Our lives have all been turned upside down in the past few weeks as we experience a global pandemic. Some of us are sick or have family members who have contracted the coronavirus, some in food service and healthcare are sacrificing their safety every day, and many of us are experiencing feelings of anxiety or loneliness as we shelter-in-place.
Despite this “new normal,” we must not lose sight of positive aspects that have resulted from this crisis. If you find yourself struggling to find the positive in the situation, the following provides a few ideas to help you shift your outlook.
Therapy in the Age of Covid-19
As a therapist, I am busier than ever before, conducting virtual sessions with my clients who are justifiably scared, worried, and in need of extra support during these difficult times. During my sessions, while validating my clients’ intense emotions, I offer concrete skills to help them cope.
I encourage my clients to look inward and focus on positives that have resulted from sheltering in place. For example, some relish in spending more time with family, cooking more elaborate and tasty meals, starting a hobby, developing creative talents, and much more.
I myself have found that sheltering has enabled me to find comfort in spending quality time with family and friends, either in person, or virtually. Taking long walks and reading have also improved my overall mood. Additionally, I have enhanced my daily meditation and mindfulness practice. Although we are living in an uncertain world, we can improve our overall mental health by focusing on what we can control like our self-care, daily routine, and the small things which bring us joy.
Searching for the Positive: Finding Gratitude
Although this pandemic has been difficult for me personally, I am fortunate and grateful for comforts that others may not have at this time. I am healthy, I have enough food, I have a job, and I have family and friends I can talk to virtually. It’s so easy to forget about what we have when we are faced with the uncertainty and fear of such a large-scale pandemic.
As I reflect on the current situation, I feel compelled to practice gratitude. One approach I incorporate into my daily life is writing in my gratitude journal. Acknowledging and writing down what we are grateful for can help us stay grounded and also bolster our mental health.
Evidence demonstrates that recognizing things for which we are grateful has lasting effects on the brain. In an article published by Greater Good Magazine, researchers found that individuals who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health for four weeks and even 12 weeks after their writing exercise ended, compared with the participants who wrote about negative experiences or only received counseling.
As we continue to experience stress and uncertainty during this pandemic, we must be grateful for and not forget our privileges. If I start spiraling down a negative path, I intentionally pull myself back by focusing on how my needs are being met. I encourage you to do the same.
Ways to Help
As more cities and states implement sheltering in place, let’s not forget about our front-line workers and at risk individuals who need our support more now than ever. The following are ways to help those who need it most at this time:
- Donate money to a cause you are connected to
- Volunteer or donate money to a food bank in your town
- Volunteer to deliver food to the elderly and other high-risk populations (if you are not quarantined)
- If you are a therapist provide low cost or pro bono services to first responders. The following is an organization you can consider: https://www.coronavirusonlinetherapy.com/
- Volunteer at a domestic violence hotline
- Donate necessary supplies to local hospitals or individuals in need of masks, gloves, etc.
- Set up a face time chat or phone call with a friend or colleague who may need extra support now
During these turbulent times, acknowledge and be grateful for what you have, and support those who are in need. I wish you all health and gratitude.
Karen Chinca is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker with over fifteen years of experience working with adults and families. Karen’s specialties include treating anxiety and panic disorders, eating disorders, OCD, and trauma. Karen incorporates cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, internal family systems and mindfulness into her practice.