NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Empowering Yourself During COVID-19: There Are Things You CAN Control

During the current COVID-19 crisis, many people are feeling powerless. This is understandable given the suddenness and the unprecedented nature of the crisis. Also, many of the social interactions, activities and diversions that would normally be available to people to support their well-being aren't available to them because people are physically isolated and might be lonely.  There are many unknowns about the future and it can feel like everything is out of your control.  But before you give into feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, let's take a look at the things that you can control (see my articles: Coping and Staying Calm During a CrisisCoping with Loneliness and Social Isolation, and Undoing Aloneness: Staying Socially Connected Even Though We're Physically Disconnected).

Empowering Yourself During COVID-19: There Are Things You CAN Control

There Are Things You Can Control During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Serenity Prayer, which was written by Reinhold Niebuhr, contains much wisdom and many people, both in and out of the recovery community, find it calming:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."

Regardless of whether or not you believe in a God, a Higher Power, religion or prayer, these words remind you that, if you're worried about things you have no control over, you can redirect your attention to what you can control.

What You Can Control During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Rather than focusing on what you can't control, let's take a look at some things you can control:
  • Stay Informed But Don't Spend Too Much Time Watching the News
    • Getting reliable information is important to staying informed. 
    • It's also important to moderate how much time you spend watching or listening to the news.  
    • Much of the news is repetitive throughout the day, and the benefit spending time watching TV or online news is often outweighed by how anxious it can make you feel.
    •  So, you need to figure out what's best for you in terms of how much and when you watch the news.  
    • If you want to maintain your overall sense of well-being, it's especially important that you don't watch the news before you go to sleep.
  • Center and Ground Yourself: 
    • Practice doing breathing exercises to help to calm yourself (see my article: Square Breathing to Manage Stress). 
    • Practice online yoga at a pace that's right for you if yoga appeals to you. If you're not up to doing a vigorous form of yoga, there are online videos or chair yoga.
    • Practice meditation at a regular time. Some people prefer to meditate at night.  Others prefer to meditate when they wake up, and some people do it two or more times a day.  You don't need any special knowledge to quiet your mind to meditate.  You can start by taking a few deep breaths to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which will calm you down.  There are also many online meditations that you can follow (see my articles: The Mind-Body Connection: Mindfulness Meditation and Calming the Body, Calming the Mind). 
    • Calm your thoughts by taking it one day, one hour or even one minute at a time.
    • Recognize that all things pass.
    • Feel gratitude and appreciation for what you do have right now. 
  • Establish a Routine For Yourself: Chances are good that your normal routine has been interrupted since the current crisis began.  A routine can give you comfort and a feeling of stability, so you can establish a new routine for yourself:
    • Wake up and go to sleep at the same time everyday.
    • Plan your meals.
    • Plan some quiet time for yourself, even if it's just a couple of minutes to breathe.
    • Make a To-Do list for yourself for the next day so you don't spend all day either in bed or watching news
    • A To-Do list can help to organize your day, your week, and your life.
    • Try not to be too ambitious with your To-Do list.
    • Be gentle with yourself. Recognize that you're probably not going to accomplish everything on the list--and that's okay.
    • Appreciate yourself for accomplishing whatever you accomplish on the list.
  • Stay Active: Even though you might be physically isolating, there are still ways to be physically active:
    • You can find many free workouts and yoga classes online.
    • You can also walk or bike outside as long as you take the precautions recommended to stay a healthy distance (at least 6 feet away) from others and follow The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations.
  • Accept the Ups and Downs You Feel as a Common Response to a Crisis: You're living through an unprecedented time in modern history.  Chances are that your mood will go up and down at various times. This is a common experience during times of stress and crisis (see my article: Overcoming Your Fear of Your So-Called "Negative Emotions".
    • If you feel anxious, sad, fearful or whatever emotion you're experiencing at any given time, you're having a common response to a crisis.
    • Rather than judging yourself, accept all your emotions and do whatever you can to alleviate your stress and negative emotions.
    • Recognize that you're not alone.  Millions of other people, who are just like you, are experiencing the same thing. We're in this together.
  • Eat Nutritiously: Eating the right amount of protein, vegetables, grains and vegetables is important to stay physically and mentally healthy.  
  • Get Enough Sleep: Getting proper sleep is essential to your overall health and well-being (see my article: Tips on Improving Your Sleep).
  • Stay Connected Socially: Even though you might not be able to see loved ones now, you can still stay connected to them via: 
    • Phone calls
    • Video chats  
    • Games with friends online.  
    • Video night with a Netflix Party

Getting Help in Therapy
Times of crisis can trigger prior trauma and stressors, and it can be difficult to determine what you're reacting to emotionally.  The important thing to know is that you're not alone.

An experienced psychotherapist can help you to get through a stressful time when you feel overwhelmed.

Many psychotherapists, including me, are providing online therapy (also called telehealth, telemental health, and teletherapy) during the current crisis when therapists aren't in their office (see my article: The Advantages of Online Therapy When You Can't Meet With Your Therapist in Person).

Rather than struggling on your own, you could get help from a licensed psychotherapist to overcome the obstacles that are hindering you.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, Somatic Experiencing and Emotionally Focused Therapy therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

I am providing online therapy during the COVID-19 crisis.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.