Just three short months ago, we were welcoming the beginning of a New Year and new decade, rich with hope, ripe with opportunity and filled with new goals to be pursued. Only three months later we find ourselves in the midst of unprecedented times with the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic in March of this year. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention seem to change almost daily, shutting down schools, businesses, and bringing the economy to a near screeching halt as we strive to engage in social distancing with one another.
The situation has contributed to escalating stress and anxiety for many as families as they consider how they will move from one day into the next with inadequate financial resources to pay bills. They juggle working full-time jobs from home while home schooling their children with on-line lessons that require far more time from them than they ever expected. And, families are trying on new ways to creatively spend time as a family while also trying not to lose patience with their family members as they struggle with feelings of “cabin fever”.
Now that our state of Florida is under quarantine and under stay at home orders as recommended by the Governor, we are recommended to limit our outside activities to trips to the doctor, grocery store, or other essential business that may pertain to our health. Mental Health care is considered an essential business in this pandemic so my office has remained open. As the days have gone by, however, I change my thoughts on continuing to offer in-office services as the current CDC recommendation is that we wear surgical masks if we do choose to venture outside for medical appointments, etc. and that we continue to maintain social distancing guidelines of keeping 6 feet apart from others.
As of the date of this blog, April 5, I am continuing to offer in-office appointments but most clients have begun to choose either telehealth sessions or have decided to wait out the pandemic until the virus is under control. My current stance is that any in-office appointments should abide by the guideline of both myself and the client wearing masks to protect others, as we have learned that we may be asymptomatic and still have it, spreading the virus without knowing it.
Recent concerns of clients include: the unknown of this pandemic and the length of time to continue to social distance, managing elevated levels of anxiety, stress, and depression, sleeping difficulties, and emotional eating.
Current Recommendations for Managing Elevated Stress, Anxiety, and Depression:
1.) Practice Mindfulness techniques – Be present moment focused with no judgment of yourself or others.
2.) Exercise – Take walks either alone or with family and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature all around you.
3.) Eat healthy – Engage with your spouse or children in making new dishes that are healthy and delicious. (Check out SkinnyTaste- “Chicken, Kale and Sweet Potato Soup” (only 220 cal/svg)
4.) Garden – One client shared beautiful pots she had painted and filled with lovely flowers which was both therapeutic and added to the beauty of her home/yard.
5.) Get organized – many people are using their spare time (if they are not working) to clean out cabinets, closets, and drawers and rearranging items, discarding unused items, or donating times no longer used. We usually always feel so much better after letting go of things we no longer need.
6.) Get the sleep you require – We always feel so much better after a good night’s sleep. Practice using techniques of deep breathing, mindfulness breathing, EFT (Emotion Freedom Technique-tapping), or apps such as “Calm” or “Breethe” which are no cost or low cost.
7.) Play and have fun with your children, grandchildren, family – Many families have brought the board games out of the closet and are re-connecting through simple gameplay. On my twice daily walks with my dog, I have seen some beautiful sidewalk chalk art in my neighborhood such as that shown in the images above.
8.) Music makes the world go round – Listen to your favorite tunes to lift your spirits and help you to stay positive and hopeful.
9.) Do something nice for someone else – I recently took homemade soup to a friend and her family and made several phone calls to friends I hadn’t spoken with in a couple of weeks. All were so glad to hear from me and thanked me for reaching out. It could mean so much to someone else that you are thinking of them.
10.) Relax and Stay Positive – While the pandemic is certainly stressful and creates uncertainty for our future, I chose to maintain a positive attitude, to stay hopeful and to have faith that this will come to an end. We also see signs all around us (or stories on the news) of others reaching out to those on the frontlines- making surgical masks for healthcare workers, feeding others in their neighborhoods, taking friends to medical appointments, etc. We can also use our spiritual faith to help give us strength, hope and confidence for the future, for we know that “all things work together for good, to those who love God…”
Finally, other suggestions that could be offered to temper our anxiety and fears at this time include: aromatherapy, journaling, making phone calls to friends, reducing caffeine and sugar, being careful to not overindulge with alcohol, and speaking your heart to your spouse or partner or friend about how you feel in these challenging days and letting him/her know what you need to regain a sense of safety. Above all, let us stay together as we step 6 feet apart, always offering our hope, kindness, and patience to those who are near us who may need a helping hand or listening ear.
Wishing you continued good health, safety, and hope for the future,
Linda Mesing Cook, LMHC