Anxiety During Shelter-In-Place: A Conversation Between Rachel Fleischman, LCSW, REAT, and Laurel Roberts-Meese, LMFT
Two therapists discuss what anxiety is and how we work with it now. Anxiety is very common and very treatable.
A loose, summarized transcript follows:
How Can We Create Connection During Coronavirus Shelter-In-Place?
A conversation between Kathleen Day, AMFT, CHT, and Laurel Roberts-Meese, LMFT.
Rachel Fleischman, LCSW, REAT and Laurel Roberts Meese, LMFT
1) What are you telling clients who just can't seem to get away from the news?
Anxiety is high these days, with tone changing swiftly and future plans up in the air. Here are some ways to combat the anxiety that is surging through the world.
1) Get information and log off. Other than ensuring you are following CDC/WHO precautionary recommendations and workplace/school guidelines, there is no benefit to staying connected to the news cycle 24/7. We are all aware of the impact of this virus, but ruminating on it will only increase our cortisol levels, which decreases our immune function. Check in with updates once or twice a day, otherwise go about your modified life.
2) Reconnect with friends and loved ones while socially distancing. Yes, we all need to practice social distancing, but there are myriad ways to connect despite that. Make a date with an old friend to eat dinner over FaceTime. Call up your niece who lives out of state and see how she’s doing. Respond to social emails and texts that you’ve been meaning to get around to. If you live with a partner or friends, use your creativity to make added time together fun and spontaneous. Make a picnic and eat it on the living room floor. Plan a vacation for down the line. Put on your favorite upbeat music and dance together. Get out a board game. Social distancing doesn’t have to equal boredom or loneliness. Connecting with people we care about decreases our stress and keeps us healthier.
3) Use your newfound time. If you’ve been advised to telecommute or stay home, you’ve been granted hours more in your day. Now you get that time back – use it! Tackle that closet reorganization, dig up old recipes , and dust off your art supplies. You may just re-discover a passion or form of self-care that got lost in the shuffle.
4) Take care of your body with good sleep and exercise. With the added time you now have, you can go to bed 30 minutes earlier and/or hop on that exercise bike for a bit and still feel like you have plenty of leisure time. You can pull up cardio routines on YouTube and do them right in your apartment. If the weather is nice and you live in an area that isn’t densely populated, go for a walk or jog outside. Keeping your body healthy helps protect everyone around you by boosting your immune system and decreasing your anxiety.
5) Breathe and check in with your body. We carry more than our physical frame with our muscles. Close your eyes and do a slow scan from feet to head. You may notice you’re tensing your shoulders or neck. Don't judge it as good or bad; your body is giving you information. Breathe through it and let the physical release transfer to your emotional state.
6) If your anxiety about coronavirus has become consuming, talk to a therapist. Many therapists offer telehealth sessions so you can stay in the comfort of your home while also getting the help you need. I offer these sessions to current and new clients through my secure, HIPAA-compliant portal. You can set up an intro call right now.
Got questions about mental health and coronavirus? Ask away!
Once you’ve decided to pursue therapy, it can feel daunting to find the right fit. If you don’t know the landscape or the lingo, all the information out there can blur together and feel downright discouraging. Here’s a guide to help give you some direction.
1) Decide if you want to go through your insurance. There are pros and cons to using your insurance. Pros include lower cost and a built in list of people who you could work with from your insurance provider. Cons include issues with privacy, your policy limiting the number of sessions your insurance will pay for, a diagnosis going on your medical record, and difficulty finding a provider who has current openings.
2) Figure out if you need to see someone with a specialty. If the primary issue bringing you to therapy is a breakup or another relational issue, mild to moderate anxiety or depression, or trouble adjusting to changes in your life, chances are most therapists are capable of working with you. But if you’ve got a specific issue like bipolar, a phobia, food anxiety, or trauma, you should see someone who has specialized training and experience with that issue. Or maybe you don’t need someone with a specific specialty, but want to see someone from your same racial or ethnic group or sexual orientation. That’s important to be clear on too, and depending on where you live, can help narrow your search.
3) Ask a trusted friend or colleague for a recommendation. Not everyone feels comfortable telling people they’re looking for a therapist, and that’s okay. You’re absolutely entitled to your privacy. But if you are comfortable asking for recommendation, it takes a lot of legwork out of your search, and there’s no better endorsement than the stamp of approval from someone you trust. You can also try asking your doctor, nutritionist, yoga instructor, or hairstylist.
4) Look online. There are many online directories for therapists. The most popular one is Psychology Today, but there are so many therapists listed there it can feel overwhelming. For a smaller pool and more customizable search options, check out TherapyDen.
5) Don’t get too caught up in therapy lingo. You may have seen words or acronyms like psychodynamic, CBT, somatic therapy, and solution-focused around. There are so many different types of therapy and acronyms for various protocols, it literally requires a Master’s degree to understand them all. Don’t worry too much about how a therapist describes their theoretical orientation; the truth is that many therapists have an eclectic style that draws from several different modalities. For some issues, it may be best practice to go with a specific kind of treatment, but any therapist worth their salt will know what direction to point you in if that’s what you need.
6) Try out a few therapists. Yes, this is okay. The relationship you have with your therapist is too important to settle for the first person you feel just-okay with. However, be honest and upfront about it with the therapists you’re trying out, and don’t drag it out for more than two or three sessions. Therapists aren’t supposed to treat people who are simultaneously seeing another individual therapist, and it can put them in an awkward position if you haven’t been upfront about it.
7) Go with your gut. A therapist may have all the degrees and certifications and come highly recommended, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best therapist for you. If you feel like you click with someone who doesn’t have as many letters after their name, or whose office is a little funky, go with what you feel. Remember, the relationship and trust you have in your therapist is paramount. The rest is details.
8) Ask questions. Therapy can feel awkward for people who aren’t used to having a directional relationship. Generally, therapists don’t talk about themselves much (and if yours does, rethink seeing them). Not knowing much about your therapist can make people feel like they’re not allowed to ask anything. You are allowed to ask questions that will help you be more clear about what therapy is and how it works, and about your therapist’s experience and training. If therapy feels confusing or secretive, speak up. In therapy, there’s truly no such thing as a dumb question. You're paying for someone's expertise.
9) Remember you can stop whenever you want. Committing to therapy isn’t a lifelong contract. You can leave when you want or need to. If you feel like therapy isn’t working, or the relationship isn’t quite a match, or you just need a break from introspection for a bit, that’s fine. Most therapists will ask you to come to one or two more sessions to wrap things up, but they shouldn’t try to change your mind unless they have concerns for your safety.
Got a questions about finding a therapist? Comment below!
There are so many different types of therapy out there. When you’re looking for help, it’s easy to feel lost or confused on top of whatever is bringing you to therapy. There are certain types of therapy that are proven to work well for certain issues – EMDR for trauma, for example – but otherwise, it’s likely the mode of therapy matters less than how good you feel about your relationship with your therapist. After all, research indicates that 80% of the effectiveness of therapy is created through your connection to, and trust in your therapist.
And what matters more than a therapist who gets you? Feminist therapists work foremost to make sure that happens.
Here’s why you should see a feminist therapist: