COVID-19 Staying Connected: The First 5 Weeks

Below are all five of the emails I have sent clients, colleagues, friends. Some of you have asked why they are not on my blog and that is because I am working on making my blog more accessible (and faster to load). If you waited patiently for this to load, here are weeks 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1:

WEEK 5:
I thought I was going to begin this fifth weekly email (the other weeks are below this) talking about the wall so many of us hit. Talking about feeling drained, overwhelmed, tired. But typical of the way things have been rollercoasting, that feeling feels “so week four”. It is in a large part because of the sessions I have with you. You are so raw and real and honest and vulnerable, and you remind me why we will all be OK. Yes, there is desperate sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, and confusion, but each week you keep finding ways to wake up. How?

Here are some reasons I have found to be pretty consistent amongst you:

You are honest with your feelings. This is probably the biggest and most important strategy. You say them to me and others who you trust. You are vulnerable, you cry, you say you are confused and scared and worried and you somehow find a reason to keep going, however temporary that reason is. One overlapping struggle that has also been consistent is the guilt that goes along with these feelings.

You forgive yourself. You are so far from perfect. You are doing the best you can each day, and that requires changing your expectations for yourself. If you are having a hard time with this, a strategy is that you decide today what you will do tomorrow. I have found that being spontaneously busy, fulfilled and productive is difficult when we are anxious and feel limited. Decide today what you will do tomorrow. Every day.

Some of you are getting more anxious feelings, even anxiety attacks. Going back to mindfulness rules (I think this is a Deepak Chopra acronym), practice the acronym:
S: stop what you are doing
T: take a few deep breaths
O: observe your body and smile
P: proceed with kindness and compassion
If doing this feels overwhelming, let me know and we can talk about WHY this works.

Circling back to the beginning of my email, there has been this consistent theme this week for me. It is that we are finding comfort in others. If you are having trouble feeling that way, I can help you find it. It may just be one of the most impactful survival skills we have.

A Kaiser Family Foundation Poll done a few weeks ago found that this crisis has a negative impact on almost half of American’s mental health. Think about what you need to be OK. To do the best you can.

WEEK 4:
From: Lynn Zakeri <lynn@lynnzakeri.com>
Sent: Sunday, April 5, 2020 12:56 PM
To: Lynn Zakeri <lynn@lynnzakeri.com>
Subject: Re: Checking In And Updates</lynn@lynnzakeri.com></lynn@lynnzakeri.com>

Last week I opened an email to learn that a hotel that I had booked a reservation with is closed. It was another dose of reality where I did that thought process you all do regularly:
Oh no my trip is cancelled, it’s selfish to worry about my own trip in the midst of everything, I begin to consider the owners, consider why they closed, wonder if they will open again for their own security and joy, wonder if we, as a family and as a country, will be at a place to plan another trip, grateful that I am spending time thinking about this instead of death of a loved one, compassionate towards those that are only thinking about death of a loved one, what does the future bring…
That is all in a matter of about 10 seconds. I want to assure you that the exhaustion and drained feeling you are having is not just yours alone.
I also want to assure you that there are people, not just me, but other therapists as well, who are waiting to support you through this. This is *what we do*.

Some of you are receiving this email for the fourth week (the other three weeks are below this). Again, let me know if you want to be removed from this list. I will think about you, whether you are blind copied here or not, because I just will. I know your life is different, hard, emotional, frustrating, and I also know you are scared, worried, confused, hopeful and sad, whether we talk or not. So for that reason, I will think about you.

Here are a couple of attachments in addition to the ones I sent in weeks previously.

Maybe you have seen this doctor on the news. I had my family watch the first 20 min or so. This eases anxiety and tells you what you can do to stay healthy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1P7x0dNQs_I

Erika’s Lighthouse has a page of resources (they can all be found here: https://secure.qgiv.com/event/inthistogether/) but in particular I have been asked a lot about depression in teens so their handbook on that one is here: https://www.erikaslighthouse.org/the-parent-handbook-on-childhood-and-teen-depression-1/

And I would not be Lynn if I did not love an article like this that talks about social connectedness with physical distance instead of social distancing: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/social-distancing-coronavirus-physical-distancing/2020/03/25/a4d4b8bc-6ecf-11ea-aa80-c2470c6b2034_story.html

Last, I attached a PDF of a family game, in case you are spending more time with family members. It is a good way to open up some discussion and hopefully help you cope stronger together.

Self-harm calls are up 40% in some areas. This is not easy for anyone. Please remember to reach out. I am here, for you or to help you find someone to support you (I am also available to facilitate Zoom calls for your company or small groups to process all the emotional and overwhelming thoughts and triggering effects of COVID-19 changes).

WEEK 3:
From: Lynn Zakeri <lynn@lynnzakeri.com>
Sent: Sunday, March 29, 2020 1:57 PM
To: Lynn Zakeri <lynn@lynnzakeri.com>
Subject: Re: Checking In And Updates</lynn@lynnzakeri.com></lynn@lynnzakeri.com>

Hello again. If you prefer I take your name off this list, let me know. No offense taken. I really am thinking about you and understand if you would rather not receive somewhat impersonal emails. Yet, I do feel like I am writing to YOU in person. Honestly this list was made 2 weeks ago.

It was a busy week. A lot of you reached out. I want to assure you that many of the feelings you are having, I am having too. I am a (volunteer, re-elected) board member for National Association of Social Workers. Here is a blurb from an email I sent to my district on Friday as I attempt to host a processing Zoom call with other therapists: “How ARE you?” seems like a really loaded question today. For me, it depends on the hour of the day. Am I overwhelmed by feelings? about work? home? the country? the world? Am I sad, grateful, scared, and hopeful? Am I terrified about how this will all leave us when it is over, and am I optimistic that it will leave us changed but that change means we survived together? Am I convinced I have a fever and a cough during the middle of the night when I go to the bathroom? Yes, yes, and yes. So how ARE you?

​This week, I did a few video sessions, and many phone calls and in-person meetings as well. I think I have the protocol down pat with the entry/exit to the Skokie office safe and comfortable. An upside to this is that I am enjoying being able to say “yes” more to session requests with less scheduling conflicts in my life.

That brings me back to you… I am going to share a couple of the most helpful resources I found this week, things I even incorporated into my own life.

On 60 minutes tonight, one of my favorites is on, Brené Brown. Hoping to watch that.

Depending on whether you are a parent with children at home, this article has practical tips: https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/school-climate-safety-and-crisis/health-crisis-resources/helping-children-cope-with-changes-resulting-from-covid-19

This article from the Atlantic gives a lot of good information: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/how-will-coronavirus-end/608719/?fbclid=IwAR2rZxEnkX-hWEd8epBfbwGdlTqzcXMCyOa10OtXc_zU01EV2HQAeePGRSA

Here is some practicality: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/03/20/coronavirus-allergies-cold-flu-strep-these-differences/2882663001/

And a little more lighthearted, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/26/dont-panic-about-shopping-getting-delivery-or-accepting-packages/

Don’t panic about shopping, getting delivery or accepting packages – The Washington Post
Joseph G. Allen is an assistant professor of exposure and assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings Program at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
www.washingtonpost.com

Those of you struggling to feel supported amongst the people you live with, ask each other what do they need from you when they are spontaneously on that roller coaster of intense feelings, and then do that brave thing, by telling them what you could really use from them when that happens to you. If you have trouble thinking of words to describe this, I will help you.

Some of you have tested positive for COVID-19. Some of you have a loved one who tested positive. That determination and optimism and hopfulness has whole new meaning when you are 1, 2 or 3 degrees from this virus. When “them” became “me”.

Remember that putting a name to how you feel, naming it, feeling it, makes it less scary. Talk to people you live with, talk to others, talk to me. Sometimes we are not OK. There is uncertainty. There is sadness. There is grief. It is happening around us, it is happening TO us.

And if you don’t do any of these tips, please do this one. Repeat after me: I am doing the best I can.

WEEK 2:
From: Lynn Zakeri <lynn@lynnzakeri.com>
Sent: Sunday, March 22, 2020 10:27 AM
To: Lynn Zakeri <lynn@lynnzakeri.com>
Subject: Checking In And Updates</lynn@lynnzakeri.com></lynn@lynnzakeri.com>

HI– I am sorry this is not a more personal email but I can honestly tell you that as I put your email into the BCC area, it was because you have been on my mind a lot. And I can imagine that all of your minds are pretty full with ups and downs.
I want to ensure you that I have time and room and an adjusted schedule so that if you want to talk, connect, reach out, cry, be angry… grieve… or just get right back to the pre-COVID issues at hand, I am here.

These are the adjustments I have made to make sure you are safe: I have moved all files to Skokie. I have a disinfected and clean office. I have asked everyone who comes to my sessions to not come in person if they are sick or around anyone who is sick. I am socially distant. I have gloves. I have alcohol spray. I have Clorox wipes. I will make It so that you do not have to touch anything in my office that you don’t want to touch. WITH THAT BEING SAID, I have also found a way to have a secure (HIPAA compliant) video session with those who want it (it does require a good wi-fi connection, and luck that it is not overloaded and cut us off. But… it works amazing when it works. I sit in my office and we talk). I have had phone sessions and text sessions.

This is our new normal, but it is our temporary normal. If I can offer you consistency and rationality when the world does not feel either of these, then I hope you will reach out.
For those with regular times scheduled, we will make the arrangements that you want. For those that do not have an appointment in the near future but would like one, just send me an email or text and we will work it out.

I wrote a blog Friday for my website. The suggestions at the end included:
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.
Be well and talk soon-
Warmly,
Lynn

WEEK 1:
From: Lynn Zakeri
Sent: Friday, March 13, 2020 1:04 PM
To: Lynn Zakeri <lynn@lynnzakeri.com>
Subject: Changes to Location!</lynn@lynnzakeri.com>

Hello!
I am going to move all appointments to Skokie for now. I want to make sure you feel as safe and comfortable as possible, and to that end I will be wiping down and disinfecting all doorknobs, couches, etc between sessions (I have plenty of plastic gloves and wipes).

Additionally, if you choose to have sessions via phone, messaging, or other avenues, you will be accommodated. I want you to feel comfortable and safe.

I hope you are feeling informed. Here was a NY Times article, how to stop touching your face, which was helpful. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/05/health/stop-touching-your-face-coronavirus.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

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