin and I have always needed to wear many different hats during the day. We have extensive practice in working from home, multi-tasking, and making the most of our time and of all the different time zones we work with. Putting book ends on your day, keeping a schedule and to-do list really helps me to keep on task.

How do you stay creatively stimulated?

Creativity comes from many different things for me — reading, watching TV, playing with other skincare products and even meditating. Keeping my mind clear helps creative thoughts to flow a bit more freely.

What’s your self-care routine? Walk us through it.

It always starts and ends with a great skincare routine every morning and every evening. Without fail. Somewhere in between I make time for exercise, as well as decompressing with my husband over a glass or two of wine, and turning off the news.

What would you recommend for anyone spiraling in self-isolation?

Stay connected if possible. Reach out to friends and family. Participate in positive social media groups. Meditate, and read uplifting books.

Adam Mansuroglu, Men’s Health senior editor
New York

Adam Mansuroglu

Photo courtesy of Adam Mansuroglu

How have you navigated the the transition to operating remotely?

As an editor that primarily works on digital content, the adjustment to working remotely hasn’t been as much of struggle. I tend to be more productive. I’m easily distracted when writing or editing articles, so having more control over my surroundings is a good thing.

First thing I do before opening my laptop is grab my noise-cancelling headphones. To stay focused, I’m a big fan of sound machine apps. White noise to hyper-focus while writing, wind chimes or beach sounds to stay calm when writing frustrating emails, and bird sounds when I wish I was working outside. I’m the type of person who never sits still, so after completing something on my checklist, I’ll give myself a minute to do a minute or two of yoga stretches so I don’t feel like I’ve sat in the same place all day.As the sun begins to set, I’ll end the day by lighting some of my favorite candles (I have about 12 in my home right now). They’re soothing and help me to relax and unwind so that when I’m finally done for the day, I’m already in a more mellow mood. It’s all about clearing your head when everything becomes overwhelming. I once had a boss who told me that even if you eat lunch at your desk, take two laps around the block — your mind needs the break.

Do you have a go-to mood booster or method to reduce anxiety?

When the candles, sound apps, and yoga stretches have all failed to keep me calm, I usually call a friend for 15 minutes. Sometimes completely removing yourself from the situation and having a good laugh can really help to jumpstart your brain or help to remind you that work isn’t everything.Eucalyptus shower bombs can really make that morning bathroom time extra special.I’m never one to rush myself in the morning. With a giant cup of coffee and total silence, I slowly wake up to start my day — it’s the little things. It’s really hard sometimes to shake off the workday, so a face mask, a glass of great whiskey, and some soothing tunes can work like magic to make me feel like a human again after even the most frustrating days.

What would you recommend for anyone spiraling in self-isolation?

Breathe. Whatever you do, just breathe. Find your version of meditation that works for you and never skip out on your “me time” just to get a head start on the day’s tasks. I really feel like my generation was trained to put work first and mental health second—we need to change that. Feeling down? Call a friend for a laugh. Feeling antsy? Put on your favorite song and dance it out. Need to scream? Let it out in a pillow. Don’t bottle up your emotions—let them out, take a moment, and you’ll bounce back. This whole thing isn’t easy, but find what works for you and run with it.

Maro, singer-musician


Photo courtesy of Maro

Has your work been affected by current events?

The airports are closed so I can’t travel to Sweden to finish up my last songs, which is really frustrating. Also it’s more challenging to record covers for my YouTube channel outside of my apartment, due to the policies the government in Kuwait has given.

Since I’m always sitting at home I try to write as many lyrics and melodies as possible. I also just bought a harmonica, since I thought this pandemic is a great chance to learn a new instrument. Also, I try to make content for my platforms that I might not do otherwise if the circumstances were normal. I also ordered cheap studio equipment to learn more about music production.

Do you have a go-to mood booster or method to reduce anxiety?

I actually struggled a lot with anxiety before this pandemic started. So I meditate, which always helped calm my nerves down and I always call my closest friends because they’re funny and it’s important to have that positivity everyday, especially when you’re stuck inside your house. I workout which also helps my mind staying more creative by giving a higher energy level and, I always sleep with meditational music. It just really helps with my mood and attitude.

What would you recommend for anyone spiraling in self-isolation?

Try to take advantage of the free time you have, by learning something new, now is the best time. Definitely sleep well, make sure to workout at least 10 minutes a day to keep your mind sane. Call friends to socialize and just have fun.

Robert Quick, writer
New York

Robert Quick

Photo courtesy of Robert Quick

Has your work been affected by current events?

I think there’s a massive difference between working remotely versus working remotely during a pandemic. A huge amount of autonomy is gone. And my job was terminated due to these current events, so I’m adjusting to a bunch of things right now and still figuring it out. For productivity, I’m all about lists. Think of the five most crucial objectives of the day and get them done. Measure productivity by what you actually accomplish, not by how long you’re at the computer or whatever. If you get everything done by lunchtime and granted your co-workers don’t need you for anything else, you’re set for the day. Go off.

How do you stay creatively stimulated?

I’ve been reading a lot more weird stuff and challenging myself to do something new each day. I just went on my first run in like five years today, it was awful. I’ve been trying to learn a new song on the piano every week. I just taught myself “Sandcastles” by Beyonce. It’s about forgiveness.

Do you have a go-to mood booster or method to reduce anxiety?

Limit your news intake. Part of my (old) job was following the news and staying up to speed, but it’s also necessary to pause and restrain yourself when it becomes too much. These days, it’s way too much. Take a walk by yourself and clear your head. The news will be waiting for you. I also love watching live Celine Dion and Whitney Houston videos.

What’s your self-care routine? Walk us through it.

Try and shower daily. Wash your face. Get some exercise in whether it’s just a walk around the block or 50 push-ups. Check-in with your people. Listen to your body — your needs can change daily and it’s important to respond accordingly.

What would you recommend for anyone spiraling in self-isolation?

I’m absolutely spiraling and probably will continue to do so for a little bit. What’s kept me grounded is leaning into it, just a little, to allow myself to feel the gravity of the circumstances and find a way to process it properly. And despite the new rules of isolating yourself, there’s a tremendous amount of solidarity knowing that you’re not the only one going through it right now. Focus on that. Every time I’m faced with a challenge, I tell myself, “This isn’t the hardest thing you’re going to deal with in your life.” Just for some perspective.