Nan looked at me on Zoom. To ensure that we helped her manage her anxiety, she woke up early to speak with me before her day started.
“Judith," she began, "you know that I have suffered from anxiety and depression since I was 15 years old, and you know that my family doctor prescribed Xanax to get me through the day if I am anxious. I do not know how I would manage without the anxiety. It is too busy in Avalon to feel peaceful like it did in March.”
I nodded, and replied, “I remember how few people were here in March. It is a mixed blessing to be such a destination summer resort. How can I help?”
I wanted her to take the lead in sharing what felt crucial to her, therefore I could help her manage her concerns. Talking to me helped her feel calmer and remember the skills she knew were useful. I waited.
“It goes…lousy! Bad news surrounds me. We cannot even visit my mother in her continuing care retirement center because she needs assisted living and it seems unsafe. One of her cronies died from this pandemic. She was 93, but still.”
“I am so sorry this is so hard,” I replied.
A clinical psychology practice during a pandemic is a place where we treat sadness, anxiety and loneliness. It is a necessary health resource in a horrifying time.
We treat by phone, video meetings and by email. We are in contact in all ways that work. We hope to meet live again soon since we have large offices at the ready for social distancing.
In March 2020, I closed our physical offices and took clients online for the first time in over 40 years. Individuals, couples, families and groups all met by phone or online. Why? To lessen the danger of a world threat that had appeared with the New Year like a deadly New Year’s Resolution to test our ability to withstand danger throughout our small planet.
In January, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of a new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, to be a public health emergency of international concern. WHO stated that there was a high risk of COVID-19 spreading to other countries around the world.
In March, WHO assessed that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic, a word disaster of huge proportions. None of us has experienced a health disaster of these proportions in our lifetimes.
Since March 1, I have educated myself about how to move a clinical psychology practice to telehealth with safety and efficiency. Our clients were grateful to have ways to continue their treatment for anxiety, depression and related disorders. We banded together to form a group supporting each other, as needed.
Despite best efforts by our health and mental health professional heroes, this level of global crisis cannot help but generate anxiety, stress and loneliness throughout our communities, impacting the vacation we all want at the beach each summer for ourselves and our families.
WHO Department of Mental Health has developed a series of messages that support mental and psychosocial well-being. The directions are simple to follow and crucial to mutual global respect.
- Remain empathic and compassionate to all who have fallen ill due to this deadly illness. Avoid calling them “victims” or defining them by race or age.
- Following the news too closely makes many anxious and/or depressed, especially if the news is frightening, but facts can help to minimize fears. Do check the news once or twice daily.
- Use trusted sources like the World Health Organization and our local health authorities. They help us distinguish facts from rumors.
- Assisting others in their time of need extinguishes loneliness and benefits both people. Working together as one community fights the terrors of loneliness.
- Take care of yourself at this time by using coping strategies, like getting enough sleep, eating healthy, remaining physically active, engaging in physical activity, and contact family and friends in ways that are safe for everyone.
You are the person most likely to know how you can de-stress, and remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.
To Consider: How can help those who are lonely and frightened? Who might you call or chat with by video? Will you be glad you did? Why or why not?
To Explore: The World Health Organization is a leader in safe information that concerns us all. Explore their website at your leisure.
ED. NOTE: Dr. Coche practices clinical psychology in Stone Harbor and Philadelphia. She invites responses through her website, www.cochecenter.com.