March 27, 2020
Coping With Covid-19:
Tips From Local Therapists
Life has been different recently. This whole Covid-19 situation has affected people in different ways, but at the very least life has been changed for just about everyone. This change can be hard, and many people are finding themselves coping with boredom, anxiety, stress, and depression. The local therapeutic community has been moving to online/phone therapy to continue to support people during these difficult times.
We got in touch with several local therapists and asked them what tips they might offer to help people cope with everything going on right now. The following does not constitute medical advice and is intended for educational purposes only. Although we’re writing this in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, these tips can generally be applied to other times of stress and anxiety as well.
For most of us, being on a shelter-in-place order with your whole family is a new experience!
One tip I suggest is to find a project or activity that can give this experience a sense of purpose, either individually or with your family. The days being at home can sometimes blur together, but by being intentional and identifying a purpose, the time at home and with family can feel more united, connected, and more enjoyable.
Some examples of activities that could give this time a sense of purpose for you might be:
- taking an online class
- finishing a project around the house
- picking up a new craft or art activity
- learning a new language
- learning a new instrument
- or even teaching a pet a trick.
Once you pick a project, set aside time daily to work on this activity!
During times of such uncertainty it helps to gain a sense of control in any way you can. Rather than focusing on the future, focus on what you can do in the present to ground yourself and become more mindful.
One of the best and most practical ways to do this while staying home is to create a Soothing the Senses Box. This intervention comes from the therapeutic modality, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which is a skills based therapy with a focus on the balance between acceptance and change. The purpose of the DBT skill of Distress Tolerance is to get in the moment without making things worse. And that’s pretty much all we can do at this point, not make things worse. To create a soothing the senses box you will get a shoe box and decorate it with anything that you enjoy such as duct tape, paint, stickers or magazine cutouts. Then fill the box with items that soothe your senses, things you can see, smell, hear, taste and touch. These are all items that you have in your home but putting them together in your Soothing the Senses Box is a reminder to use them to benefit you. Here are some examples of common household items that you can use. Feel free to get creative!
Sight: photos, completed art projects, something that is your favorite color
Smell: a scented candle, scented bath salts/bubble bath, scented lotion, air freshener, scented chapstick
Sound: a music box, a bell, a kazoo, a recording of something you enjoy
Taste: your favorite candy, a tea bag, a packet of hot chocolate, a small bag of chips
Touch: soft fabric, cotton balls, fidget toy
Your Soothing the Senses Box can be completely full or just have one item for each sense, whatever you need for it to be effective. This is a great activity to do with children too! They love decorating their box and filling it with items they enjoy.
In regard to what I am recommending and practicing around this changing time (notice I didn’t write challenging), there are several ways we can help ourselves to cope and even thrive. By the way, coping and thriving help our immunities via positive hormone production and our bodies being more at ease.
10 great ways to accomplish this are:
1. Languaging- positive and neutral language can be helpful in maintaining perspective. We can work on identifying when our brains move into catastrophizing and/or bleak thoughts and try to take in a larger perspective. Notice what could also be a possible outcome (ie. is what I’m saying or thinking the worse case scenario).
2. Turn off the TV & do something relaxing and/or productive. Be aware of self blame if you choose to couch potato. We all need that sometimse. Practice self compassion around self care choices. If you find that you are developing an unhealthy overindulgence then reach out for support, increase awareness, and practice prevention.
3. Practice HALT (don’t let yourself get to Hungry, Angry/strong emotion, Lonely or Tired). HALT can trigger us in different ways to move towards unhealthy coping.
4. Using video and phone to keep in touch. Maintain community, cultural and family connections. Connection is a basic human need and feeling alone is detrimental to our physical and mental health.
5. Nutrition is another basic need. Nutrition is essential for immunity enhancement/health & energy. Follow the recommendations of EWG.org dirty dozen vs clean fifteen. Increase immune boosting foods in your family’s diet.
6. DO NOT HOARD TOILET PAPER. LOL, everybody needs some. Also, this is a great time to teach our kids to just take what we need and leave some for others. If there are only five of something at the store we need only take one for ourselves. This helps reinforce the importance of community.
7. Spend some time in nature.
8. Catch up on your to do list and donate what you don’t need.
9. Be artistic- journal, draw, paint, craft, crochet….
10. Set boundaries and take space from those who do not respect boundaries. At a time when everything is topsy-turvy boundary breaching is more impactful, so it’s a great time to remember how we deserve to be treated.
About the Authors
Adriana Joyner (pronouns: she/her/hers) is a licensed psychotherapist specializing in gender, sexuality, and advocacy for the queer / LGBT community. She offers support for individuals throughout California via video and telephone sessions and is most passionate about helping people lead their most authentic lives. You can find more of her writings, activities, and information at: www.adrianajoyner.com.