Noticing the Storm
Walking around my neighborhood looking into the eyes of my neighbors I am keenly aware this pandemic is a mental health crisis. I’ve wanted to help and sewing face masks isn’t my talent. A few days ago it occurred to me that creating a local mental health and practical advice blog during this crisis is something I can give back to my community. I can write this blog from the comfort and safety of my shelter-in-place situation and get help directly to you if you want help during your social isolation. I say, “if,” because as a counselor I realize that most us don’t love feeling needy, needing help makes us feel vulnerable, and vulnerability gets confused with weakness. Yet in our social isolation many of us are discovering just how much we need the shelter of each other. My blog will be regularly updated until we come out of this crisis and it can be an online refuge for those of you willing to accept support and help.
I already write a nationally syndicated workplace advice column which provides tools to help readers manage their workplaces. You can find my latest columns here if you want to read free workplace advice.
If you are normal you are losing your mind a little to a lot during this global crisis. The Covid 19 is beyond a health problem and more like a natural disaster. Most of my clients would agree that the social and economic consequences are more anxiety provoking than getting sick. Kids are home, work is home, everything moved online, tech is breaking, you suddenly have to be an IT guru, and now in all your spare time you need to homeschool and cook or learn to cook. Whew!
The Mental Health Problem
We are facing an unholy trinity of emotions that most of us don’t do well with; fear, powerlessness, and vulnerability. We don’t want to look like whimps but geez this is an awful lot for any one human to handle ALL AT ONCE without cracking up!In over thirty years as a counselor and executive coach and corporate trainer I’ve never seen people work so hard to keep their wits about them. We cannot control a virus but we can completely control our responses. If we cannot keep our wits we are entirely unable to make good choices. We are all response-able, able to be resilient, and despite our individual adversities make the best decision available to us. We can only make good choices if fear is not driving us and have solid tools. You can learn to do both these things.
Solutions and Tools
- Everyone has only about 50% of their CPU (Central Processing Unit mind) available as the other 50% is distracted worrying about the Covid 19. Slow down, treat yourself and others gently. We are all working at half capacity.
- Don’t get addicted to news feeds. Go online once a day and read experts and trends. Ignore the hysteria.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many expectations each day. You may be super person but you cannot be the perfect employee, the perfect parent, the gourmet chef, the children’s teacher, the house cleaner, home maintenance expert, and eat or sleep. Lower your expecations, lower, almost there, lower okay you are now close!
- Expect you’ll become keenly aware of everything not working well in your life. You’ll become crystal clear on parenting skills you don’t have, marriage conflicts you’ve been avoiding, and difficult workplace issues where you need better interpersonal skills.
- You’re also going to have the curse and blessing of not being distracted from the most important relationship you never get away from…the one with yourself. Your own emotional challenges will be obvious and can finally be addressed or worked on. If you are willing to wander into inner space you’ll discover a rich adventure and lots of possibilities to resolve issues that have compromised your well-being your whole life.
- We are all especially irritable because we are scared. Consider how easy it is to start fights both in person and online when we are scared. Anger can seem much more powerful than anxiety. More conflict will only make you more stressed. Work at not starting conflicts online or in person if you want to improve your peace of mind and resiliency.
Need help, just ask!
If you need specific individual support, I have a vast network of professionals I work with that I will connect you with virtually. I work with a psychiatrist that is swamped but still doing telephone consults, internal medicine physicians also doing virtual consults, naturapaths, vets that are open, online educational resources for your kids, and mental health resources online. I cannot answer emails or do therapy with you individually and my practice is full but if you would like psychotherapy I can also connect you with colleagues that are accepting new patients via Skype or phone for weekly sessions.
For most folks there are more problems chasing solutions than solutions to be found. For this blog you are welcome to submit questions about anxiety, workplace challenges, working from home issues, parenting, marital issues, insomnia, depression, the future, finding new employment, managing your business, navigating difficult conversations, or anything else you want advice about. I am also working from home (mental health experts are being overwhelmed with requests for Skype or phone sessions), homeschooling three little kids with my spouse, and the other tasks of daily life in quarantine. I will bundle questions into themes and the most frequent themes will be addressed in each blog. I’ve been struggling with what frequency of blogging I can pull off given the unpredictable nature of what needs to be done in my work and home. I’d like to commit to daily blogging but know that is more than what I can deliver. Thus a realistic underpromise and overdeliver commitment to my blog readers will be at least twice a week with an underlying intention to be more frequent. If you check my blog page daily you’ll see when there is a new blog. Past blogs will also be available to you on my website if you are just finding this online resource.
May this blog be an eye in the middle of our collective storm, a refuge, a safe place to get emotional support and practical life and work advice.
May you be well, may you be at peace, may you come out of this crisis better than you went in…