Two weeks. That is how long ago we began our stay-at-home executive order in Illinois (as of this writing). Time is a funny thing. Many are describing the experience as feeling as if a year has gone by already. So many thoughts and fears are surfacing, for ourselves, our families, and the world around us. Two local mental health professionals, Harvey Martin, Ph.D. and Nanette Martin, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), are aware of the many layers of feelings that can surface as this COVID-19 pandemic continues. This new lifestyle of working from home, requiring children to e-learn, and not knowing when the isolation will end, can make life difficult. They wanted to share some ideas on how to make this time a little less stressful. (These suggestions are not meant as a substitute for therapy).
Classified as an essential business under the guidelines put in place by the Illinois governor, Dr. Martin and Nanette Martin’s counseling practice, Martin Therapy Group in Frankfort, IL, as well as the offices of most mental health professionals, is open and available to help people during this difficult time.
“We can now offer Teletherapy, which is therapy conducted over the phone or through video, allowing people to stay in their homes, rather than traveling to an office or clinic. Many people are feeling more comfortable with this method of receiving services right now. They feel that it ensures safety and social distancing.” Nanette Martin said.
In most cases, Teletherapy is covered by your insurance. If you check with your therapist, they will guide you on what may be covered.
They have several tips to help put things into perspective and help you through the pandemic.
“Anxiety thrives in times like this when there is so much uncertainty. It’s important to focus on doing some things you can control, which will help reduce anxiety right now,” explained Nanette Martin.
In addition to practicing social distancing, practicing hand washing, and self-isolation, here are some suggestions they have on things you can control, in order to put things into greater perspective:
- Go outside and take a walk or a run (daily if you can).
- Make time to connect with friends and family via phone or video chat (reducing isolation as much as possible).
- Set small doable goals that you can complete each day. This increases our sense of control, at a time when many things feel like they are out of our control.
- Focus on the little moments of good in your life. Collect these moments of awareness throughout the day. This can be as simple as really enjoying a laugh with a friend on the phone.
- Balance the amount of news you are consuming each day. Stay informed but don’t watch the news obsessively.
- Listen to music. It can help transport you to a place where you feel safe and happy. Make sure you watch enough shows and movies that will make you smile and laugh.
- Try to limit the talks you have with others who are overly negative. Finding ways to simply move to a more neutral subject might help.
- Work on your mindfulness muscle. Being mindful is so simple and yet so powerful in changing your mood, and changing your brain over time, if you practice it. It can be defined as awareness of thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations, without judging them. Some of the best ways to practice it can be while washing dishes, taking a walk, or sitting outside and listening to the birds, etc.
Other suggestions include setting up a structured routine for while you are at home. This can include a set bedtime and wake up time. If you are working from home, don’t let it occupy all your time. Strong time boundaries can be helpful to keep a handle on feeling overwhelmed. Engage in a hobby or activity (this can even be reading a few pages a day in that novel you have been waiting to read) that isn’t related to your work. This might be a great time to start a journal recording your feelings and experiences during this unique time.
There are also apps and websites that can help reduce anxiety, and help you navigate all of this with some sense of peace in the midst of the storm. Apps such as Headspace, Smiling Mind, and others can help you explore mindfulness and meditation. On Martin Therapy Group’s website there is a Resource Page that includes links to these as well as other general resources you or friends and loved ones might find useful.
“It is important to view this situation as a temporary one; it is not permanent. Reminding yourself that ‘this too shall pass’ is an important way to stay mentally strong through a time like this” Dr. Martin concluded. Connecting with a therapist, especially when our mental, emotional, and physical resources are stretched to the max, can help shift our perspective, and provide a safe place to vent and sort things out with an objective person.
Martin Therapy Group is a counseling practice located in Frankfort, Ill. Their website is https://martintherapygroup.com and they can be reached at 815-640-1669. They are there to help support you through this.