With the sudden onset of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, communities implemented the practice of social distancing to reduce the transmission rate of this highly infectious disease. This effort to “flatten the curve” was effective, however it had the unfortunate consequence of contributing to feelings of isolation that many people have been experiencing. During this painful and confusing time, it has been essential to maintain social connectedness – even from a distance.
In our Westport psychotherapy practice, Dr. Allen Levy, PhD, LCSW, and I believe that social distance does not require social isolation and have found that working virtually with our patients has aided in managing their fear, anxiety and depression. Many people felt, and are still feeling, lonely and detached from loved ones. Some are experiencing feelings of despair and loss. Changes in sleep and eating patterns, difficulty concentrating, worsening of mental health or physical health conditions, and increased use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco were not uncommon as many worried about their susceptibility to the virus and that of their loved ones, along with uncertainties about various other aspects of their lives, including employment, finances and housing.
Now, as communities and businesses are re-opening, we find ourselves at a crossroads. We are trying to reintegrate back into a semblance of what “normal” life was and, yet, wearing masks and being unable to hug friends and family feels anything but normal. People are experiencing a wide range of emotions regarding the reopening of society; emotional reactions may vary from excitement to relief to fear and worry as we attempt to enjoy a “normal” summer. Some people are excited to engage with others and frequent local institutions, while others are hesitant or apprehensive. Though two friends may disagree about whether state mandates are too restrictive or not restrictive enough, please remember that your thoughts, experiences, and feelings are your own. Be mindful of your thoughts and feelings, and please be respectful of those of others.
Though COVID-19 presents many challenges, there are ways to cope with fear and anxiety, including: taking a break from social media and the news; caring for your body by eating well, exercising, sleeping sufficiently and by avoiding excessive use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco; and using relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga. Make time to unwind, engage in enjoyable activities, and connect (in a socially distant manner) with people you care about. Taking care of your emotional and mental health is always important, but especially now. For information related to COVID-19 specifically, please refer to the Center for Disease Control’s “Coping with Stress” page: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html.
If you or someone you love is experiencing anxiety or depression, please consult with a mental health professional and consider appropriate treatment options. As a local practitioner and community member, please know that I am happy to help guide you to appropriate resources or assist in any way during this challenging time.
About Caroline H. Schiff: A psychotherapist practicing in downtown Westport, she enjoys all things related to health and wellness and spends as much time as possible on the beach. You can reach her via phone (203.293.8494) or her website (carolinehschiff.com).