Connecting Over COVID-19 (tales from a therapist, and preliminary suggestions)

“I feel suicidal but I can’t go to the ER”

“My OCD strategies taught me that not everything is contaminated… but now everything is potentially dangerous to touch”

“I work on making human connections at work and school and now I have nowhere to go and have no voices to hear but my own”

“I just started to like my new life at college, and just made friends and became independent, and put my old life behind me, and now I have to go back to my high school life and find ways to survive that for 5 months”

“Now most of the country feels the same way I feel every day”

This has been week one of social distancing, quarantining, and our new (temporary) normal.  And this has been week one of the words I have heard from my clients.

For years, I sat in my therapist chair and taught self-care.  I taught mindfulness, and the joy of spontaneity, and the importance of taking care of ourselves in order to be our best-self.  Exercise!  Say yes to a friend!  Don’t over think experiences, but rather enjoy them for what they are!  But now, in March 2020, we are told we can’t go to gyms, we can’t say yes to a friend (in person), and we must over think every action we take, starting with how to touch a doorknob.

I believe wholeheartedly that this experience will build resilience for many.  This will become a story we all survived together–except for those who are alone, who don’t see how things can end brighter when relationships were not solid to begin with.

I have found new value in my role as therapist.  A sense of normalcy for some, a reminder for what life was and will be for others.

A couple of suggestions I have offered countless times this week include:

  • Don’t go to bed without a schedule for tomorrow. Waking up and knowing what you are doing, and when, can makes one feel of worth.
  • Ask for phone calls instead of texts with family and friends.
  • Schedule virtual dinners and dates via video.
  • Sit in a room with good lighting.
  • Get dressed every day.
  • Make a challenge (mine is A Pandemic Path to a Pull-Up)
  • Send real mail to someone you care about.
  • Donate your old puzzles to your local school that is still open to serve lunches.
  • Write a letter to your post-pandemic self. Remind yourself of your February 2020 life and why you liked it and appreciated it.  It wil be there, when you open it.  But you will be different.  You will be someone who survived.
  • And don’t forget: Therapists are prepared and ready to listen, to support you, and help.  You, yes you, are not alone with these feelings you are having.
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Lynn Zakeri

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