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Mental Health Guide to Surviving Covid-19

“You’re a therapist! You must be doing really well during this pandemic.

“You have all the skills and knowledge to get through this, plus you can work from home!”

*Sigh* 😩

If only that was true but, thanks for thinking I’m so awesome I can withstand all this bullshit unscathed!

I wish it were true, but ‘tis not!

Last week’s panic attack was record breaking!

Not only did the heart pounding, thought racing, body shaking and hyperventilation come out of nowhere, it felt like it was never going to end. And honestly, it lasted over 30 minutes.

Most mornings it is at least 8 AM before I even begin thinking about getting up.

I have binge watched more T.V. in the last 2 weeks than I’ve watched all year. (“Tiger King”, on Netflix. . . I’m speechless and that’s hard to do!)

Just one more episode!!

Sound familiar?

How about this one?

“I actually took a walk today so I definitely deserve that cookie, doesn’t matter I’ve already had 3!”

Or maybe this sounds familiar. .

“What is that smell?? Hmm, maybe it’s me. It has only been 5 days since I showered last.”

Because I am still seeing clients and focusing on meeting their needs, I am business up top and sweatpants, that I’ve worn for a week, down below.

My sense of time management, focus, motivation and, frankly, my give a damn is broken!

For the first week, I obsessively checked Facebook to read through several therapist groups I am in. I excused this with thoughts like, “I just want to be prepared for clients.”

It’s totally crap.

I literally would open Facebook, scroll, read, close Facebook, and open again.

I was scared. I was/am anxious. And I felt like if I kept in the know, I would be prepared.

For what?

Who knows.

Why share this with you? Because this is real life and I am not exempt from the trials and tribulations that is quarantine life. Although doing happy hour over Facetime with friends and family is fun, and watching reruns of the Golden girls is fabulous, depression and anxiety are going to show up.

Feeling as though you have to obsessively check social media to find out what is happening with Covid-19 now, is anxiety. The “I’ll just get to it later” attitude, “there’s no

sense in doing anything,” or “I’d rather just sit here,” is depression.

The fact is that we may need to sustain ourselves, and our mental health for a good long while yet. The next few months are likely to be really hard on everyone’s mental health, and we need to be prepared that that just is reality right now

“So, sit here and be miserable while I succumb to my boredom, depression and anxiety? Great, Katie, sounds really fucking fantastic.”

Hold on a minute, that’s not what I’m saying.

I AM NOT going to be the therapist who is going to tell you it’s going to be all rosey and perfect. I’m not going to tell you to be happy or choose to look at the positive side.

I AM going to be real with you. And the real right now is that this sucks for a lot of people and their mental health (mine included) is being impacted negatively.

Instead of fighting the reality of the situation, I’m saying, let’s accept it so we can stop spending our time fighting it, so that we have time and energy to focus on mentally sustaining and coping.

So what does coping look like?

1. ROUTINE! Pre-pandemic, you had a routine of some kind, shouldn’t (yes, I don’t like that word AND it works here) be any different, in fact it is even more important. Your brain and your body crave predictability and routine. Give it one. I had a client recently tell me, “yea but I’m not doing anything so how do I have a routine?”

Don’t over complicate it!

Make it simple.

Get out of bed at the same time each day

Work time - Find something productive to fill your time. Learn a language. Read or journal. Maybe arts and crafts? Do your job if you’re working from home. Clean the house or complete some overlooked yard work. The focus here is be productive, it doesn’t really matter what you’re doing.

Get some physical activity in

Down time/Self-care time (Don’t binge watch a whole season of “Ozarks” though. Limit yourself or stop at bed time)

Bed time

Here is what my day generally looks like:

8am: out of bed, coffee, shower (if I’m up for it!), puppy time

10-5/7 (depends on my day): productive time. I am usually seeing clients here

5/7-10: Dinner, family, t.v., games, a walk/run/yoga etc.

10: Bedtime. My sleep is not good right now, so I’m giving myself plenty of time to be in bed.

2. Stay connected with others! Yes, I know I said that Facetime happy hours isn’t all this quarantine life is about, and it’s not. However, it is an important part of staying mentally well. Stay connected! Do make sure you get your social needs met by communicating with others while respecting social distancing. Do a video chat. Play a game with a friend online. Watch a movie with a friend and then discuss after. Join a book club.

3. Stay OFF social media. Okay, so you’re likely reading this on social media (thank you!), but social media can be a real drag right now. It’s full of doom and gloom, which I know is reality, but being consumed by that kind of media is breeding more depression and anxiety. And, honestly, I have seen so many posts that are inaccurate! This is the very opposite of helpful. If you are on social media or consuming news, please make sure it’s from reputable sources like the CDC or WHO. Social media is also chocked full of people who are trying the best they can to be positive, but really end up invalidating people who are struggling. This can be hard to navigate when already feeling depressed.

4. Get physical! Sitting in bed all day, or in a chair, or on the couch, will only make your mental health worse. There is strong research that supports the link between physical activity and improved mental health. Now you don’t have to run a marathon, or run at all. Take the dog for a walk, or do some yoga on Youtube, or rake the leaves. It doesn’t have to be enormous amounts of effort, but 30 minutes a day of moving around will help a lot.

5. Remember, you are NOT alone. A large part of my job has been talking to people about how Covid-19 has fucked with their lives, plans, routines, relationships, emotions, thoughts and more. I know you’re not alone because I am in it too, and I talk to people everyday who are in it. I can’t say that I “know how you feel” but I can say that this sucks for me, do you feel similar? Because we are all in this same shitty boat, there is no reason to feel shame or guilt because you’ve not showered in a week.

Many therapists are doing telehealth, myself included, right now. Take advantage of it if you can. Most insurance companies are covering telehealth sessions (but please verify with them, I know it’s a pain) as well. There is help. We have to be in this together. We have to lean on our community in this hard time. The help is there, it’s just up to you to reach out.

Are ya ready? I’m ready if you are.

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