This global pandemic has forced many of us to be creative and flexible with the way in which we complete our work. With most of us being asked to work from home, we are experiencing the challenges and conveniences of technology on a full-time basis – teleconferences, online training sessions, and, in my case, telemedicine or telehealth. Don’t get me wrong – this is not the first time that I have done online counselling. I’ve been doing video and telephone sessions for a while now, but it has not been a predominant aspect of my services. I consider myself grateful for being able to still provide support to my clients during this time, even if it is not the most ideal way of connecting with people.
After completing a little over two weeks doing video and telephone sessions, I thought it would be helpful to review the good and the not-so-good aspects of these methods, as well as, strategies that may help make this process less uncomfortable.
You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.
It is so easy to be hard on ourselves for not coping the way we think we “should” cope with these changes. In many of my sessions this week, the message that I have been consistently delivering is this: Be Kind to Yourself.
There is no formula or protocol that we have been formally or informally trained to practice during a global pandemic. We have no idea what to expect. We are in survival mode at this point. So what do we do now?
I returned to work this week – the first time since the global pandemic was announced. I was able to connect with my clients online and on the telephone, for which I was grateful.
One thing is for sure: we are all stressed.
And it makes sense, right? In a short period of time, the entire world has been infiltrated by an invisible predator. Countries all over the world are locking down and we are bombarded by dismal and tragic updates on a daily basis and on an international stage. We have lost our sense of normalcy and routine in all of our systems. Our work and school environments. Our extra-curricular activities and social events. Our freedom to utilize public spaces. All taken away or drastically changing.
So, yes, it makes sense that we are stressed. Because anxiety if fueled by uncertainty. When we do not have predictability and routine, we can feel unsafe – physically and emotionally. Every day, we see different systemic changes and restrictions. We hear the phrase “day to day” all the time and there cannot be any commitment to any timeframes. We have no control over the trajectory that this virus is going to have on the world, other than our own personal choices to socially and physically distance from others and self-quarantine if we are sick. We don’t know what to expect on any given day. And when our anxiety rises, we see all of our other negative feelings surface more readily. We are more irritable. Angry. Sad. Lonely. Guilty.
Is it hopeless? Is it inevitable that we will feel this way forever? It certainly feels that way. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We will have to be creative and flexible. We will have to let go of expectations to a certain degree. But there are things that we can control that we can try while we are at home.
We can control when and how long we watch the news or check social media and internet sites, as abysmal as they are. Are you the type that has to know everything in order to feel less anxious? Or does knowing too much make you more anxious? Whichever one fits, do what makes your anxiety less.
We can make time every day to use our social outlets to connect with people. Create group chats on Facebook or WhatsApp and schedule video chats with your loved ones. Go through your contact list and create a list of people that you want to check in on every day and send them a text or call them. We are in a technological world, people. Let’s make use of it.
We can set small goals for each day to give ourselves those small victories. That closet that you always wanted to organize but never had the time? Now you do! Go around the house with a recycling and garbage bag and start throwing stuff out. It feels powerful and freeing to purge! Those lonely socks that seem to accumulate with no pair in sight? Throw them out or find their partners.
We can enjoy the moments we have our family members. You know who those people are, right? The ones that are we hardly see during the week because of work and soccer practice and dance class and commuting. Start a movie marathon, play a board game, play a video game, put on some music and just dance.
We can be kind to ourselves and recognize that are anxiety makes sense. We can accept it for now and label it as such. It’s a stressful time for all of us.
Even though it feels like there will be no end to this pandemic, it will end. It has to. And our lives will return to the regular chaos that we have learned to accept as normal. So, we have the ability to enjoy the moment the best way we can. We are being given the opportunity to slow down.
This situation is can be everlasting or fleeting – it just depends on the lens from which we are seeing it.
It was a very difficult decision for me to make; however, effectively immediately, I will be discontinuing in-person sessions until further notice. I have to do my part to practice social responsibility and distancing. But I understand that this is a very sensitive time with heightened anxiety.
Therefore, I am in the process of finding the best way to provide virtual services to my clients, either by video or telephone calls or live chats for a reduced cost. I know that this is the not the most ideal way to provide services and some of my clients may not be comfortable with this method of communication; however, due to the current social climate, I feel that I am making the most responsible decision I can make at this time.
More details to come before I return to the office next week…
Global Pandemic. Social Distancing. Panic Buying. State of Emergency.
It seems like every time we turn on the television or visit social media and internet sites, we are bombarded with terms like these and daily statistics of cases and fatalities all over the world. How do we not panic, right? There are no subtleties to these terms – intentionally, of course – in order to illustrate the seriousness of the world’s current health crisis. But is it enough?
People still have to work, especially those in essential services (Thank Goodness for Them). There are elderly and other vulnerable people who need to be checked up on. Kids are out of school but still have the same amount of energy that they are not able to expend.
It’s times like this that I have to remind myself that I only have control over what I choose to do for myself and my family during this difficult time. It’s very easy to get angry with “those people” who appear to be disregarding the multitudes of warnings given by the authorities, hoarding essentials that take away from people who have little or nothing, and considering strong urges to self-isolate as gentle suggestions. But how is judging other people’s behaviours helping our own mental health, other than adding unnecessary stress to an already stressful situation? There will always be someone who is going to do things differently from what we would do.
All we can do is make personal choices to be socially responsible. I agree that socially distancing is not the absolute solution but it’s something that we can do to reduce the spread of the virus. I know this poses a challenge to people who have jobs they have to go to and kids that they have to entertain, but we all have to make sacrifices in order to protect the greater population. You know, the greater population that have the right to use all of the same resources that are available to us – the hospitals that are overcrowded, the grocery stores that are meant to feed everyone and not just a select few, and the freedom to walk down the streets and buildings without fearing the breath of the person standing or walking next to us.
This is not about living in fear or rebelling against the universe by not being allowing ourselves to be held hostage. This is about trying to end a pandemic that can ultimately touch you, your family, your loved ones, and your community at some point in the near future. Stay home if you are sick. Work from home if you can. Isolate or quarantine if you have been out of the country. Wash your hands. Share the supplies with those who also need them. Talk to your kids about covid-19 in a realistic and productive way that does not instill fear or anxiety. Take care of the elderly and immuno-compromised. Screw our conspiracy theories and political views. It doesn’t matter anymore. Don’t worry about the actions of others and exercise your own power and choice. Lead by example and know that you did the right thing during a time of crisis.
Tell people with words and actions that you care about them by doing your part. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that at any given day or hour, our lives and liberties can significantly change. Tables can be turned in an instant. And I don’t know about you, but I would want to be able to trust in others that they would care about me and family and all of our futures.
Having two young boys of my own, I have acknowledged that we now live in a technologically-dependent society: everywhere we go, we can access information and create social networks through our electronic devices – cellphones, tablets, laptops, computers, etc. The idea of being in an area with no WIFI can be devastating to some and losing our mobile devices can be as stressful as losing our wallets, cameras, calendars, and any other vital possession that we may own to keep in touch with the modern world.
On International Women’s Day, I was honoured to be asked to co-facilitate a workshop on communication, with a focus on technological boundaries and navigating through difficult conversations. So, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to share this information for my latest blog entry.
It’s February 14th…which means the romantic comedies and love songs have been playing on repeat for the past few weeks on television and radio, the jewellery commercials have been in full force to remind you of the “perfect” gift of diamonds, and the stores are littered with all shades of pink and red. It’s Valentine’s Day. For some, this day can be exciting and romantic. For others, this day can bring about feelings of loneliness and sadness. And for others, this day is just Thursday.
As a therapist and counsellor, I hear it often: “I don’t know if I need counselling. I’m not crazy”. Language is a powerful thing. And the first thing I try to do is NORMALIZE. I remind them that our mental health is the same as our physical health: just as we all have vital organs that keep us alive, we all have emotions that naturally respond to the environment or situation surrounding us. When we have aches and pains, we sometimes postpone our visits to the doctor or forget to take our medication. We may skip our daily jog or indulge in a double burger with bacon and cheese. And, sometimes, we have difficulties managing our emotions or taking care of ourselves mentally by engaging in regular self-care or seeking professional help.
Our emotions are vital to our existence and all serve an important function – even the unpleasant ones. They tell us that we either like or dislike what is going around us, they tell us to take extra caution if we feel that we are at risk of being physically, socially, or emotionally harmed. When we try to deny our emotions or minimize them, we introduce another emotion – GUILT. And this feeling can make whatever we are experiencing seem a million times worse.
Organization isn’t about perfection. It is about efficiency, reducing stress & clutter, and saving time & money, & improving your overall quality of life.
There are many constants that I like to emphasize during my counselling sessions. Some are based on theory, some on personal or professional experience. Regardless of the presenting issue, I have three principles of stress reduction that I like to encourage all of my clients to embrace:
Another year has come and gone, most likely with some highs and lows. It can be very easy for us to “filter” and direct our focus on our most difficult times, but recalling the steps forward, regardless of whether they are significant strides or tiny steps, is always helpful in maintaining hope for the year to come. And so, here is my Year in Review: the Good, the Not-So-Good and the Hopeful.