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AN UPDATE FROM ATHLETAWELL We're saying goodbye to our community platform in November. Learn more

Let’s Get Real with Dr. Nina Vasan: AMA on Maintaining Relationships

Community Manager
Community Manager

Prioritizing your wellbeing is especially important during the busy holiday season—that’s why we’ve teamed up with Real, a new kind of app with anytime access to therapist tools to support your mental wellbeing.  


To kick things off, we've tapped @Real_Team's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nina Vasan, for an Ask Me Anything. If you've had questions that need answers around: 


  • Your own emotional wellbeing 
  • How to nurture and maintain relationships as an adult 
  • How to navigate making new friends in our new hybrid world 
  • Where relationships fit in to your many other roles—Mom, Partner, Employee, etc. 
  • And more! 

This will be safe space to connect with a trained psychiatrist on what matters most to you. 


Drop your questions below for @Real_DrNina, and check back on November 17 to get her guidance.  


Psst..Meet Real: Expert Support for Your Mental Wellbeing 

Disclaimer: Even though you may receive advice, insight, or guidance from experts in the AthletaWell Community, please note that this is not medical advice and we always recommend speaking with your doctor.




@Real_DrNina What kinds of questions should you ask when looking for a long term relationship? The "talking stage" seems so shallow, I really want to get to know the person to see if they're someone for the long haul

@JaxTy I love that you’re thinking about ways to dive into depthful conversation! I recommend asking questions that explore a person’s values and highlight their long term goals around what they are looking for out of a relationship as well as what they envision their future entailing.


When asking these questions, there are two things that especially important to pay attention to:

  1. The content of their answers. Are their answers compatible with you and what you’re looking for in a long term relationship?
  2. The way they communicate their answers. Communication + communication issues are at the center of many conflicts in relationships and understanding how this person communicates early on is incredibly valuable.

One question I like asking to dive deeper is about their attachment style. I like this question because research shows that attachment styles can play a big role in long term relationships. 


And if you don’t know your own attachment style, check out this quiz:


@Real_DrNina Heading into the holidays, social media in particular can feel overwhelming with the amount of holiday content, constant reminders of what the "perfect" holiday experience should look like and ongoing reminders to buy, buy, buy. What are your recommendations for maintaining a healthy relationship with social media during this time? Thank you!  

This is such a great question. I'm curious to hear your thoughts, Dr. Nina. 

@JamieH221 (+ @surfingob)  I can absolutely relate to this! Take a few minutes and think about your intention and goals for this holiday season. For some, connecting with friends and family is top of the list, for others it might be taking a relaxing vacation, while others will prioritize making space to dive into a creative project.


Because it can be so easy to get distracted by what everyone else is doing, ground and center yourself with your goals. If you feel yourself getting caught up in what other people are doing, take the opportunity to connect back with YOUR goals and intentions. This can help you remind yourself that you’re doing exactly what you set out to do.


With social media in particular, maybe this holiday season is an opportunity to take a small social media break. Or at a minimum, limit your screen time and use that time to connect with yourself and others in a meaningful way.


And when it comes to gift-giving and being influenced by ads on social media, remember that it can be tempting to overbuy and over consume. This is another opportunity to be mindful and plan ahead of time. Make a list of what you want to purchase this holiday season and then stick to it! This will help you limit your impulse purchases and stick to your budget.


The holidays can be challenging because there's a lot of family time involved. How do I communicate to my family members that I don't need pressure from them to "settle down" or find a significant other? I know they're coming from a good place, but it's often not helpful. 

@OliviaA11 ‘Tis the season for these familiar questions! Family members can have the best of intentions, but sometimes their pointed questions can put extra stress and pressure on us. I want to acknowledge that it is both important and difficult to communicate boundaries and help your family understand what you do and don’t need from them. 


Step one of setting a boundary is to ask explicitly for what you need. Have a conversation with your family ahead of the holidays and concretely share with them what you hope to change. For example, “When you ask me about when I’m going to find a partner, I feel extra stress and pressure and that’s not helpful to me reaching my goal of finding a partner. I would ask that we not talk about it this holiday season.”


Next, give a reason why  – “when you bring this up, it is hurtful because I’m putting in the effort to meet people and date and yet I haven’t found a partner yet.”


Most people are not intentionally trying to cause harm and will respect that. However, if your family member still tries to bring it up after this conversation, have a plan for how you will make sure this boundary is respected. That can look like leaving the conversation or reminding them of the boundary you already set.


As life gets busier, it becomes more challenging for me to create dedicated time with even some of my closest friends. I then feel guilty that I am not seeing them and/or chatting with them on the phone. How can I let go of that guilt and show that I care when I may not be able to carve out dedicated time for them right now?

@AJS  What I hear at the root of your question is that there’s a fear that not spending time with your close friends indicates that you don’t care. 


To alleviate this guilt, start by communicating that you do care. This can be as easy as sending them a text message, calling them on their birthday, or even communicating on social media. This allows you to show that you do care about them even if you can’t spend time. 


Next, find other ways to connect with them that doesn’t involve spending a lengthy dinner together. Maybe you can run errands together. Or simply catch up while you’re commuting to work.


Finally, it is important to communicate directly why you aren’t able to spend as much time with your friend. And if possible, give a time frame for your busy season. Most people are also really busy and will understand. But at its core, it is helpful for them to understand why your time and energy might have shifted due to increasing demands in other parts of your life, not because their friendship doesn’t matter to you!


@Real_DrNina if you've always been to go-to person to give advice + emotional support for friends, how do you respectfully push back while also making clear that sometimes the supporter needs support herself?

@balance4me I have so much empathy for you. It can be hard to change dynamics in a relationship but it is important for you to get your needs met too!


This is about setting boundaries and communicating those boundaries alongside compassion and empathy. This could sound something like this, “Jane, I care about you immensely but I’m really overwhelmed right now and need to take a break as I’m trying to take care of myself. One way that you can help me is by checking in with my next week to see how I”m doing.”


If you are always the “go-to” person in a relationship, it is especially helpful to communicate a concrete example for how someone can show up for you. If you are always the person who is there for others, your relationships can feel “one sided” where you are comfortable giving but people in your life aren’t clear about what they can do to support you. 


Most people will be very happy to help give you support when you need it and reciprocate the kindness and energy you’ve shown them.


A good friend of mine betrayed my trust by sharing personal info I'd confided in her to other people. She apologized, but  I'm struggling to move forward with the friendship since it's now become redefined in my mind. We haven't really been talking for the past 2 months after this happened, but we share a lot of the same friends and they can tell something is off. Would love advice on how to handle the situation and how to proceed. thanks!

@lucydogmom This is really hard and complicated and I’m sorry this happened to you! 


I recommend you reflect on what you want and need from this friendship going forward because that will inform how you should proceed. 


For example, if you decide you do not want to pursue a friendship with this person going forward, that could involve letting that individual know as well as your friend group that you are making the choice not to continue the friendship. 


But if you do want to repair the friendship, perhaps another conversation is necessary that includes concrete steps this friend needs to take, outside of the apology, to rebuild your trust.


I have a friend that I'm trying to "divorce." She's really negative, can be mean to me, and the relationship just no longer serves me, and hasn't for a while. Should I be direct and tell her? I feel so guilty just declining invitations and ghosting her, but I'm not sure what else to do. I don't know if being direct would help, or if she would turn it into toxicity and talk about me behind my back. 

@BubblyMom Oftentimes we assume friendships are going to be with us for our entire life. But some friendships will only be part of our life for a certain amount of time. And it is ok for those to end.


Moreover, it is really important for our own health and well-being to remove people in our lives who are toxic and/or cause sustained negativity. Kudos to you for doing the self-reflection to understand this person isn’t good for you and your health.


Your intuition is spot on. It is important to be direction and tell her. Before you communicate this, take some time and imagine how you would want to receive this feedback if you were on the other side of the situation.


The best thing to do is to communicate your feelings and needs and help them understand how their behaviors are landing on you. This involves communicating directly that you no longer want to participate in the relationship. I would also add some clear boundaries around what you do and don’t want going forward. For example, how do you feel about this person contacting you? Or what happens if you see each other in person.


In this post pandemic virtual world of working I’ve felt little desire to connect with co-workers on anything deeper than a cordial working relationship. Do you think that is fair and healthy or should an even greater effort be made to develop relationships with co-workers in these times?

@BrockA6 I’ve heard a lot of people express difficulty both with the desire to connect as well as actually connecting with others after the pandemic. 


First, it is important to remember that we all need to connect but we don’t necessarily need to connect deeply with our coworkers. 


Connecting with others is important. Moreover building closer relationships with coworkers is helpful in the professional context and can add close friendships to your life.


Reflect on why you aren’t interested in connecting with co-workers on a deeper level. And spend time checking in on other places in your life to make sure you’re getting that connection and community needs met elsewhere if connecting with co-workers isn’t something you want or need at this time.


Remember, we are in a loneliness epidemic. And for many people, connection and community are very valuable for one's mental health and well-being. Make sure you keep a frequent pulse on how you feel when it comes to connecting in all parts of your life.


Hi @Real_DrNina, do you have tips on setting boundaries with clients? I want my clients to know I'm here for them and build the relationship, but it can cross the line. 

@JustJill Boundaries with clients in particular can be tough because as you named, inherently you do want to be there for them.


Start by thinking about things that have come up that make you uncomfortable. Use this list to reflect on where you want to set your boundary and then how best you can communicate them to your clients.


For example, this could include updating your intake paperwork to include your boundaries (ie not taking calls after a certain time). I’ve seen people put signs up around certain time limits or be clear about payment expectations.


At the end of the day, setting clear boundaries with your clients is helpful to both of you in the long run!


Hi Dr. Nina! I'm about to be going through a breakup and am not in a place where I want emotional support from my family, because I want to focus on working through it a bit more on my own before I get sympathy that will probably be triggering. Looking ahead at the holidays, how do I let them know that I don't want to talk about it without making them feel shut out by me?

@AthleteDM67 You’ve done a wonderful job reflecting on what you need and don’t need from your family as you navigate this breakup which is often the hardest step. 


Now is the time to say exactly what you communicated to me here and share this directly with your family members. Maybe an email ahead of time feels right. Or perhaps a text of phone call feels better given your family dynamics. 


The most important thing is making sure you do it ahead of time so you don’t have to confront something in the moment or feel surprised. 


If you have someone else in the family, sibling or cousin, this could be an opportunity to ask them to be your advocate. Sharing with them what you want and need ahead of time can help them step in on your behalf if that feels supportive.