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Fashion & Self-Isolation: Clinical Psychologist Erik Franck

Erik Franck is an accredited clinical psychologist and behavioural therapist (UGent), supervisor of the Flemish Association for Behavioural Therapy, and Professor of Psychology at the University of Antwerp within the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. He works clinically with adults who suffer from anxiety and mood disorders; in particular burn-out, depression, and sleeping disorders.

I have been teaching online classes and therapy since quarantine began. Of course, it is nice to be at home with my family but there are also challenges. For example, sometimes it’s harder to feel safe and connected during online therapy.

My daughter unexpectedly came in during a session to ask if she could get more screen time on her phone. Although there may be a clear ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign at the door, to her, it seemed an important question to ask. An interruption like this can make a client feel insecure like someone else is listening in. Another client was with her partner in the living room during our therapy session. That feels rather uncomfortable to me, as I must be careful with what I say because I don’t know if that partner is well informed about everything we discuss.

Scientific research shows that it’s best to organise a ‘work corner’ at home. It can be as simple as a small table. This way it is clear to yourself and the people you live with that certain functions such as eating, working, and sleeping have defined areas. Many people also need external ‘pressure’ to perform optimally.

Scenography image of Rik Wouters with pajama silhouettes
Rik Wouters & The Private Utopia, 2016
Stany Dederen

Do not underestimate the importance of clothing. In order to work, you have to condition yourself. When I work I wear a vest, shirt, and jeans or suit trousers. I’m conditioned to associate that outfit with ‘work’. So it’s not a good idea to keep walking around in your pyjamas.

Not only will it prevent you from focusing when you’re working, but when you crawl into your bed; you probably won’t sleep so well either. Loungewear or pyjamas are designed for relaxation and sleep. I have a lot of online meetings and it's good to sartorially communicate that I’m working. Which in my case is by wearing an ironed shirt.

We all have fewer social interactions now which mentally may start to take its toll. I call my colleagues and a few friends every day, I recommend this to my clients as well.

Staying connected is a buffer against the gloom. The most validated technique for depression is behavioural activation; which needs a supportive social network. When that disappears, like in these present times, we have to make sure that people don’t slip into loneliness or negative thoughts. The quarantine measures can be disastrous for vulnerable people. For those struggling with phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or anxiety disorders this health crisis can be a trigger.

It is human and tempting to yearn for the past but that makes one unhappy. ‘If you don’t change anything, nothing changes’. Our society is currently changing so rapidly that you have no choice but to do so yourself.

Either you bury your head in the sand and you don’t change - which may have negative consequences - or you accept the change and look for new ways to restore or make new goals. That's flexibility. I wish everyone the courage and the mandate to change. You can’t have much impact on your environment, but you can actively impact your own focus. I wish everyone self-leadership

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