Therapy during COVID-19 (part 1)

These are stressful and uncertain times for all of us. 

When you think of going to therapy right now, the first thing that comes to mind is probably getting support for the anxiety and fear that is all around us now. And that is definitely true — therapy can be a space to talk about what’s stressing you out and your fears about the future. But these uniquely stressful conditions are also weirdly creating a near-perfect environment for some people to dive into deep self-reflection, healing old wounds or conflicts, and investing in personal growth. 

Let’s start with the slower pace of life right now. You probably have more time on your hands than you are used to, with no commute, no in-person social obligations, and limiting your trips out into the world. Just having more time alone can make space for self-reflection. In addition to more time, we’re also experiencing a shift into a more thoughtful, intentional way of life. Things we used to do mindlessly — like coming in the door and tossing our keys somewhere — have now become mini mindful rituals where we have to pay attention to what we are doing in order to remember new routines and build new habits. We think carefully about what supplies we need so we can get it all in one trip. We pause to wipe down surfaces and wash hands thoroughly. We have to be more present in the moment and less distracted by multi-tasking. 

These changes can be the building blocks for a deeper kind of mindfulness and self-reflection. You can use those 20 seconds of hand-washing to do a scan of your internal experience: what are my emotions right now? How is my body feeling? Eyes getting tired from a week of binge-watching TV? Give them a break by writing long-hand in a journal. At a loss for what to write? Consider these prompts:

*Many aspects of life feel “on pause” right now. If you could decide what the world would look like when we hit “play” again, what would your ideal world be like? This can help you explore your values and desires. 

*Name five people in your life for whom you are grateful. What do you love about them? Now consider what is challenging in each of those relationships. Are any of those challenges or problems ones you want to heal? What stops you from offering apologies or asking for them in these most important relationships? 

*What did you learn about coping with stress from your family of origin? What are the ways you’ve developed on your own to cope with tough times? Are there coping tools you got from your family that you want to keep, or let go of? What other habits, beliefs, values did you get from your family that you want to hold on to, and what do you want to let go of? 

*What are you the things you are enjoying or valuing about this time of slowing down and staying at home? What do you want to take with you when the pace of life picks back up again?

This time of crisis does not have to be a time of holding in place, just getting by. You can use this time to invest in yourself and your growth. You can use this time to identify what is important and valuable to you, what you want to choose to build or maintain and what you want to let go. Whether you do this through journaling, art, therapy, or a combination of methods, give yourself permission to use some of this time to get below the surface anxieties and feed your soul.