Tips from your therapist on how to deal with Covid-19
Covid-19. Where to begin? The social distancing, the health anxiety, the fear for yourself or loved ones who are in high risk categories, loss of wages, concerns about economic recession or depression, navigating the nightmare of spending 24/7 with your family, being frustrated with others’ lack of preparedness/over-preparedness, not having enough TP?
It’s a lot.
The common denominator of so many of those issues is anxiety. And why wouldn’t you be anxious? Our country has never experienced this type of social distancing protocol for any reason There’s no guidebook for how to deal with it (Obviously), nor is there a template for what to reasonably expect, and that, perhaps, is the most stressful part of all.
Instead of trying to stop your anxiety immediately, allow it. Make room for it. Think those words: I’m making room for myself to feel anxious. Notice where the anxiety is in your body. Get familiar with your biggest fear. Allow yourself to finish the thought-- what would happen next if that happened? And after that? Would it be okay? What’s the likelihood right now that would actually happen? Can you make a plan for it?
In my experience with clients, and even personal experience, opening the metaphorical door to the “Anxiety Room” and closing it real fast, only makes anxiety knock louder. If you allow yourself to fully enter the Anxiety Room and listen to your anxiety (what is it trying to let you know? what is it trying to prevent from happening?), it might stop knocking. It’s important to remember, you can and should leave the anxiety room any time you want. If you’re a frequent worrier, you may consider setting one 10-20 minute timer a day to allow yourself to worry, and force yourself to shift to something else when time is up.
Pumping the breaks on Anxiety
If practicing the exercise above feels like too much, or if your anxiety is keeping you awake at night and distracting you from important tasks or impacting your mood or causing irritability, it’s time to close the door on anxiety and fully turn your attention to something else. Take a few deep cleansing breaths, then open a Mindfulness App, read a book, do an at-home workout, or Facetime a friend.
Our anxiety is there to protect us--to let us know what we do not want to happen so we can prepare. If it takes over or is too loud, it’s no longer helpful. When it tries that, perhaps imagine it like an annoying backseat driver, and don’t feel bad telling it to hush for now. Remind it that right here in this moment, you’re just fine (unless, in this moment you have fever, cough, and shortness of breath-- in which case, please call your doctor!).
Reminding yourself you’re in control
Okay, so not on everything. You don’t make the decisions on school and work closures, you can’t control other’s decisions to take all the milk or unnecessarily potentially expose others, but the truth is, we’ve never had control over a lot of these things. What you can control is how you spend your day, your exposure to others, what to eat, how you treat your body, whom you talk to, and how to live out your values during this time (being kind and open with family, supporting small businesses, practicing your faith on zoom videos, etc). Be intentional and conscious about your choices to practice increasing your internal locus of control.
Here is a list of lists that I’m going to make to keep myself occupied and feel productive during this time.
Spring Cleaning / Organizing to-dos. I don't recommend trying to do this while simultaneously working from home. No need to double your work load.
Work projects you haven’t gotten to. For me, that’s completing free online trainings, scheduling social media updates, workshop building. What is it for you?
Reach out to friends and family, especially those who live out of town whom it might be more special to talk to on the phone or video. In this time of social distancing, there’s no reason we need to feel less connected.
Free Online Things!:
Education classes (everything from Scholastic to Ivy League colleges offer free classes for Pre-K through college).
Personally, I just got back from vacation or I’d be more excited to use this time to decompress and relax by finding a new Netflix favorite and taking long naps. Who am I kidding? I’m still going to nap. I’m also going to fight cabin fever with dog walks, maybe a few other ideas from this list, and check out some of the recently-released live-streamed concerts and comedy.
Don’t be a jerk
This is solid advice for anytime, but especially important during social distancing. What I love about my job everyday is witnessing people move through difficult emotions and reaching a place of calm, clarity, and compassion for self and others. When we lead our lives in this state, we feel more relaxed, in control, and happy.
Be gracious toward others and yourself.
Don’t judge others for taking more safety precautions than you.
Check in on your friends and family who live by themselves, who are laid off, who are balancing parenting and working from home, and who are or are worrying about someone who is immunocompromised.
Wash your hands and take this seriously.
Allow yourself to really pause and savor the small acts of kindness that you witness and partake in such as offerings to run errands and giving away supplies. Right now, I’m allowing myself to not feel indebted to--and instead relishing in gratitude toward-- the neighbor who responded to my request for eggs since the grocery was out. Even in this oddly isolating time, when we focus on all of what is good in our communities we can feel the warmth of togetherness.
If the impacts of Covid-19 are impacting you, please know that many therapists are open for business through HIPAA compliant video sessions, and for some, in person. Contact me to set up an appointment or I am happy to help find another that meets your needs.
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