By Tracy Harrison, LCSW
Times are weird, confusing, and stressful which is probably the understatement of the year, so far. Someone really thought it through when they made Psychotherapists essential because mental health issues are skyrocketing. You’ve seen all kinds of “how to care for yourself” lists, I’m sure. Think of this as the frequently asked questions to your therapist. I have complied a list of conversation summaries that have actually happened in my therapy sessions which are basically things to do in these crazy times. (Free therapy, you’re welcome!)
1. Limit worry and sugar, both can compromise your immune system.
2. Refocus your perspective. Look around! The social world is at an unprecedented time in recorded history. It is actually fascinating to see how individuals react and interact. Try to be curious rather than judgmental or angry.
3. Self-care? NOPE, self-parent! Be the caring mother/father you need. The one that makes you go to bed early, eat your greens, exercise, bathe, make your medications, and enrich your brain because it’s good for you, NOT because you want to.
4. Focus on what you can control…Meal Plan, Activities list? Painting your room? Tiger King for the fourth time? Make an overdue phone call or photo album? Staying home.
5. Try to enjoy your time. Aren’t we always complaining there’s only 24 hours in a day? It’s a very rare occasion that we have time, outside of the obligated and over planned holidays/ vacations, to enjoy free time.
6. Laugh. NOBODY says you are not allowed to laugh during times of fear, crisis. Laughing is coping. Watch a funny/ stupid cat utube video, read funny books, play a dumb game. If constant worry helped any situation, we would all live perfect lives.
7. Relax. Netflix and chill. Your kids, neighbors, community needs an example of calm right now.
8. Distract. Do those projects, use those craft, tool, and car supplies. Make a list of to-do’s and try to complete all that stuff you never seem to have time for. You just got a free pass, use it.
9. Make a schedule. We are so used to them, why stop now? Make them hourly if you need to. Build in daily activities like cooking, creativity, worry, watching the news and relaxation too.
10. Remind yourself of this: There ARE plenty of resources, zombies aren’t real and EVERYONE is anxious and behaving in accordance to that anxiety, it’s not personal.
11. Cry, vent, allow yourself to have your feelings. Please stop shaming yourself and others by “shoulding” all over. No one “should” be anything or “should” be doing anything besides staying home. You, we, have a lot of feelings right now- NONE OF THEM ARE ABNORMAL! However, they are coming all at once which is confusing. We are complicated, capable of having multiple feelings at once (ever loved and hated someone at the same time? How about love and anger?). Allow them, feel them, move through them without overly positive affirmations that do nothing but tell us our feelings are invalid (“look on the bright side…” you know what? Things just suck right now and that’s okay.) Radical acceptance of yourself and your life situations, right now.
12. Self-parenting is also telling people what you need. “I just need you to listen to me vent right now rather than solve my problems,” or “I’m super anxious right now, could you make that phone call?” or “I’m hungry/ tired/ worried.” Those just might be problems people can help you solve. If they don’t know they can’t help. Please know that it is nobody’s job to read your mind.
13. BREATHE! Your breath will literally calm your body. Do it.
14. Limit your intake. My husband keeps telling me, “You’ve reached your daily quota of Corona conversation.” Let me tell you how annoyingly right he is. Take in some news, then take time to process it before ingesting more negative news toxin.
15. Distance. Isolate with the mindset of community care, one nation, one world and we all matter. Resentment builds when you compare. We are in this together, not against one another.
16. Germs are powerful. So small yet they managed to stop a world of human production. Much like thoughts can, much like words can, much like attitude can. Small things change everything. And wash your hands (20-30 seconds please).
17. Finally, I want to affirm that it might not be okay AND THAT’S OKAY. Chances are it will, so enjoy all the days, hours, minutes of your life. You only have now and it’s a strange, strange time to be alive.
Talk to a therapist if you need more support than you or a loved one can manage. There’s no shame in needing to talk to someone outside your inner circle, your family might even thank you for it. Therapists are considered essential employees right now. Many are using telephone/ Zoom platforms so you have options. They can really help you understand your own racing thoughts better and help you manage all those strong feelings. Bonus, once you get help you can teach your family some awesome techniques. If you really don’t want a therapist, try SAMHSA or NAMI websites. They can give you amazing resources or point you in the right direction regarding for more specific conditions.
P.S. If you know someone who is a social worker, check on them and thank them. They are working really hard right now and could use your support, even if they say they are fine (and trust me, they will say this while falling apart).