By Holly Marley-Henschen
The pandemic ushered in a multitude of changes and ample uncertainty. Many are now working from home, managing childcare and homeschooling — while interacting with far more or even fewer people. These stressors can tax our mental health, adding anxiety and depression into the mix. Nicole Bell, licensed psychotherapist and owner of Synergos Counseling in Madison, has some tips for navigating our COVID-19 reality.
“This is a very stressful time with a lot of uncertainty, unpredictability — a lot of unstructured time,” Bell says. Having a routine and sticking to it is important, from eating well and regularly to taking frequent breaks from work during the day and getting in some exercise. Bell suggests creating SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) goals, but recommends giving yourself some leeway too. “We also have to be OK with things not being perfect,” she says.
Decompressing and unwinding at night with guided meditation can also be beneficial, Bell says. She suggests an app like Calm.
But sometimes good intentions and healthy habits don’t do the trick. Bell has a few suggestions for those considering seeing a therapist.
“[Give] yourself permission to even be frustrated, anxious, sad — all the things that are piling up,” Bell says. Of course, she encourages this in healthy ways like talking to a friend and journaling, not punching a wall.
It’s good to check-in with your support network. Consider the feedback you’ve been getting from them lately, or, if you feel comfortable, talk to them about it. You can also reflect on the last few months and note changes in your outlook, eating patterns, spending habits and exercise.
“If those are very different now, especially if you’re struggling with them, those are indicators that you’re starting to go down a slippery slope,” Bell says.
Since telehealth is the new normal, Bell recommends searching therapist profiles on psychologytoday.com, and then cross-checking with your insurance company to ensure the professional is in network.