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Mental And Emotional Health Care For Challenging Times

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash
Mark Nash
Mark Nash 18 Mar 2020

Ed Note: Look for updated pandemic-related information on our COVID-19 Resources Page.

Given the rapid spread of Novel Coronavirus, and the immense health impacts of COVID-19, keeping our immune systems healthy and responsive is of vital importance. Two of the most effective ways of boosting our physical immune system are to get enough rest and to decrease stress levels.

A key to achieving both these goals is our ability to manage our emotional reactions, especially our feelings of anger and fear.

PRACTICE BEING PRESENT

Regret, anger, and blame about what might have been, and worry about the future, especially when we have no idea what will actually happen, are rarely helpful in managing our current circumstances.

When you find your mind caught up in the past or future, gently remind yourself to focus on what’s happening for you right here and right now.

When you find your mind caught up in the past or future, gently remind yourself to focus on what’s happening for you right here and right now. Chances are that at this moment, you are fine. Things could certainly get more challenging, but you can meet those challenges when they arise, just as you are currently meeting your present challenges.

PRACTICE GRATITUDE

For all of the ways your life may have been disrupted, there are also all the gifts you still enjoy: family, friends, food, shelter. And all of the people in our community who are doing what they can to make life manageable for the rest of us: health care workers, grocery store employees, first responders, and on and on.

When you find yourself focusing on what’s missing in your life, shift your focus to the ways in which you are still supported.

Look for the ways, both large and small, that you can help others. Nothing calms anxiety more than loving acts of service.

PRACTICE EMPATHY AND COMPASSION

It’s understandable that we would get caught up in our own hardships. While these are absolutely real and valid, it can be helpful to shift your attention to those who might be suffering even more than we are.

We can do that internally, such as with the meditative practice of tonglen (breathing in an awareness of the suffering of others, breathing out the desire for their suffering to be relieved); or it can be more external and practical such as…

PRACTICE GENEROSITY

This is Compassion in Action. Look for the ways, both large and small, that you can help others. Nothing calms anxiety more than loving acts of service.

Seek out stories of generosity, compassion, and solidarity, and find ways to spread inspiration and solace to yourself and others.

BE MINDFUL OF YOUR MEDIA DIET

Of course it’s important to stay informed. At the same time, it’s useful to notice the emotional impact a constant influx of news can have. Once you’ve gotten the information you need, can you take a break from media for a while? Is what you are sharing on social media likely to calm or inflame emotions?

Seek out stories of generosity, compassion, and solidarity, and find ways to spread inspiration and solace to yourself and others.

FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL

And let go of what you can’t. Frustration arises when we wish circumstances and people were different than they are. The only thing we can control is our own behavior. Let that be where we put the majority of our attention.

And a final note: Be sure to reach out to mental health professionals if you are struggling. Many now do therapy sessions remotely, which insurance pays for. If you have no insurance, many offer discounted rates.

Mark Nash is a licensed mental health counselor with a focus on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), and Motivational Interviewing (MI) – though the practice of mindfulness is the underlying principle guiding his work. Learn more at marknashvt.com.

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