Sue Lewis Counselling, Psychotherapy and Supervision near Oxford and Banbury

Coronavirus. coronavirus

I am hoping this page will not have to be on my website for too long, but in the current circumstances, it seems wise and necessary to say something about the coronavirus (or Covid-19). The situation is changing daily, of course, so it's a good idea to keep up to date with the latest advice.

I have written a blog about this here.

Coming to see me - precautions

At the moment I not seeing anyone face to face, but doing online and phone sessions. When restrictions are eased, this is my policy...

I would like to take some sensible precautions to keep us all safe, so please don’t come to your appointment if you are feeling unwell with flu-like symptoms. If you feel unwell but it’s mild (as it is with 80% of people) and you’d still like to have your session, then we can arrange to meet over Skype, FaceTime or some other video link. I will clean the chair you sit in each time someone uses it (plus other things like the door handle) and in addition if you would like to wash your hands as you leave, then you are welcome to do so. If at any point you would prefer to have online sessions, then just let me know.

Hopefully these precautions will help keep us all safe - I would hate you to catch the virus from visiting me, and I would not want to catch it myself either. If we follow the advice given to us then hopefully we will stay germ free as we move through spring and into the warmer weather. If you’d like to talk this over with me, then let me know.

If you are feeling anxious....

There is a lot of fear and anxiety about the coronavirus; some of it, I believe, is justified if you are in a vulnerable group (over 60, or with an underlying health condition). Some of it is a result of the blanket coverage in the media, reporting every tiny increase in cases and other people's rising sense of panic and urgency to take action, along with the resulting panic buying in shops. Under these cirumstances it is easy to feel panicky ourselves. I list below some measures to take should you be feeling anxious.

Coronavirus. mindfulness guidelines

Anxiety has a big effect on our bodies, galvanising them into action - flight or fight (or freeze, if neither of those works). This means an increased heart rate, blood pressure, a surge of adrenalin etc. If we want to calm our anxiety, we need to calm our bodies, and mindfulness is a great way to do this. Here's a document that outlines some good ideas for using mindfulness to calm ourselves.

There is also a wealth of free guided meditations to help relax us online - here and here.

I can't vouch for all the content on these, but these podcasts and progammes look helpful to reduce anxiety :

  • (deeper meanings in it all)
  • (self help programme)

  • Coronavirus. health anxiety

    This is an article from HuffPost dated February 2020:

    With the rise in reported cases of the new coronavirus around the world, many people are feeling anxious and afraid about a looming pandemic. For those in China, the disease’s epicenter, its toll on mental health is well-documented. But even in areas not yet heavily affected by COVID-19, people are expressing their worries.

    “When the news covers the outbreak of a virus, it is common for people who consume a lot of news media to feel a rise in anxiety,” Nicole Bentley, a licensed therapist and intake coordinator at Cityscape Counseling in Chicago, told HuffPost. “Symptoms could include rumination about the virus, fear of catching the virus even if it isn’t in their area, difficulty sleeping and increased efforts to stay healthy.”
    For some, anxiety about coronavirus may affect their ability to function at work or otherwise go about their lives. If you’re feeling this way, know that there are things you can do to deal with it.

    HuffPost spoke to Bentley and other mental health experts to identify some fo the best ways to cope with this kind of anxiety.

    Take a break from the news.

    If you’re feeling overwhelmed by concerns about coronavirus, consider monitoring and potentially limiting the amount of media you consume.
    “I would recommend filtering their media coverage about coronavirus. People don’t have to avoid the news altogether if they don’t want to, but they also don’t need to obsessively stay up to date, either.” Bentley said. “Staying overly connected to news coverage can negatively impact mental health, so it is important to monitor their intake if they notice a rise in anxiety.”
    It can be very beneficial just to take an hour or so away from the constant updates and information on TV and online. Needing a reprieve is natural and human.
    “Keep in perspective how many times you are hearing about the virus and how much energy you are devoting to thinking about it every day. This is not something to obsess over, but rather to be conscious and aware of ― vigilant, but realistic in your thoughts and approach,” said Esther Saggurthi, primary clinician at Maryland House Detox, a Delphi Behavioral Health Group facility.
    “The mind works off of the power of suggestion,” she added. “When we keep hearing about the coronavirus, we visualize what it would be like to be sick or to have a loved one sick, and then often we get scared, as the outbreak is something we cannot control.”

    Talk to someone.

    It may feel tempting to cut off communication with others when you’re feeling anxious, but talking to someone about these emotions can be very helpful.
    “How many times do we all try to look good on the outside when inside we are really panicked or depressed?” Saggurthi noted. “The only way for someone to understand how we are feeling or what we are thinking is for us to talk about it and tell them.”
    Talking to someone, even if just via text, can help you process your emotions and feel supported, rather than spiraling further.

    Try to be present in the moment.

    “It is critical to remain connected to the present moment, rather than allowing their fear to take over,” Bentley noted.
    If your mind is starting to wander into scary territory, try focusing on your immediate environment and mentally take stock of the things and people around you. That can help you stay grounded and keep things in perspective.
    The unknowns surrounding coronavirus can be scary, but it’s helpful to focus on the here and now. At the moment, the threat to you personally is likely not immediate.
    “Positive affirmations are especially helpful,” Saggurthi said. “I am healthy today. I live a healthful life. I have control over my life. I am at peace. I feel calm.”

    Remind yourself what you can control.

    “It is easy to feel like one’s life is out of control and focus on the futility of life in these situations,” Saggurthi said. “The increased anxiety over a situation which is mostly beyond our control may cause us to rationalize and make poor decisions and may result in returning to behaviors we were working hard to quit in the first place.”
    But while the actions of world governments and fellow citizens are out of your control, you do have power over yourself.
    “It is important to remind yourself of what is in your control,” advised. “Make sure to wash your hands. Be on the lookout for flu-like symptoms.”
    You can use your anxiety as a signal to take reasonable steps to prepare for a pandemic, Jonathan Sutton, director of the cognitive behavioral therapies program at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, told HuffPost. Find a trusted source of information and stick to that one to insulate yourself from rumors and falsehoods.
    “What reputable information do you need to know at this point? The CDC and WHO fit the bill for me,” he noted. “Based on the best available medical information, are there steps that are relevant for you to take at this time and will you take them?”

    Practice gratitude.

    If you’re ever feeling dark, identifying and giving thanks for the points of brightness in your life can help you get out of this headspace. Consider making a mental list of the things you’re grateful for or keeping a gratitude journal.
    As Bentley noted, “it is helpful to practice gratitude in moments of panic, because it can keep someone grounded in the present moment and appreciative for what they have in their lives.”

    Reach out for help.

    It’s natural to experience anxiety and other emotional struggles amid a global health crisis. If the feelings worsen or continue to interfere with your ability to concentrate, sleep or care for yourself or your family, it’s important to seek professional help.
    Many employers and communities offer mental health resources. If you’re feeling as though you might act in a way that harms yourself or someone else, call a support line like the Samaritans, or see a counsellor.

    The Facts are Friendly

    It's usually helpful to have some facts to work with, so that we can challenge any unhelpful, irrational fears. This is a good website, updated regularly.

    Good Stories

    I profoundly believe that good can come out of bad. In amongst all the fear about the coronavirus, there are many good stories starting to emerge. This writer has a deeply religious faith, and this seeps through her writing. If that's not for you, then substitute whatever makes sense.....

    Rebecca Arendell Franks
    March 8 at 7:42 AM

    WUHAN. It's roughly day 48 of the city's quarantine. We've been locked in our apartment complex for many weeks. I haven't eaten out since January 19. We're living in such strange times.

    After my last post, which was all about locks on doors and further restrictions, my husband asked me if I've posted any of the good. But...but... well, but nothing. That convicted me.

    So from the epicenter of the coronavirus, here is just SOME of the good we have been experiencing because of the lockdown: (Be warned - there is no way this post could be short.)

    Our family life has never been better. Usually one weekend is long enough before I'm ready to send each of us back to school or work. But for SEVEN weeks, we've been home together with very little outside influences or distraction, forced to reconnect with one another, learn how to communicate better, give each other space, slow down our pace, and be a stronger family than ever before.

    We've learned how to accept help from others. During this time, we've HAD to rely on others to show us how to get food and other things we need. People here are so good, and they want to help. It's satisfying to accept the help.

    Shopping is so much easier now. It comes straight to our complex, and we just pick it up. Simple.

    Right now I hear birds outside my window (on the 25th floor). I used to think there weren't really birds in Wuhan, because you rarely saw them and never heard them. I now know they were just muted and crowded out by the traffic and people. All day long now I hear birds singing. It stops me in my tracks to hear the sound of their wings.

    Spring in Wuhan is absolutely stunning. God has been giving us glimpses of the beauty to come with near-perfect weather. Because of lockdown, we get to watch spring slowly unfold right in front of us with no work, traffic, pollution, or other distractions. I have pulled up my chair and am ready for the creator's show.

    My cooking has gotten way more creative. I'm cooking like a homesteader. Housekeeping hasn't suffered, either.

    We take naps in the middle of the day sometimes.

    We've all been reading so much more than before.

    I've reconnected with lots of old friends. We've talked with our families more than ever before.

    We still work and do school, but all from home and all on flexible hours. It is not perfect, but it is fairly productive and good.

    We are exercising more. Because we borrowed a rowing machine from school right before the lockdown, Edgar Franks has been rowing regularly at home and has lost several kilos already. I still walk in the morning as usual, but I do so with no time restrictions and now with friend Erika Carlson.

    In my yoga world, I have finally done a forearm stand. I also share goofy yoga photos each day with a local friend/yogi. This keeps us connected in spirit and movement.

    I could devote a whole post to the amazing community we've been blessed with because of this lockdown. We live near 4 other staff members, most of whom we didn't know well at all prior to this. Because of this quarantine, we have bonded with and supported each other in ways that I've never experienced in 9 years of living here. (Crowd sourcing for feminine products and coffee, creatively sharing overstock of carrots and squash, etc)

    Friday night, we four staff women celebrated Julia Marie Roehrkasse's birthday together. We four have never before been together without husbands, kids, or larger community. But that night, I felt like I won the lottery in the friendship department. Our gathering was genuine in a way that can only be shared by people who are experiencing the same thing at the same time and understand what each other are going through. This bond we have may lessen when our world gets back to normal, but for now I wouldn't trade it for anything. It is good.

    My prayer life has never been better and my study time has been much more real. I have quiet time that is actually (usually) quiet - and I can devote real time to it. Most days I have so much more time to think, to listen, to process, and to discover. I am discovering the good gifts that God has given me and my family. More than anything, I am bowled over by his goodness at every turn. He overwhelms me with his goodness.

    We had "church" by Zoom this morning at 10:30, as usual. My husband just woke up from his nap. My kid is reading quietly on the couch. I have the luxury of writing uncensored here on FB. We are about to go pick up a ham that a friend is giving us, taking her our coffee and cranberries to share.

    God is providing so many opportunities for good while we are here, and he is showing us his goodness every single moment.

    We are at peace in the epicenter of the virus. We are at peace in the epicenter of his will.

    Fear is a faithless coward and has no place in the lives of believers. Fear and worry have no seat at our table. We're here because he wants us here, right now, for his purpose.

    Coronavirus wants you to isolate and stock up and take care of your own first. Instead, look to him first while you take care of others. In community, we can do so much more than we can do on our own. God is caring for us so richly and showering us with SO MUCH GOOD each and every moment.

    And the song just plays nonstop in my head - Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.
    It chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the 99.
    I couldn't earn it, I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away. Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.

    Psalm 118:6 - The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?


    Finally some appreciation for all those counsellors and therapists out there.....

    Mick Cooper is a well-known and well-respected person centred/existential counsellor. He's recently posted this, and it's most welcome....

    "To the counsellors, psychotherapists, and mental health workers -- trainees, professionals, volunteers -- who'll be getting up tomorrow, seeing clients:...

    Please remember you are doing a fantastic, invaluable job right now at this time of national crisis. You'll be working with clients who are scared, confused, uncertain about how things are going to be; and I'm sure many of us will be too. But our role over the coming months will be to hold the anxieties of our clients, and also members of our wider communities. To be something solid and substantial when things may feel -- to others and also to ourselves -- like they are falling apart. It's a big demand. A lot of anxiety and fear to hold. But it is a time that is calling on all our strengths and abilities to contribute to the wellbeing and security of our communities.

    Counsellors and psychotherapists are the emotional backbone of our nation. Often unrecognised; but there to support, strengthen, soothe. Needed now more than ever."

    Coronavirus. corona poem

    And some anonymous words of wisdom in support of counsellors and therapists.....

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