Charlotte therapists share their No. 1 piece of advice for coping during COVID-19

Charlotte therapists share their No. 1 piece of advice for coping during COVID-19
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In a survey, we asked Agenda subscribers if they’ve struggled with feelings of loneliness, anxiety, or depression since the coronavirus pandemic. More than 60 percent of respondents — 2,722 people — said yes.

To help, the Agenda reached out to Charlotte-based therapists to ask for advice. Here’s what they said:

(1) Acknowledge how you’re feeling

My number one piece of advice would be to acknowledge any unpleasant feelings you may be experiencing during this time. That could be feelings of anxiety, sadness, loneliness, depression, or even disappointment. This is not the time to ignore any feelings or emotions one may be experiencing. Ideas on ways to stay connected and how to support these types of feelings can include scheduling a virtual therapy session (many therapists are offering online sessions right now), staying connected with friends and family through phone calls or virtual meetings, going for a walk and getting some exercise, fueling your body with healthy foods, or engaging in a hobby or a new and safe activity.” — Joelle Shipp, MindPath Care Centers 

(2) Seek out help from a professional

“Those who are feeling overwhelmed might want to seek the support of a therapist for the short-term. Diaphragmatic breathing and checking in with yourself several times a day is helpful in getting your body out of flight or flight.” — Hallie Gardner, Hallie Gardner PLLC

(3) Connect with others over FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom

“Find ways to connect with others — call, Skype, FaceTime a friend. Make sure you can look at each other face-to-face. Arrange to both watch a show and discuss afterwards. Make lunch or dinner dates by arranging a time and both eating your meals separately while talking. Some families have arranged Zoom Sunday dinners with extended family. Family meals, games, story telling, making music and singing together all make a difference.” — Yvonne Carrasco, Perry Counseling Healing and Recovery

(4) Establish a good routine

“To care for your emotional health establish a daily routine, get a full night’s sleep, minimize intake of caffeine and alcohol, and get outside. Do the opposite of how you feel — loss of energy and loss of interest will result in desires to stay on the couch or in bed. Doing that will not help you feel better; it exacerbates negative feelings.” — Kimberly Parker, SHINE Counseling

(5) Focus your intention

“Your mind and your thoughts are one powerful piece you can control right now, so focus your intention on how you want to feel. Ask yourself, how do I want to feel this morning or during this activity or interaction? Do I want to feel confident, enthusiastic, joyful, calm, loving, connected?” — Shital Patel, Perry Counseling Healing and Recovery

(6) Practice self-care

“I have been asked this question every day since the news broke about Corona and the stress has become so real. The best thing someone can do now is to pay attention to themselves and practice self-care. We are all under added stress so doing simple things like practicing self-compassion and simple acts of self care can work wonders.” — Lisa Long, Dr. Lisa Long Psychological Services

(7) Remember it’s OK to not be productive

“There’s a lot of pressure to be as or even more productive than usual during this time — do not let it get to you. This is a highly stressful, even traumatic time for many. Be kind and patient with yourself. Focus on whatever you need to get through each day.” — Anna Shaffner, Perry Counseling Healing and Recovery

(8) Practice gratitude

“The number one thing I have been encouraging clients to do is to allow themselves to feel their feelings. To not deny their experience and how COVID-19 is impacting them and those they love by comparing themselves to others and their experience. Hand in hand with that, I do encourage clients to name three things they are grateful for every day and to have self-care/coping tools and strategies readily available in efforts to ground them to the here and now and prevent themselves from becoming consumed or overwhelmed by their thoughts.” — Emily Cannon, Pathways To Growth Counseling

(9) Take time to play

“For parents with children who struggle with anxiety, disruptive behaviors, or just have kids who are over being stuck at home, take time to play.  As parents and caregivers, the best thing we can do for children in an unprecedented time is to engage in 20 to 30 minutes of imaginative play with them daily. Do not attempt to interpret, steer, correct, or make sense of the play. Instead enjoy the break for your own stressors, listen to what they are saying through their interactions, use enthusiasm, let them direct, and be present. You may be surprised that it will benefit your mental health as well. — Jennifer Ethridge, Piedmont Therapeutics

(10) Follow the “airplane rule” and take care of yourself first

“For teens, young adults, and adults, try to create a relaxed routine. Do not worry so much about the clock, but create a simple predictable routine that includes some self-care items like: get dressed for the day, take in some sunshine, find a way to be active (not to burn calories, but to feel your body move), take breaks from your screens, and try to go to bed at a reasonable time. Block off a reasonable amount of time for school and work but do not force yourself to continue if you need a break. Give yourself some slack and follow the “airplane rule” — you must ensure you are taking care of yourself before you can take care of others.” — Jennifer Ethridge, Piedmont Therapeutics

(11) Call up anyone just to talk

“Our nervous systems are wired for us to ‘socially engage’ so one of the best things we can do to calm ourselves (i.e. feel less anxious, lonely, depressed) is to actually talk to each other. Call an old friend, a family member, a co-worker, or someone you work out with and gab. It will do wonders for them and you. I encourage my client’s to use the art of talking about nothing, ala Seinfeld, if focusing on the pandemic makes them feel worse. However, sometimes it is healing to share your concerns with a trusted friend or therapist.” — Ann Church, Charlotte Wellness Collaborative

(12) Limit news consumption

“During COVID, it is an important time to reduce media consumption. It is a beautiful time to turn to art literature and music for nurturing and engagement. Take the time to create awareness and to tune into ones self. Pay attention, go slow, have cool new thoughts and discourse.” — Brooke Osterhoudt

(13) Don’t worry about being perfect

“Our society can be overly consumed with the concept of excellence. And while I believe in being driven and competitive, there is also something to be said about understanding the value of  ‘good enough’ at times. We are currently in one of those times.” — Justin L. Perry, Perry Counseling Healing and Recovery


If you’re in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1.800.273.8255.

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