WE ASKED AN EXPERT Elizabeth Schane MS, LPC, LMHC Well Roots Counseling
"Are we living in a movie? Is this really our reality now?” These are a couple of the questions that I’m asked by most clients during every session. “This has to be a bad dream. I know I’ll wake up tomorrow and it’ll all be over.” Unfortunately, over the past month or so this has become our new norm. There is an influx of conflicting information, news sensationalism, and local closures. We are living in a world packed with uncertainty, fear, and chaos. People are stockpiling toilet paper and Clorox wipes and shelves are empty at the store. The news and social media are regularly blasting headlines that cause citizens to feel like the end of the world is possibly days away. Despite being isolated, we are inundated with information that would spike anyone’s deepest fears.
Despite this uncertainty and unpredictability, it is imperative that we begin to take stock of what control we do have as well as begin to incorporate ways to manage our worry and begin to dive into this new norm. The first step to regaining control over our lives is becoming aware of what feelings are surfacing. Are we worried all the time? Are we finding ourselves ruminating over specifics of the virus? Do we find it difficult to step away from the news and social media updates? If the answer to any of these questions is yes then we may be experiencing anxiety. While we must abide by the stay at home order, it is also important to recognize how we can maintain some sense of normalcy during this period. Overall, any feelings related to anxiety are uncomfortable and difficult to sit with. Feeling inundated with worry may not be something we’re experiencing. Instead we may find ourselves feeling sad, finding it difficult to get out of bed, or taking a shower and changing out of our pajamas. Maybe we are beginning to feel like there’s no hope that this quarantine will ever improve; that life may NEVER return to what we were previously accustomed to. These are some of the common symptoms of depression. In truth, we could be feeling a mix of depression and anxiety at the same time or one feeling could prompt the other to surface. No matter what feelings are coming up, if they’re causing us to feel out of control, it’s important that we don’t ignore them.
Next is when we are able to begin recognizing what we do have control over. We cannot make this pandemic end, however, we do have authority over how we respond to it. Firstly, we need to recognize how difficult of a time this is. In some capacity we are all grieving the loss of our daily lives. We are missing the ability to see our loved ones, go into work, drop the kiddos off at school/day care, or even sit down in a restaurant and have a leisurely dinner. Vacations we may have planned have either been cancelled or placed on hold. We are cramped in our homes and those close quarters can begin to feel confining after being around the same people 24/7. Others may be living on their own and the feeling of lonliness is ever present. Morevover, due to furloughs and layoffs, many individuals are not only grieving the life they once led but also experiencing financial insecurity. Overall, we as human beings are greatly missing connection, freedom, and space.
The way to begin to work through this grief is by allowing ourselves to experience it. It seems simple, however, recognizing feelings and not stuffing them away can be more challenging than it appears. The more we try to push the feelings aside, the stronger they will return. If we need to cry, we must give ourselves permission to cry. If we feel scared and helpless about the situation we need to recognize the feeling, allow ourselves to experience it, and then attempt to replace it with something realistic/productive. We can’t dismiss our feelings and thoughts, but once we allow ourselves to feel them we can then replace the negative feeling/thought with something more productive and nurturing.
That leads me to additional strategy we can use which will help us persevere. We can exercise. When we exercise it provides a boost in endorphins which are hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system. Endorphins bring about a feeling of euphoria and general well being. So exercise not only helps us to get off the couch, but also improves our mood. It’s a win win.
But what about when we are feeling lonely and truly missing the people we love? While we can’t visit friends and family directly, we can find alternative ways to connect. Technology has opened up many options at our fingertips so now is the time to use it.
While this time may be difficult for everyone, it is important to recognize that we are not alone or stuck and we do have options. As owner and clinician of Well Roots Counseling, located in Parker, Colorado, I have been seeing many clients virtually who are struggling to cope during this quarantine. Some struggling may continue to suffer in silence because they feel like counseling won’t be helpful since they don’t have mental health issues. Counseling during Covid-19 is not your typical therapy session. It simply offers a safe space to talk about all the feelings and thoughts that have been surfacing, and you can learn new ways to make it through this time successfully. This is new to everyone so we need to figure out what we can do to find comfort and normalcy in this time.
Well Roots Counseling is currently accepting new online clients and offers a free phone consultation. Feel free to reach out today. wellrootscounseling.com