Posted By Elana Klemm, MA, LPC, NCC 03-26-2020
During these unprecedented times, fear, anxiety, isolation, and depressive episodes are prevalent within mental health. These are now pressing matters within an entire globe of humans, ourselves included. In a globalized state of uncertainty, how can we help? How can we make these uncertain times more settling? I know that this question has been circulating my thought process and understanding of the challenges being faced, and for some of my patients, situations such as isolated quarantine could heighten their symptoms to a crippling state.
I hear you.
I hear my patients’ concerns and thoughts.
I hear my colleagues’ who are searching for solutions
I can’t say I have the answers, but I can tell you the practices and reflections that I know are helpful during these hard times. Just like we approach all thought processes, we must observe the situation and realize what is entirely out of our control AND acknowledge that we are indeed in control of how we respond.
We all have the power to refocus and reboot!
Even in times of uncertainty, it presents us opportunity! Now it is a wonderful time to practice being in the moment. Hours could come and go if we focus too much on the news and constant updates. We all have been presented an opportunity to put our phones away, log off our computers, and hide the TV remote, and, indeed, be present. Whether they are members that live in your households, your pets, yourself, allow yourself to be completely in the moment.
The ever-changing news of Covid-19 and the media surrounding the situation can be a constant buzz, if you let it. Now is a good time to limit our screen time and decipher what is essential news and what news is that is just reporting on Covid-19 because it’s a hot topic. Important news would be information that is provided by trusted professionals in the field, direct information from government officials, and updates from the World Health Organization. To ease our minds from the constant ring of media, allow yourself to designate times to check the news and times to walk away from it all completely. We must remember that the information being released is ongoing and consistent. Find truth and block the noise.
Yes, we are stuck in our homes, but we get the opportunity to be with our families and slow down. Instead of letting negative energy consume our thoughts, we have been granted the spaces to practice making a mindset shift!
Businesses are closing their doors, but you have what we need and when you don’t, in due diligence, you can go shopping for those items.
Social distancing feels like isolation, but it makes contacting the people we love most more often and more creatively!
There is a lot of uncertainty right now, but you know what is in your control and what is out of your control. You have the power to make this situation amazing.
If we change our mindset to be positive, then opportunities for growth are endless. There are two kinds of anxiety: productive anxiety and unproductive anxiety. We can turn our anxiety into something productive. Moments like this also bring greif. That’s right, greif. Greif requires us to feel a kind of sadness that makes many of us so uncomfortable that we try to get rid of it. As much as there is collective anxiety surrounding Covid-19, but there’s also collective loss. Cognitive approaches for mindfulness will be vital in finding a balance in your life. You’ve been given an opportunity to focus on activities that you love, regardless of the things you may be losing.
Take a moment to stop and think about the passions in your life you may have neglected due to busy schedules. These are the tasks that you wish you could invest more time in and feel accomplished when you do pursue these passions wholeheartedly! Remember that book you wanted to dive into? Do you have a jigsaw puzzle laying around the house? Maybe this spring is the spring you start your garden back up? Fueling your joys can lead to positive emotions that keep the anxiousness away. Allow yourself to pour energy into yourself and hobbies, without the stress/obligations you may have otherwise had.
I also am a big encourager of trying a practice that is way outside your comfort zone. These are practices that you may have tried in the past or just figured it “wouldn’t be your thing.” It turns out, with more free time, you can try something new, and that is focused solely on bettering yourself! Even if they sound silly, or maybe uncomfortable at first, there is no harm in trying something new. If you open your mind and embrace the challenge, you might find a new practice that enhances your headspace. Here are some fun ideas to consider:
- In recent years, adult coloring books, paint by numbers, or even diamond by numbers have grown in popularity! They stimulate creativity and focus, but can be relaxing and meditative. Don’t have access to a bookstore? Apps like Colorfy allow you to be artistic on any device.
- Jogging/walking. Physical activity is allowed and encouraged during these times. Start with a lap around the block and increase each day.
- Meditation is a great practice for slowing down racing thoughts and being present. If you are new to meditation, apps such as Calm and Headspace, can guide you through the process.
What’s great about being home and trying something new is that you are in a low stakes situation. You have control over the energy and effort. If you do try something new, give it a change and allow yourself to feel a little uncomfortable outside of your comfort zone. It’s ok if it doesn’t go to plan or you draw something messy. You are simply trying to better yourself and that is admirable!
As great as these practices can work for an at-home activity, remember that mental health professionals are still available for our patients. We have not left you and can accommodate. Virtual meeting programs can be scheduled for your convenience. To anyone that has paused their sessions or hasn’t yet scheduled an initial appointment, this might be the perfect time to move forward in your mental health journey.
For my colleagues, this is the time to be encouraging more and more patients to connect with you, even if it is not in person. It has been our duty to protect and serve those struggling with their mental health, and COVID-19 cannot take that spirit to save others away from us.
This is a great time to adapt, promote, and destigmatize the taboo around mental health because we know that globalized fear and uncertainty are affecting more than just our patients. Together we can make a push to encourage those in need to seek mental health professionals through social media, advertisements, and newsletters.
In times like these, we are reminded of the things that we have taken for granted: the people in our lives we love, our careers, going grocery shopping after work, and so forth. We can stand together and find creative solutions to the responses that are in our control. The pandemic canceling my father’s 90th birthday party, after months of organizing and planning? Out of my control. But my family members all attending our virtual, online video conference to celebrate made me realize that this pandemic cannot take away our ability to love and lean on those who make us feel safe and secure. Never could we have thought that a moment like this would encourage us all to reevaluate our priorities, be mindful of what matters most for the greater good, or lay rest our ability to be a provider of service that is needed more than ever. We all have moments of surprise, that catch us off guard and throw a wrench in plans, but a pandemic? We’ve all got this. We can do this together with love, kindness, and support from one another.