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6 Tips If You're Anxious About Being Unable to Go to Therapy Because of COVID-19

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In a communal effort to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) — the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system — there have been lots of cancelations of social gatherings, conferences and music toursThe cancelations even extend to some of the services people need, like therapy. 

As a therapist, it’s my belief that the coronavirus (COVID-19) is going to disproportionately affect the mental health of folks living with mental health disorders. Feeling uncertain or being in a triggered state can also activate your body’s fight or flight fear responsesIf you’re finding an increase in symptoms such as insomnia, hypervigilance, anxiety, agitation, upset stomach or diarrhea, consider that you may be rightfully triggered, and please know you’re not alone right now.

In an effort to address those of you who cannot attend your regular therapy sessions, and who are feeling increasingly isolated, here are six helpful tips for you to consider.

1. Take a break.

There is no need to be checking social media or news sources every 20 minutes to try and gain a false sense of control over what’s happening in the world right now. I promise you, nothing new is going to happen in 20 minutes (or two hours) that someone you love wouldn’t alert you to if it was important. It’s also important to know that continually exposing yourself to media like this sends your nervous system haywire. Not only is that not good for your mental health, it’s just not effective; brains that are scared or overwhelmed can’t intake and process new information, so put your phone down for a few hours and recenter. You deserve a break.

2. Focus on health measures that are in your control and help your community. 

Focus on the health measures that are in your control, such as washing hands more diligently, staying home as much as possible, offering to help buy groceries for an elderly neighbor and avoiding large crowds. Now is one of those amazing times to be a human being in community with one another, and to realize we’re going to get through this thing together. Check out this moving example where last week, a whole street in Italy joined one another in song from isolation through their open windows. It can be helpful to focus on the magical ways people are coming together right now. 

3. Ground yourself.

Find activities to center yourself and mitigate your anxiety. Folks with higher anxiety levels are more susceptible to illnesses, so focus on what’s in your control to take care of yourself right now. Activities that will slow your breath are things like meditation and deep breathing (try apps like Simple Habit, or search YouTube for “relaxation techniques”), doing puzzles, solving math equations and reading. Now is also a great time to turn off social media for a little while, cue up Netflix, cuddle your pets or loved one, and snack on all that bulk food you probably just bought.

4. Set up a routine for staying at home.

As humans, most of us do best with a routine — especially in times of stress. Definitely give yourself time to unwind, but don’t let your days slip away entirely into a blackhole of Netflix. Shower and get dressed every day. Establish a schedule with work from home hours. Set up (and keep!) FaceTime dates with friends, and start group texts with your loved ones to help keep you connected and productive. Round out your off work time with meal prepping and opportunities for physical fitness, such as aerobics or yoga. Yoga with Adrienne has a free YouTube channel with hundreds of videos for various levels and bodies). 

5. Create and maintain a nice space for yourself. 

It will be easy to fall into poor habits at home if you’re feeling depressed or anxious, especially if no one is watching. But the more your dirty laundry piles up, the more your depression and anxiety will. In order to keep on top of your mental health, keep up with your surroundings. It’s a good idea to do an initial thorough clean while listening to your favorite playlist or podcast (a great distraction from social media!) and then build in 20 minutes every day to maintain your home. Or, if you’re feeling really depressed, try Mighty contributor Heidi Fischer’s two-minute rule for cleaning the kitchen!

6. Try online therapy! 

If you’e got a current therapist already, ask them if they provide online therapy and set up video or telephone sessions until the coronavirus pandemic recedes. Online therapy is a great alternative for folks who want to practicing social distancing by staying home.

If you don’t have a current therapist or your current therapist doesn’t offer telehealth, it’s worth a google or call to your insurance company. Many therapists (myself included!), offer these services. Some people just prefer it, so give it a try if you’re able.

Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles:

GettyImages photo via jesadaphorn

Originally published: March 14, 2020
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