Dear Dr. Yael

Dr. Yael Respler

December 25, 2020

The Jewish Press

Dear Dr. Yael,

I am a widow of over fifteen years and, baruch Hashem, have several children who are all married with their own children and some even have grandchildren. My whole life, I have always been extremely outgoing and active and have always kept busy with work and then, when I retired, with various social activities and charitable causes. I have always valued my independence and, baruch Hashem, my physical health is decent and I can live on my own without any help.


That being said, Covid-19 has been extremely hard on me. While I enjoy living alone, I do not enjoy being lonely. Being apart from my family and friends for so many months has been terrible. Missing Pesach and all the Yomim Tovim with the grandchildren has been heartbreaking. I am not so good with the computer and would rather see their gorgeous faces and hug them in person. Many of my friends are afraid to meet socially or have medical conditions that put them at great risk. I try to go for walks by myself just to get outside, but I am not as steady as I used to be. I am nervous about falling and chas v’shalom breaking a bone because then I would really lose my independence.

Since it has gotten colder, it has been even harder to go out for walks. When it starts to snow and gets icy, I will probably have to stay inside all the time. It is almost winter, and I am really dreading being alone in my apartment all day by myself. What do you suggest for this depressed and sad widow who could really use a hug?

Sad and Lonely Bubbie



Dear Sad and Lonely Bubbie,

First of all, here is a virtual hug. No, it is not the same as the real thing, but soon this too shall pass, and you will be able to hug your eineklach.

I understand how you feel, and I am sure there are millions of people who could relate to your situation. You are not alone even though you may feel that way at this moment.

Seasonal affective disorder, also known as winter depression, is a real thing. It is a type of depressive disorder that only tends to surface during the winter months. Some scientists believe that it may have something to do with reduced exposure to sunlight. The isolating nature of the Covid-19 pandemic has only seemed to worsen seasonal depression for those who suffer from it. For those affected, the usual coping mechanisms, such as involvement with social activities, are unavailable during this pandemic, which only makes it harder.

I cannot diagnose you through a letter, but this is what seems to be happening to you. Your life before this pandemic suggests that you are normally a happy and mentally fit person. However, I will tell you that the combination of this Covid-19 pandemic with the cold winter has been such a negative force, that even someone with excellent mental health can find themselves in a ‘funk,’ if not in an actual clinical depression.

I firmly believe that being alone is NOT healthy for anyone’s well being.

So, what can you do about it? Only Hashem knows when this virus will end and when life will return to normal. The winter weather will last for another few months, therefore, here are some helpful solutions to help you cope with your current situation.

First of all, exercise is extremely important for both physical and mental well being. Exercise produces endorphins and other brain chemicals that will help you feel happier, more confident, and less stressed. Walking is a fantastic exercise, but you mentioned that you have been having some trouble walking steadily. I highly recommend getting evaluated by a physical therapist. My amazing physical therapist, Dr. Zvi Gutman makes house calls and has helped me improve my balance. It is extremely important, especially as one gets older, to work on balance. It helps to improve mobility, to reduce the risk of injury and to improve overall physical health. In addition, it will help boost your confidence knowing that you can safely walk around your neighborhood and enjoy your regular activities (especially when this virus is over!).

In addition to helping me with my balance, I appreciate any human interaction I can get right now, and Dr. Gutman is such a lovely person that I actually enjoy and look forward to my physical therapy sessions! Dr. Gutman comes to my home and follows Covid-19 safety guidelines, which puts me at ease. If you live in the New York area and would like to contact my physical therapist, here is his information: Dr. Zvi Gutman, DPT. (646) 481-7854. (He accepts Medicare, Medicaid and most insurances. No additional fee for the home visit. Female therapists are available as well.)

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Dear Dr. Yael

Dr. Yael Respler

November 6, 2020

The Jewish Press

Dear Dr. Yael,

I am struggling with my physical health. I have a lot of pain because of my medical issues and nothing seems to help. I tried working with a personal trainer who came to my apartment, but he wasn’t very knowledgeable about my medical conditions. My doctor suggested that I try physical therapy. However, the clinic he told me to use is very busy. The physical therapists there treat so many people at once that I get no attention. With COVID-19, I’m also extra nervous being around so many people because of my pre-existing conditions. Should I stick with the physical therapy despite my worries? What do you think I should do? 

- A Reader

Dear Reader,

I truly understand your concerns. The world is a very different place right now. You have every right to be apprehensive about being treated in public settings. I’m not sure what your medical conditions are, but it seems as though going to a crowded physical therapy clinic is not ideal for you. However, your health is very important and your current medical conditions should be treated appropriately.

I personally have an amazing physical therapist who comes to my home. I feel very safe in the comfort of my own den and the individual attention has been extremely beneficial to my well-being. I highly recommend this course of treatment for you. Firstly, you cannot compare the level of training and schooling of a physical therapist to that of a personal trainer. My physical therapist has a doctorate degree and many years of experience. As a health professional, he understands my medical needs. He provides me with a comprehensive recovery plan that he adjusts at every visit depending on my progress.

In addition, all his equipment is sanitized, or one-time-use, and he always wears appropriate PPE. As I mentioned before, the individual attention is the best part. At most clinics that I’ve visited in the past, therapists have spent just a few minutes with me before leaving me alone for the remainder of the session. I have often felt ignored and uneasy about performing therapy exercises on my own. With my current physical therapist, I get an entire session with his full attention and my recovery has been faster as a result. I was also referred to a few clinics, but always felt that they did not give me the attention I needed to recover.

If you would like to contact my physical therapist, here is his information: Dr. Zvi Gutman, DPT. (646) 481-7854 . (Accepts Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance. No additional fee for the home visit.)

From a psychological point of view, have you ever tried psychological techniques to reduce your pain? Research has shown that because pain includes both the mind and the body, mind-body therapies may have the ability to reduce pain by altering the way you perceive it.

- Dr. Yael

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