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Q: What are some of the best ways to support yourself emotionally during times of high stress like this?
A: I have been telling clients that the only thing we can control right now is how we take care of ourselves (or try, right?) Sleep, drinking enough water, moving your body, and having some form of routine. Some people also find meditation, relaxation, yoga, or mindfulness helpful. There are great apps out there that are free, as well as many places offering things for free during this time (some of these on the Iris Mental Health Facebook page). Even just 5 minutes can be helpful.
Q: How much news consumption do you think is healthy in times of uncertainty?
A: While we need to be informed, we don't need to be listening to the same things over and over. Getting a brief update once or twice a day is fine, as is asking someone who you can trust who may not be as triggered or obsessive about it to give you an update can be helpful. Also, make sure you are getting information from legitimate sources. Limit social media, and hide or unfollow sources that are triggering. Same goes for friends/family on social media; on Facebook, you can "snooze" someone for 30 days, so that you will not see their posts (and they have no idea!).
Q: If people are feeling anxiety for the first time, what advice or resources would you give them?
A: Back to self care (above), talking with others who are validating and supportive, and finding someone to talk to. Most therapists are now offering sessions via telehealth, and insurance is being flexible about coverage. Anxiety wants us to either ruminate about the past or catastrophize about the future. Staying present is hard, but helpful. Bring yourself back to right in this moment, and think of something that you can tell yourself, like, "In the present moment, I am doing OK." Or, "I am feeling very anxious right now, which is understandable. What can I do right now to help myself?" Designate 10 minutes of "worry time" each day that you can write out your thoughts and fears, and the rest of the day, try to bring yourself back to the present moment.
Q: Are there any foods or supplements that can people take when they are feeling fearful or worried?
A: The biggest culprit with anxiety is caffeine. This doesn't mean you can't have caffeine, but notice if you feel more jittery or your thoughts are racing more, it could be something to try cutting back on. Also, not drinking caffeine past 2 p.m. so that it doesn't affect sleep is important. Same goes for alcohol — if you notice you are using more, be mindful of that. Not only does it make you feel lousy the next day, it can get in the way of quality sleep.
Magnesium is a great supplement, but you want to make sure you use the correct form, and also check with your primary care provider. Chamomile tea and essential oils can also be calming for people.
Q: What resources or tips do you suggest to help people not feel so isolated during this time of social distancing?
A: I am so thankful that we have the technology that we do. Schedule times to connect with friends and family, or even a group of friends or family to do a conference call or video chat can be a great way to connect. Also consider other ways to use those platforms, like a book club, someone leading a group guided meditation, or even go out walking and have people on your phone to connect with (hopefully while they go walking, too!). Getting out of the house, even if it is just for a few minutes to sit outside, notice the air or sun on your face, or take a quick walk around the block is helpful — even if you don't feel like it. You can also create a schedule with your partner (if you have a partner) so that you are both getting time for yourselves. Perhaps one of you goes for a walk alone while the kids are napping, or when one of you gets done with work for the day. It gives us a sense of control, and also makes sure you are both communicating about both of your needs.
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