Counsellor and psychotherapist Linda Attoe has some advice for helping us through times of high anxiety. (Photo supplied)
Linda Attoe, a local counsellor and psychotherapist, is having to suspend seeing clients in her cozy, comfortable home-like environment.
For her, working from home in response to the COVID-19 virus means “distant sessions,” by phone, or using apps such as FaceTime, Skype or Zoom.
She started last week, as a way to practise physical distancing, while allowing her clients to continue their sessions.
Phoning, she says, can actually be the most “intimate” interaction, while the apps are a little less reliable — connections can be lost.
“Phone works,” she says, but her clients can choose what they’re most comfortable with.
She has worked for a week under these circumstances, and about 90 per cent of her clients have signed up, wanting to continue their sessions, even at a distance. “We’ll try it and see how it goes. It’s going to be a new experience for some of them.”
This time of dealing with self-isolation, distancing and the fast-changing world of COVID-19 around us “is definitely raising everybody’s anxiety,” says Attoe. “All of us feel it. We see it coming. We have a sense of what it’s like, but that it could get better, or it could get worse. The future is unknown to us. We have no control over it, and that doesn’t feel good at all. I don’t think any one of us is not affected by what is going on in the world.”
The news we’re hearing “is top of mind,” she says, “along with all our other, everyday concerns. We all have lives going on as well. Although we’re not as connected with those we love and with our friends, we still have concerns about life and finances and relationships.”
Attoe has tips for all of us who are dealing with isolation or distancing.
She talks about the need for physical exercise, suggesting walks if possible, or if not, chair yoga or periodic stretching.
To deal with feelings of isolation, try keeping a journal, writing about what you are doing during the day.
It’s important to have a schedule, and stick to it, she says, rather than spending the day watching the news. Instead, put on music, sing or hum along, or get up and dance.
“Get some movement into it. I like Zoom videos. The internet has made it easier for us in some ways.”
Zoom is a video-conferencing platform originally designed for workplaces and schools, being used now during times of quarantine for anything from dancing to virtual parties.
“I’m also a big proponent of an app, Stop, Breathe and Think,” says Attoe.
The app offers short, three-minute breathing exercises to help calm yourself, de-stress, sleep better and stay mindful.
Attoe also has a technique she uses with all clients, asking them to think of a time in their lives when they have felt really calm, such as walking on a beach or sitting on a cottage dock, and remember what they saw, felt, heard, touched and tasted.
She has one she uses every day, and suggests her clients write theirs down, and use it when they wake up, before they go to sleep, and during times of stress.
“Today, now more than ever, when I do that, I can feel my body relax. It’s very powerful,” she says.
When we wake up in the middle of the night, instead of thinking about what is going on in the world, we can train our mind to think of what calms us instead, she says.
“It’s like riding a bike, the more we practise it, the better we get at it.”
She also suggests reaching out to people by phone or text, and “doing what we can now, but not take on more than we need to. I don’t think we should catastrophize, but we can wash our hands, not go out to the store if we don’t have to, not have people over.”
Do what we can now to help ourselves, she says.
We should limit watching news to enough to know what we need to know now, and look after ourselves by getting a good sleep, eating healthy foods, using calming measures and creating structure to our days, she says.
Also, get physical, learn something new, stay connected, do something so that we feel at the end of the day we have accomplished something, relax with book, movies, or whatever works for you, and perhaps most difficult, try to have some fun, says Attoe.