What Therapists Want You To Know To Stay Mentally Well During The Coronavirus Outbreak.
by, Synergy eTherapy Staff
Mental Wellness During a Pandemic: Coronavirus (COVID-19).
We are all in this together. You. Me. Your kid(s). Your boss. The government. Everyone.
We all need to thank each and every one of our medical providers especially our nurses, doctors, police, fire, first responders and other front line professionals. Their job is to keep people safe and alive, all while risking their own safety. Bless them all for what they chose to do and for what they continue to do daily for everyone else.
What many are also learning is that therapists and mental health professionals are also considered “essential” in fighting this pandemic. We are your mental health support “go to” people…during times of high stress, our clinical training makes us unique in that we have the ability to hold a LOT for so many, while also holding it for ourselves and families.
Most therapists are in-person providers. They have an office and see clients face-to-face in real time, engaging in the energy exchange, holding, grounding and treatment planning to help improve one’s mental wellness; reduce depression and/or anxiety and improve relationships with oneself and others.
Healthier individuals = healthier families = healthier communities.
Now, with social distancing turning to self-quarantine…nearly all therapists are providing therapy to clients ONLINE.
This is a hard change for many. Luckily, it’s work as usual for us!
Here at Synergy eTherapy, our therapists have been offering online mental health therapy for years. This also makes our group unique in that providing online care isn’t novel. We already have a group in place, systems that work, and know the ins and outs of online therapy – yup, all of the pros and cons and tips and tricks for online work is like second nature to us.
We are here to make your life go a little smoother…including in situations like the one we are in now.
We asked several Synergy eTherapists what advice they would give to help you and your family during this stressful time. Here is what they said.
Healthier individuals = healthier families = healthier communities.
Amanda Dutton, MS, LPC – Georgia&Colorado
Amanda often works with clients who will have or had Bariatric Surgery and with those suffering from a Chronic Illness.
“One thing to keep in mind if you are navigating time at home as a bariatric surgery patient is finding ways to stay active. For example, something as simple as walking your pet or taking a few trips up and down your stairs can be beneficial, if you are able.
Even if you are limited in your ability, pumping your arms and legs during a commercial break can help! Check out YouTube for free videos of walking, yoga and other activities you can do from home! For those with chronic illnesses, right now is an especially difficult time.
Chronic illness warriors are more vulnerable than others, so making space in your day to step away from the news and the noise is especially important. Is there something you have been putting off at home because you haven’t had the time? Make a list of small projects that you have put off or even smaller tasks like writing someone, drawing or even coloring if you are physically limited. Stay connected with others through apps such as Facetime, Skype or Google Duo (all free!) to see friends and family without having to leave home.”
Dr. Bethany Klim – Wisconsin
Dr. Klim is a military Veteran and Psychologist who works with adults with PTSD.
“The biggest thing I would say to my patient is don’t use this as an excuse to fall into old patterns of avoidance behaviors. Especially falling into the trap of over eating, drinking alcohol, risky sexual behaviors, and other additions.
Avoidance, although promoted as a safety measure (social distancing) is not a free pass to reengage in old unhealthy patterns of avoidance. You have worked too hard to get where you are at. Use that as an advantage. Engaging in previous patterns of negative coping only worsens underlying symptoms of PTSD.
You are now the expert. Teach others healthier ways to get through the unknown waters with strength and courage. Learn what “hurry up and wait” is really like. Explain the growth opportunities that come with embracing life’s harshest of lessons. Chaos and the unknown is nothing new to you dear Veterans, you know how to navigate these waters with your eyes closed. Show your worth. Live the definition of Post traumatic growth! The world is lucky to have you in it’s ranks!”
Andria Botzet, LMFT – Minnesota
Andria works with individuals, couples and families to help with parenting, substance abuse and other mood disorders.
“Create a schedule. This doesn’t have to mean a minute-by-minute daily plan, just pick 5-10 things to accomplish today (or tomorrow!). Include daily tasks like: 1) shower, 2) walk the dog, 3) load/unload the dishwasher, etc…. This coping skill encourages feelings of empowerment and productivity, as well as gives us hope and direction within our own space. These seemingly small steps can help us persist, especially when our greater surroundings feel uncertain and chaotic.
Create physical and mental stimulation. It may be easy and tempting to binge watch all those Netflix series we’re behind on (and it’s perfectly OK to do that once in a while!!) AND stimulating our minds and bodies releases neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that help to regulate our mood.
So, even though we can’t go to the gym today, we can walk around the block, do 50 jumping jacks, or yoga at home. And we can stimulate our mind with crosswords/brain puzzles, playing board games or cards, and engaging in fun conversations with friends and family. Our bodies and minds will appreciate it in the long run.”
Nikki Arthur, LMFT – Minnesota & Iowa
Nikki works with young adults (college students) and other individuals, couples and families and uses mindfulness techniques to help reduce mood related difficulties.
“A list of things to think about for college students in particular, but anyone can benefit!
1. Take a break from social media. We are all being bombarded with uncertainty in the news and on social media and that impacts our ability to be well, connect effectively with others, and complete tasks.
2. Get outside/be in nature/move your body. Being in nature provides a sense of connection, and movement decreases stress.
3. Write down 3 things your grateful for. Gratitude, especially in times of change and chaos in the world can help ground you and keep you focused on what is positive and right in front of you.
4. Connect virtually with friends and family. Even with social distancing we can stay connected. Think about doing virtual dinners/coffee etc. Share what you learned in your day or just offer support. Connection is key.
5. Practice getting quiet and exploring in the body where emotions reside. Acknowledge what is happening inside your body, and try not to judge yourself for how you feel! Take this time to get to know more about how your body reacts to stress and to calm.
6. Know you are not alone! The reason support groups help is because we feel less alone. During this time, the entire globe is in this together. What you are going through, someone else is likely experiencing something similar.”
Dr. Elizabeth Merrill – Maine, New York, Illinois, & Florida
Dr. Merrill is a Board Certified Psychologist and works with people who have experienced a traumatic event. She also specializes in helping new moms and those undergoing infertility challenges.
“Two things people coping with trauma can do during this time:
Download a mindfulness meditation app (a good one to try: Headspace: Meditation and Sleep) onto your smartphone and spend at least five minutes a day engaging in these self-care exercises. Research shows that mindfulness can significantly lower heart rate, reduce stress and improve mental clarity. During times like this, finding balance is important to stay mentally and physically well and keep PTSD symptoms at bay.
Start journaling! Record your thoughts and feelings daily. Some find this outlet to be helpful in organizing what they think and feel and to process the whirlwind of emotions and ups and downs times like these can bring up for people, especially those with previous traumatic experiences.”
Dr. Lisa Lovelace – Minnesota, New York, Wisconsin
Dr. Lisa is the founder of Synergy eTherapy and works most often with teens and adults with anxiety and depression.
“Sometimes, seeing all the coping skills and ideas on what to do in times of extreme change and upheaval has the reverse effect…it’s too much and can get overwhelming! We become very much used to our daily grind, our routines, systems, and our own chaos. We don’t like change and we certainly don’t like change that is being done “to us” and not from within.
Take your time with this. Be gentle on yourself. Go easy on others. The first week has passed and that can be the hardest. What now? How do we work from home and home school? What happens if I lose my job? Will I get sick? Did I even shower today? Know that your thoughts and feelings are valid.
Humans are protective and survival creatures. When we are met with a threat, our body pumps into action. Which, may be why last weekend you felt like you ran a marathon and have no energy to do much else than sit and watch Netflix.
One step, then another. Slow or fast. Whatever pace works (er, is needed) for you is OK!”
And, if you are not doing OK at any point, talk to a mental health provider…Virtually!
If your anxiety about Coronavirus is surpassing what you can handle, a little therapy won’t hurt. Anxiety often arises during times of uncertainty, but that’s when it’s most important to keep mentally healthy. Therapy can help you manage anxiety about many different things.
In today’s world, tele-mental health (otherwise known as online therapy or eTherapy) allows people to access mental health therapy from the germ-free comfort of their own home or surroundings! Why Wait? Get a Free Consultation with one of our Synergy eTherapists today!