* March 2020 An Open Letter to All *
No matter what happens in life,
how it passes is largely determined by the mindset you keep.
Distance Counseling in the Age of Pandemics: Just how effective is it?
Tips for Weathering Times of Great Turbulence
While Keeping It—more or less—Together
By Dr. Michael Ra Bouchard, M.A., Ph.D.
Double Board-Certified Clinical Sexologist
March 20, 2020
4-5 minute quick read
Dear friends and fellow world citizens,
At this difficult time of enormous change and sudden danger in the midst of the ongoing worldwide coronavirus panic, it's perfectly natural to feel occasional waves of emotional trauma wash over you. Have courage.
Now is the time to ramp up your practice of self-care and taking care of others. Be especially gentle with yourself throughout this ordeal—and while you're at it—with everybody else. Same thing goes for cutting yourself and others extra slack in the coming days seeing as how everyone is on edge. Easy does it—we’re all in the same boat.
During this period of rapid globe rocking upheaval—knocking everyone way out of our comfort zones and leaving us in free fall—we must be willing to change and adapt to “a new normal,” even though people in general are terrified of change and grudgingly resist it.
All the same—even as we remind ourselves that life won't always be as terrifying and erratic as it is presently—the intelligent approach is to settle in for the long haul, “roll with the punches” as best we can, and adjust our minds as necessary while establishing new habits and routines for the duration.
In times rife with uncertainty it helps to look for the silver lining in circumstances, and to readily partake of enjoyment wherever you can find it. It also helps to look for the “upside” of all the recent changes and find ways to make the most of them.
Especially during times of crisis such as now—when we can’t change circumstances far beyond our control—it is vital to remember that we still can change the way we react to them by exercising the freedom inside our head to decide for ourselves what they mean to us.
And so, in the coming weeks as the world of people goes up and down and people reactively go up and down with it, refuse to go up and down with them but rather stay steady and in your center. Your nervous system and everyone around you will thank you for it.
Throughout this unprecedented period of planet-wide quarantine, the emotional importance of staying socially connected with friends and family—safely and conveniently by telephone and internet—cannot be overemphasized. Or go old school and reach out by sending a letter or postcard. Let the people you care about know you’re thinking of them.
Exercising humor—especially finding ways to laugh at yourself and your situation—is one of the best coping mechanisms we have for lightening things up when things aren't going as expected. While doing so won't eliminate the negative it will help to balance it.
Likewise, laughter can make it easier to cope with difficult situations, lessen pain and reduce anxiety, while also helping us to connect with other people and improve our mood. All of which are good for the brain, uplifting our spirit, and brightening our overall outlook on life in general.
For anyone with faith in a higher power, turn to it regularly for strength and succor to help sustain you during this unpredictable time of tribulation.
And above all remember, “This, too, shall pass.”
In the meanwhile, don’t underestimate the power of “accepting what is for what is” in furthering calmness and overall peace of mind. And no matter what happens, keep in mind that how it passes will be largely determined by the mindset you keep, for when you control your mind you control everything—change your thinking, change your world!
Along this same line, American radio and television personality Art Linkletter perceptively advised, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out.” To that end, when life suddenly sweeps you up in a huge wave and you’ve got no other choice, the best thing to do is ride it out with everything you’ve got while taking as much pleasure as possible along the way.
Consequently, strive to stubbornly hold positive expectations and keep as many pleasant thoughts as possible in the upcoming days and weeks, even as you make every effort to stay centered and adjust and adapt accordingly in these unsteadying times.
A word to the wise: In the upcoming months of uncertainty sure to follow, beware of indulging in the urge for immediate gratification. You must make a conscious effort to resist indulging in alcohol, drugs, overeating, pornography, gambling and compulsive online shopping in attempts to reduce your anxiety, stress, or boredom.
Secondly, during this worldwide collective “pandemic juggernaut” upon which we have all been nonconsenually conscripted for the duration, make it your personal commitment to resist succumbing to any of these insidiously indulgent and beguiling siren’s calls—no matter how enticing the lure to indulge seems at the moment. Holding this uncompromising mindset best equips us to avoid dangerous and destructive temptations—while successfully circumventing their covertly hidden health-crushing “clashing rocks”—until finally we all emerge safely on the other side of this pesky pandemic.
For the sake of your overall health—now and throughout this period—rather than covering up or otherwise self-defeatingly attempting to deny or avoid your challenges, bravely address any issues of anxiety, depression, loneliness and other difficulties head-on by taking positive, life-affirming steps. Towards succeeding in this vital, self-preserving end, strive to connect with those nearest and dearest to you as much as possible. And should a time come when you are often feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with life on your own, seek teletherapy or join an online support group.
It will also greatly help to establish and maintain “new normal” routines, such as new and regular bedtimes, wake-up times, healthy eating habits and exercise programs. Faithful practice of these behaviors will positively contribute to both your short and long term mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing and overall equilibrium, providing safe passage until unfettered “real life” can again resume.
That is to say, life resumes without all of these as yet indeterminately long—and singularly severe and sweeping—restrictions on our individual civil liberties and most fundamental rights that are now being suddenly thrust and imposed upon us worldwide, undeniably uniting humanity as never before in modern history.
Above all, keep the following in mind: Difficult times call for flexibility and adaptation as life demands—including acquiring a new, reconstituted personal level of consciousness—especially now and in the coming months as we enter this new admittedly unsettling era of uncertainty. Indeed, the ability to adapt and evolve en masse as life requires of us has never been more essential for everyone presently alive.
This includes allowing yourself to grieve whenever needed, as freely and fully grieving our losses—including our recent collective loss of the world as we knew it—helps us to adjust and better move on from them. Likewise, don’t hesitate to seek out counseling locally or online if you're feeling anxious or depressed and can't seem to shake it.
In this present “time-out interval” of people sheltering at home to stay well—and for the foreseeable future—distance counseling might be the only way we can take measures to protect our emotional health while also protecting our physical health.
The good news in this scary brave new world of practicing social distancing to keep everyone healthy is that numerous research studies have long confirmed telephone distance therapy can be every bit as effective as face-to-face therapy.
And while it is certainly different working with a therapist by telephone, it's neither better nor worse than doing in-person therapy, especially when the clinician is well-trained and specializes in the art of distance counseling.
It takes strength and courage to ask for help. And yet as many who once despaired can now bear witness today—with help comes hope.
For the time being and until this worldwide pandemic runs its course, have trust in yourself and your fellow human beings around the planet to rise in global solidarity to meet the challenges as circumstances require. And if you’re so inclined, pray for us all.
Most importantly, keep the faith while continuing to squeeze hope tightly in a big bear-hug for better days soon to come—no matter how dire or dark things may at times seem in the interim—for without hope for a better future we won’t make it very far.
Have courage and be well,