Coping with Uncertainty and Anxiety
posted: Mar. 20, 2020.
It was my intention to start this blog in November when I set up my website, however, private practice and life got in the way. Here I am today, on a Friday, my presumptive day off waking up at 6:00 AM to appointment requests from panicked clients. I had every intention to take today off. I've had every intention of taking every Friday off since I started my full-time private practice. It hasn't worked out that way. I had intended to eventually bring my entire private practice online to offer teletherapy 100% of the time. But not like this. Not this soon. Not under these conditions.
Every single appointment I make available gets filled. Every client presents with uncertainty, fear, concerns about finances, questions about the future. All the things I can not answer with certainty. All I can do is present as a pillar of positivity and hope that we move through this with vigilance, mindfulness, and attention to all matters in our lives with great care and concern. I thought I would share what it looks like to be a therapist during a crisis, as well as some guidance to handle these uncertain times.
Since Thursday, March 5 I had thought I might have to move all appointments online. It took another week to actually do so. It may have been Friday, March 6 when I visited with Angie at Beacon Behavioral IOP as one of her employees said to me, "We probably shouldn't shake hands" that I realized this would completely change everything. I'm particularly impressed by their ability to be able to continue to provide the Intensive Outpatient Services online, and I encourage anyone who is struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues and needs more than just an hour a week, please call them.
The demands of being a therapist are greater in crisis. I must be prepared to carefully assess my clients at all times, but it crisis, many people struggle to vocalize their fears and present with mental blocks of the gravity of circumstances. I've come up with a list of four steps to guide using your time wisely in the new normal of unknowns and living with the current uncertainty in the coronavirus pandemic.
My four mental steps to cope with anxiety and uncertainty:
1. Let Go of Control. It's tough in our busy lives of arranging everything as we like it, but much of the future right now is out of our control. Being mindful of what is within our control right now is our day to day lives to mind the pandemic advisories to stay home, limit contact with others (close your circle). We are powerless over what is outside of us. May we learn through mindfulness to be in control of our thoughts and words we speak to ourselves and others.
2. Reflect on your life. Recognize you've faced uncertainties before. I recall being a graduate student in post-Katrina and I've had several clients refer to the uncertainties of 9-11 this week to draw a parallel to what they currently feel. Realize that feelings pass. It's helpful to journal your thoughts so they don't continue to take up space in your head. I like to call this a "data dump." Give yourself 10-15 minutes to put down all the thoughts taking up space on paper and then put them to rest.
3. Avoid avoidance. First, we all need to clean house. Physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Let's start with sanitizing your space because it's the one right in front of you. Once you're there, we can tackle the bigger projects of the emotional, spiritual, and mental work you've been avoiding (like the plague) to soul search. What is it you truly want to spend your time doing? Do it. Find the things you love to do and learn to do them well. This is an opportunity to create new habits, thoughts, and behaviors that haven't been working for you. Most of us have projects around the house we can tend to that we have been putting off. Savor the satisfaction of completion in each item you tackle.
4. Envision your future. Anyone who lives in an anxious mind knows what it feels like to question everything, but not like this. This is different. I encourage you to reflect on the patterns of behavior you've established and change the ones that do not work for you. We all have an opportunity to hit the reset button on life right now. It's possible to completely reimagine your life and how you want to live it. Enrich your soul by exploring the possibilities. Build that vision board and put the intentions out into the world that will bring your heart's desires into your life.