I don’t know about you, but nothing in my current world feels normal. We are dealing with a pandemic, something I’m sure most people haven’t thought much about, none the less prepared for physically, mentally, or emotionally. Events are cancelled, gatherings are being discouraged, school is cancelled, and most people are practicing social distancing. Who knew we would need to assure we had backup toilet paper? As a minimalist, I certainly missed the mark on this one.
Therapists are navigating how to provide services to those who need it while all of us humans are simultaneously trying to manage our uncertain circumstances. I’d be lying if I said it’s an easy and smooth transition with a flawless execution plan...heck no. It’s scary and anxiety provoking to say the least. If you’re feeling stressed right now, you may find this blog helpful.
I DON’T HAVE TIME TO GO TO THERAPY, I’M TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO MANAGE THIS SITUATION!
It’s during these times that therapy and paying attention to our mental health can help the most. My training in crisis management has helped me better understand what our brains and bodies go through when faced with situations out of our control. As humans, our brains are wired to keep us safe and assure survival.
Switching to fight, flight, or freeze helps us with immediate threats, like a bus coming towards us. However, in our modern world, the brain can trick us as we perceive things to be life threatening that aren’t, such as public speaking. Anxiety and panic are often results of misinterpretations made by the brain.
IS THIS REAL OR FAKE? ARE PEOPLE OVERREACTING?
In states of crises and prolonged emergency situations, our brains are overwhelmed and become hyper-vigilant trying to manage all the incoming information and filter through it. There are certainly real dangers to be concerned about, and the key is taking reasonable actions that produce the greatest results in controlling what we can and accepting that there’s so much we can’t.
With time and strategies to regulate emotions and calm down responses, your brain can more easily sort through some of this stuff. With the situation changing rapidly day to day at this point, your brain doesn’t have a chance to recover and is likely operating on overdrive. Hence, the need for therapy or crisis management.
WILL THERAPY LOOK DIFFERENT DURING COVID-19?
Of course, it will. Give your brain a second to rest, and tell it that everything is changing and adapting, which includes therapy. This is an excellent time and space to practice flexible thinking and stretch our ability to adapt. Therapy will look very different during this time, but that’s not a reason to not continue or not start therapy.
HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE IN THERAPY IF I CAN’T GET THERE?
Telehealth has been around for a while and is a great option right now. Many practices were already utilizing online means to provide therapy services. I have practiced it both with ongoing clients or in times in which clients were traveling but wanted to maintain their treatment plans and commitment to reaching their goals.
It can feel uncomfortable to think about doing online therapy. In fact, Lori Gottlieb describes virtual therapy as “doing therapy with a condom on” in her book “Maybe You Should Talk To Someone”. Yes, there are barriers there, but I’ve found in my previous work that if you lean into the discomfort of virtual therapy, it is powerful and effective.
WON’T I GET DISTRACTED? ESPECIALLY WITH MY KIDS HOME?
Yes, most likely. Although telehealth is an excellent option, it comes with challenges on a normal basis, and as I said, nothing feels normal right now. We will need to work in abnormal circumstances, which I would speculate might help us to feel more normal. I’m guessing there could be noisy children, or dogs barking, or connection problems… the list goes on.
WHAT IF I’M TRIGGERED? I’M NOT READY TO TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING YET
It’s ok to be triggered, feel uncertain, scared, or even unsafe - that’s why you will benefit from the extra support therapy can offer. During times of crisis, trauma is too much to process. If you’re just starting in therapy, the focus will be on current coping skills, building your strengths and resiliency, and managing how to move through the present situation. Deeper processing will be important, but not appropriate at this time. A good therapist will figure out where you are and meet you there.
IF I’M ALREADY IN THERAPY, WILL WE BE WORKING ON THE SAME THINGS I’VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT? DO I HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?
If you’re already in therapy, you will continue working on your current goals, but I would expect that there will be some time for check-ins about the current state of affairs and focusing on navigating the situation. If you have good coping skills for dealing with anxiety during a crisis (my last blog covered more about this), your therapist will likely explore how the current circumstances and ongoing uncontrollable changes are affecting you and the deeper work you’ve been doing. I would imagine you could anticipate it being the same and different, kind of like what’s happening in our everyday lives.
HELP IS ACCESSIBLE
Sometimes our fear and anxiety can take over and finding containers for the emotional roller coasters we’re all on can be immensely helpful. The issue we’re dealing with here is that the container is changing rapidly, and that can make us feel more out of control and unwilling or unable to reach out for help. Therapists are professional container adapters and they know how to hold your anxiety and help you manage it. They’re ready to help you, so let them. Ask friends or trusted medical providers for referrals, take a look at websites, and call around until you find a therapist who’s a good fit and will be flexible in working with your current needs.
If you’re feeling uncertain, anxious, and overwhelmed and having trouble figuring out a direction in these uncertain times, give us a call (519) 601-4357. Or if you want to go ahead and book an appointment, our online services are currently available to book through our online portal. I’d love to help you reset and make a solid plan for feeling better, now and later.