The pressure that lockdown has put on everyone has been immense. Whether it’s financial stress from losing a job, or the stress of being alone while you quarantine yourself in a tiny apartment hundreds of miles away from family, we’re all feeling it to some degree. And there isn’t a “right” way to handle all of this. But – I can tell you from falling down the black hole that is Instagram, everyone seems to be a sudden expert on meditation, breath work and self-help.
Instead of pretending to be an expert on dealing with the new anxieties and stresses that come along with a pandemic, I’m turning to an expert. I met Rebecca on birthright and we instantly clicked. Since then, she’s started her private practice, Rebecca Erin Therapy LLC and let’s just say there’s a reason that there’s a waitlist to ‘see’ her.
I asked her to give me the full rundown on how to deal with mental health during this chaotic time – and I love that these are easy, actionable things that anyone can do. Read on for her tips!
Tell us who you are and about your background in mental health.
Hi! I’m Rebecca, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, otherwise known as a psychotherapist. I received my Master’s Degree from NYU, and have been practicing therapy for seven years. Recently, I started my own private practice and am extremely proud to say it is full, and I’m currently running a waitlist. INSANE!
My focus and main training in therapy has been trauma, addiction, and relationships – both with the self and with others. Currently, my clients have a mixed bag of presenting issues, but navigating life during COVID-19 seems to be the front runner.
What are you seeing is the biggest mental health challenge during the pandemic/lockdown?
The biggest challenge during this time has been extreme loneliness and heightened emotions. Everyone has been feeling their feels to an extreme. This may be because people are finally alone with their thoughts, and there is really no other choice than to deal with what has been pushed down for so long. Feelings are easily pushed and people seem to be very irritable.
Loneliness seems to be felt a lot as we are literally isolating from loved ones. It’s important to continue to connect with others through video chat during this time.
Also, setting boundaries with “work from home” life has been very prevalent. It’s important to set a clear boundary between work and home. Allowing yourself to completely shut down your work space at the end of the day creates more comfort and allows for wind down rituals.
What are the top 3 specific things that someone can do today if they are feeling depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, etc. during this time?
Feeling anxious? Create a mindfulness practice to ground yourself to the present moment. My favorite is the 5 Senses Exercise:
💛Name 5 things you can SEE
💛Name 4 things you can TOUCH
💛Name 3 things you can HEAR
💛Name 2 things you can SMELL
💛Name 1 thing you can TASTE
Feeling depressed? Go for a walk! Get outside. Move your body and notice where you can gain some control in that movement. Feeling a sense of control may help, as our sense of control throughout coronavirus has been totally stripped. Practice yoga. Dance. Jog. Do whatever feels good!
Feeling overwhelmed? Set some boundaries. Are the Zoom calls getting to be too much for you? Feeling emotionally drained and burnt out from hearing about the virus? It’s okay to decline a phone call, and let others know you don’t have the capacity to chat. Boundaries are so important during this time! Take care of yourself and notice when enough is enough.
What are 3 easy habits you recommend incorporating into your week (pandemic or not) to encourage mental health and wellness? With so much buzz around self care these days, so much seems to be consumerism-driven, like doing a face mask because it’s “self care” – what are some ways that someone can self care without spending money?
Journal! Come back to yourself and reflect on your accomplishments and challenges. Externalizing your feelings through journaling is so healing.
[note: you can even do this in the ‘Notes’ app on your phone! set a daily alarm so you won’t forget]
Move your body! Exercising helps to increase your mood. Even a short 20 minute walk outside will send dopamine to your brain and ignite happiness.
[note: @sweatsandthecity have put together an incredible, comprehensive list of all of the free IG Live workouts happening each week. check it out here. @fitforfreenyc also shares free workouts daily on her stories and feed.]
Connect with loved ones. Humans thrive off of connection. Set a date with friends every week to check in and hang!
Bonus: Eat nutrient dense foods. Gut health is directly related to mental health.
What is your favorite resource for maintaining your mental health during this time?
Fav resource has definitely been my dog, and spending time with her! Animals are such great caregivers and unconditional love is much needed during this time!
PS – I’m obsessed with the 5 Senses Exercise, which I had never heard of – def trying that next time I feel a wave of anxiety coming on.