“Unprecedented,” “Scary,” “Overwhelming,” “Surreal,” “Uncertain,” and “Stressful.” These are the words used most commonly by my clients to describe the impact of Coronavirus. Everyone has been affected by Coronavirus in some way, and some people have been impacted more than others. The concerns Coronavirus has created are profound, and one of those concerns is the impact of this pandemic on people’s mental health.
The new world we are living in comes with elements that can contribute to mental health issues:
- Stress-Stress is a precursor linked to several mental health problems including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
- Unemployment-Work gives us structure, purpose, connectedness, and even enjoyment. With these benefits gone, people can feel like there is a major void in their lives.
- Financial Concerns-Especially if you’ve lost your job, there is concern about how to pay rent, bills, or unexpected expenses.
- Isolation-Social distancing is the new norm, but isolation or minimal connection with others feeds depression and anxiety.
- Loss-We feel disappointment and sadness from all sorts of cancellations including trips, school, weddings, graduations, family events, etc.
- Illness-When we don’t feel physically well, our mental health tends to decompensate as well.
- Damaged Relationships-If you’re quarantined with others, you may be getting on each other’s nerves which can lead to hurtful statements and conflict. For other relationships outside the house, decreases in contact may compromise the connection.
- Worry-Whether we’re concerned about ourselves, family members, our communities, or the world, worry is a form of stress that can take its toll.
Appropriate Concern vs. Anxiety
The current circumstances warrant concern. Concern is appropriate, whereas anxiety is unhelpful. Unfortunately, people have a tendency to amplify their concern and induce anxiety. As a Cognitive Behavioral therapist (see August 2019 for a quick introduction to CBT), I help clients examine what it is they are saying to themselves that is causing unnecessary anxiety. We work to change those thoughts to be more neutral or objective, and thus the restructured thoughts produce less anxiety or a different feeling altogether. Let’s look at an example:
Anxiety-Producing Thought: Coronavirus is an utter disaster. We will never get out of this. This is going to destroy our world. I can’t handle this!
Feelings: anxiety, panic, hopelessness, despair
Restructured Thought: This is a challenge, but we have faced adversity and been resilient in recovering from it. This will end at some point, and we can heal from the damaged that’s been caused by Coronavirus.
Feelings: hope, motivation, calm
As you can see in the example, the restructured thought acknowledges the challenges of Coronavirus, but imparts a message of getting through this tough time. On the other hand, the anxiety-producing thought, does nothing but fuel negative feelings and make us feel powerless in this situation.
Is Therapy Even an Option Right Now?
The short answer is yes. Some therapists are seeing clients in-person with precautions (extensive disinfecting, sitting more than 6 feet apart, and not trading items that could have germs on them). Attending a therapy session is considered a “Healthcare Operation” which falls under an “Essential Activity.” Essential activities are exempt from the Larimer County stay-at-home order. So, long story short, people can visit their therapist’s office if they’d like.
Other therapists are offering telehealth or teletherapy services. Telehealth is like Skype where you can interact with your therapist through your phone or computer. With this format, you can stay in the comfort and safety of your own home and still participate in counseling services.
People need support more than ever right now, and therapists are prepared to help you through this difficult time. At Evolve Counseling Services, we are offering both in-person sessions with precautions and telehealth.
If you are struggling with the stress of Coronavirus and want to work through it in counseling, we’d love to offer my support and help. Please give our office a call, and we can discuss further.