Like many of you, I am WFH as a result of COVID-19. I and many therapists have transitioned to seeing their clients via telehealth, which is just as effective by the way, to try and help protect the safety of not only themselves and their clients but also their communities by "flattening the curve."
These are scary times.
It is ok to be afraid.
I am afraid.
But we are going through this together. And if there is one thing that amazes me, it is the reminder that COVID-19 has provided of our interconnectedness and shared humanity.
If you happen to be one of my clients, you know that I always say there is a wisdom to our emotions, and even now there is a wisdom to our anxiety and fear.
We do not want to get rid of our anxiety or fear. These are the things that will help motivate us to wash our hands, stop touching our faces, prepare for COVID-19, and take other protective measures recommended by the Center for Disease Control (C.D.C.) and the World Health Organization (W.H.O).
But, as always, we need to be wise about the way in which we use our emotions. Giving into panic is not helpful. Hoarding supplies like hand sanitizer is a prime example of the selfishness that can arise during times of crisis. Please do not allow your anxiety and fear to manifest in these types of unskilled behaviors. Now more than ever, it is important to practice compassion towards ourselves and others as a way of not giving into panic and the unskilled behaviors that result from this mindstate.
"Among the multitudes of humans, many are experiencing loss and change. Many need renewal. And still the world keeps turning, farmers growing food, markets trading, musicians playing. We live in the midst of a great and ever-changing paradox. Breathe. Relax. Live each day one at a time."
Two of my favorite and most respected people are Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach, both are psychologists and proponents of meditation. Both Jack and Tara put together pandemic resources pages. You can find Jack's here: pandemic resource page and Tara's here: pandemic care resources. Sharon Salzberg, another favorite meditation proponent of mine, also has a COVID-19 resource page. I too have a special offering, a meditation on facing fear with compassion.
"If you cannot bear your loneliness, your boredom, your anxiety, you will always run away. The moment you feel lonely or bored, you may open the fridge, or go online, or do anything to avoid being with yourself. But with loving awareness you can endure, honor, and value loneliness and aloneness. And they can be informative. They can teach you about yourself, your longings, what you have neglected for too long. They can help you find a deeper freedom."
Now for some practical tips:
1. Practice social distancing, or what I like to call physical distancing, but don't isolate. Isolation is horrible for people's mental health. Find ways of staying connecting whether it is through texting, calling, or facetime and consider scheduling social events such as a virtual coffee date or happy hour through Zoom or Google Hangouts. Get creative! Google Chrome actually has an extension called Netflix Party that allows you to watch Netflix with your friends remotely. Houseparty is another fun option.
2. Stay active! Even while social distancing, you can go for a walk, run, or hike. Many gyms are now streaming classes online, which you can do from the safety and comfort of your own home; two of my favorites are Hot8Yoga and Kinship.
3. If you are WFH like me, try to maintain a regular routine that mirrors your typical one. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time, take a shower, get out of your pajamas, have a regular start time plus a dedicated workspace if you can, schedule breaks, etc.
4. Now is a great time to either begin or deepen a meditation practice! Headspace has a great introduction series. Some of my other favorite apps include Mindfulness, Calm, and InsightTimer. If you are interested in taking a class, InsightLA has online offerings.
5. Have fun with it if you can! This is a great time to do things you may not normally have time for like cooking new recipes at home, taking long bubble baths, reading, journaling, or perhaps cleaning and reorganizing things at home.
6. LIMIT MEDIA EXPOSURE! I am encouraging clients to implement daily media updates rather than spending hours online. The New York Times has a daily coronavirus briefing that could serve that purpose nicely. Also, please don't read it first thing in the morning or right before going to bed. Try to do something more meditative, relaxing, or soothing during both of those times; for example, have a mindful cup of coffee or tea in the morning and at night consider reading or journaling. Find another time to check the news! If you are in California like me, you might also consider signing up for The New York Times California Today. And if you are in Los Angeles specifically, you might be interested in signing up for NotifyLA.
For those in CA, there is a COVID-19 emotional support website. If you are a frontline healthcare worker or first responder in CA and interested in mental health counseling you can get help here. The Office of the California Surgeon General also has a guide with things you can do to help support your mental health.
How Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Can Help
(especially for those on the front lines)
If you are interested in learning more about ACT, you can order my book here.
You can also hear me talk all about ACT in the following podcast episodes:
If you are interested in learning more or in working with me please go to my homepage to contact me or schedule your free 15-minute phone call.
Please note that the information in this blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for psychological or medical care. If you are looking for professional help, visit my resources page for guidance on how to find a therapist. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest ER.