Online Therapy Benefits & Coping Tips during the Covid-19 Outbreak
By Chelsea Hudson, LCPC
In a matter of weeks the world as we once knew it has shifted so drastically that most of us are finding ourselves grappling with emotions of shock, fear and disbelief. Rest assured, you are not alone in feeling this way, as the Corona virus has literally impacted every human in some way across our planet.
Whether it be a sick loved one, a sudden job loss, an interruption in travel plans or being ordered to shelter in place by your state, it’s completely understandable to be experiencing feelings of anxiety and depression in relation to these traumatic events triggered by the Corona virus outbreak. For folks who were already struggling with mental health issues, unfortunately the isolation associated with the Corona virus outbreak might trigger a worsening in symptoms.
This article will review tips for coping through this pandemic as well as how online therapy can help.
Focus on what is in your control– there is a lot we are currently powerless over such as how long the corona virus outbreak will last, whether we will hold on to our jobs and how our bodies might respond if we test positive for the Corona virus but there is still a lot that we are in control of. We can choose how to spend our free time at home and how we want to behave in the face of such adversity. We can choose to spend our time worrying or arguing with a family member or we can choose to spend our time being productive, creative and kind to those around us.
Stay connected – while you might have been asked by your governor or mayor to stay at home, or told by your employer to work from home, it’s now more important than ever to be intentional about your relationships. Call your neighbors, friends, & co-workers or facetime extended family or friends you haven’t connected with in a while and ask people how you can support them while also being vulnerable and sharing how you are truly doing. If you have to stay at home, mindfully enjoy the extra time with your family and pets.
Limit media exposure – while it’s important to stay informed, a quick 10 minute read of the daily headlines will likely suffice. The media can be greatly informative but it can also report facts in a sensational manner that might leave you feeling hopeless about the future. Choose media outlets that are known for remaining objective and try to consume more facts and fewer assumptions and “doom & gloom” predictions. Better yet, search for articles that provide news stories of hope amidst all the pain and suffering.
Be of service – If you are able, search for ways to help others who are struggling more than you during this period. It could be as simple as dropping off groceries for a friend, giving your partner a massage or donating to your local homeless shelter. No matter how tough life gets, even if you are sick or lose your job, you are always in control of offering a smile or kind words of encouragement to someone else who might also be suffering. Helping others can temporarily take the attention off our own problems and give you a sense of purpose.
Change your perspective – Ask yourself if there is a way to view the situation differently. Is there something to be learned about yourself and how you have always operated in the world? Maybe you sailed through life feeling invincible and the Corona virus outbreak might teach you how fragile life can be and how instantly things can change. Maybe you were on the other end of the spectrum, living a life of worry and limits in the hopes of avoiding pain and the Corona virus outbreak comes along and teaches you that worrying does not prevent hardships and storms will come in spite of your efforts to avoid them. Regardless of how you were living your life before the economy crashed or you were forced to stay home, there is always a different way to look at one’s circumstances and an opportunity to find glimmers of light piercing through the clouds. Maybe time at home will help you rekindle a lost romance or remind you of the simple things in life.
Maintain important habits – During times of such severe change, it’s important to maintain some kind of structure and daily normalcy with tasks that keep you mentally and physically healthy such as movement, nutrition habits, prayer, mindfulness meditation, creative projects and maintaining some kind of order in your home.
Benefits of Online Therapy during the Corona Virus Outbreak
For those currently in therapy and counseling, now more than ever, it’s important to keep up the work on your mental health, especially because stress can amplify symptoms of anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, addictions and eating disorders. Fortunately, there are great virtual options to continue meeting with your therapist on a weekly basis and most insurance companies have agreed to cover the costs of tele health during the Corona virus outbreak in order to stop the spread of the virus.
Benefits of online therapy during this time include:
1) Continued support from a therapist you have built a strong relationship with
2) Prevention of relapse, keeping symptoms in check and maintaining progress
3) Connection with an objective and supportive person especially if you are feeling trapped at home or with a non-supportive family
4) The ability to practice skills and exposures at home with your therapist supporting you virtually – especially exposures that cannot be practiced in an office setting
5) Having therapy sessions in the comfort of your own home
6) Providing your therapist with more of a window into your home life – your therapist might literally see the pet you utilize for support or your bedroom where you spend many hours shedding tears or even the kitchen that triggers your disordered eating.
7) Increased flexibility of session times. With many therapists and patients now working from home, both parties will likely have more availability in their schedules.
On March 19, 2020 the Illinois Governor signed an executive order instructing insurance companies to cover tele health sessions during the Corona virus outbreak. Some insurance companies have also agreed to waiver copays & high deductibles. We invite you to talk directly with your therapist about your options.