More states are turning to shelter-in-place ordinances in an attempt to flatten the curve of the growing coronavirus pandemic. As a result, Americans are being asked to self-isolate and practice social distancing.
However, the sudden change in routine and lack of human interaction has had a negative impact on some people’s mental health. Psychotherapist Dr. Kathryn Smerling spoke with Fox News about what people can do to help cope with work-from-home and self-isolation during these rapidly changing times.
“The unprecedented stress of what we’re all going through right now is felt by all,” Smerling said to Fox News. “I think it’s more important now to take care of our mental health.”
But that focus on self-care and “self-healing” does not need to be so complicated.
“I’m doing walking therapy,” she told Fox News. “It’s been fantastic. So fantastic for my clients and myself.”
As part of the therapy, New York-based Dr. Smerling says she prefers a walk through nature, but stays a safe 6 feet away from others while doing so.
“Nature and healing and movement – it’s all self-healing,” she said of getting outside and staying active.
The same benefits, she said, can be felt indoors.
“There are lots of exercise apps and yoga apps,” she said. “There are also FaceTime parties.”
“I have a group of teenagers who had a movie [FaceTime] together and ate popcorn. They didn’t even talk during it. They just watched the same movie at the same time.”
For mental health, Dr. Smerling explains, “the biggest problem is self-pacing.”
“Keep a schedule, pace yourself and give yourself rewards – whether it be a cookie or buying a little bit more expensive wine than you would usually buy. Have some things that are rewards for yourself. So that while you’re working, after you have accomplished a task, you reward yourself.”
“This is tough stuff,” she said. “You deserve a reward.”
And remain organized during isolation.
“Organize yourself. Make sure you’re taking time for yourself,” she continued.
For those who need more help, or the help from a professional, Dr. Smerling said therapists and psychologists offer virtual sessions.
“Zoom virtual, phone sessions, text sessions, email sessions,” she said of the ways mental health professionals are available for those in need.
“I am really offering myself to help people heal this time.”
More than anything, Dr. Smerling encourages those who need it to be honest with themselves and reach out to family, friends or a professional.
“Reach out, please. We need to take care of ourselves during this time.”
There are additional tips for managing stress via the CDC, too. Those in need can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline 24/7, as well as apps such as TalkSpace to speak to someone, or meditation apps like Headspace and Calm to help manage stress.