By Emily Yi
We are more than a couple weeks into social distancing and only visiting businesses for essential matters. I’m in private practice for mental health counseling and, like most other therapists in Jacksonville, have moved all of my clients to telehealth. There are almost always visits from children or pets and occasional technology hurdles to jump over. Therapy definitely feels different, but, in this season of uncertainty, it is such a valued time for my clients and myself. I want to share with you some of the themes that have been coming up in session during these last few weeks as clients adjust to this new norm. Perhaps they will encourage you?
Adjustments are one of the main reasons that people seek out counseling. It is painful and exhausting to go through change. The first step in weathering this storm is to recognize there will be an adjustment period.
As a world, we are all experiencing change, loss, and grief. Recognizing that you are likely experiencing grief, the next step is to redefine your priorities. This can look like a very simplified to do list where you choose 3-5 activities that you would like to do daily to be less vulnerable to stress. My list looks like this: 8 hours of sleep, daily Bible reading and prayer, exercise, one load of laundry, and vitamins.
“Name it to tame it” is a phrase that refers to the power that understanding can give you. Common symptoms that are being reported right now are fatigue, over-eating (self-soothing), the over-use of technology, an overwhelming feeling of dread, self-isolation, irritability, substance abuse, and lethargy. Most of my clients report having difficulty finding motivation to use their time wisely. Can you relate? Once you know what you are experiencing you can move forward to manage the feeling.
Currently, there is a major focus on remaining connected to friends and family with regular phone calls. Grief and overwhelming feelings, however, typically lead to self-isolation which causes us to be repelled by a ringing phone. When you are struggling, you need to answer the phone! You need to connect.
Focus on remaining connected spiritually with prayer and Scripture. Additionally, daily connect to your body with deep breaths and long walks. A healthy physical body enables a healthy mind and spirit. Sleep, diet, and exercise are recommended priorities to protect yourself from panic attacks and depression.
When it comes time, consider counseling. Typically, deciding when to seek out counseling is when your life is affected by the symptoms that you are experiencing. If your work is suffering, relationships are rocky, health is declining, or your spirit is burdened, you need to reach out.
The benefit of speaking with a licensed clinician is that they are professional listeners and they have practical skills to serve you. A therapist’s number one job is to listen and to help you from an outside perspective. When we have more time to think about our lives and our feelings, many thoughts can surface. If those thoughts scare you in any way and you fear that they may be “too heavy” for a friend or family member, call a therapist. Do what you need to do to speak those thoughts aloud and do not keep them to yourself. When you say them out loud, they often lose their power to frighten you. The best time to reach out for therapy is when you notice that you are not able to behave in the way you would like or you typically would. A most definite time to reach out to a therapist is if you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else.
Finally, this distancing is only temporary, but the growth we experience here is exponential. I love creating a safe space for my community to hear truth and explore what is going on in their hearts and minds. I have many friends in the field that are passionate as well. Everyone’s doors are open and we work together to find a good fit for you and for you to be seen as soon as possible.
Emily Yi is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with the Parkwood Counseling Center. She specializes in Families and Young Creatives
She can be reached at