Friday, March 13, 2020

HEALTH & SAFETY UPDATE - MARCH 15, 2020

Due to the current recommendations from the CDC regarding "Social Distancing" to help reduce the spread of the Novel Coronavirus, I will be making a few alterations to my practice for the time being. Please review this update, and contact me directly with any questions or concerns. 

At this time, I will continue seeing individual therapy clients face-to-face as it is practical. My office is already equipped with an air purifier, and I clean and sanitize surfaces and follow protocols as recommended. If you see me behaving any differently than usual (such as not agreeing to shake hands), please understand that it is in the best interest of this risk reduction protocol. 

If you are feeling ill or showing symptoms of an illness, you're encouraged to stay home and avoid coming to sessions. Please notify me as soon as you can, if you are unable to attend due to illness. You will never face penalties for canceling your sessions due to illness or emergencies.  

If you still want to do a session despite signs of illness, or feel uncomfortable about going out in person, I am happy to offer remote appointments (phone or video calling). Please leave enough advance notice so that I can make arrangements for this- at least a few hours in advance. I'm also available to take new remote clients living within the state of Oregon. 

As of this edit, I am going to cancel any in-person meetings for new or ongoing therapeutic and support groups/events, until it seems safe to lift the cancellation. I hope to still offer events later this month/year through Serene Abundance Studio (updates for that will be on the Serene Abundance Studio page and website.) 

I hope to put together some online versions of these in-person group offerings- Sign up for updates to this page, follow the Serena Appel, MA Facebook page, or contact me directly to learn more. 

I will post future updates to this announcement, plus any additional useful advice or resources, as it becomes relevant. Read on for a little article that I hope will provide some helpful suggestions. 


BUT, NOW WHAT DO WE DO? 

Coping with a pandemic is naturally going to bring up anxiety, fears for one's self and loved ones, worries about the future and about existential issues, and unease about what to expect or who/what to trust. 

It's worth remembering that, as has been true for other crises in the U.S. in the past, there is a certain amount of hysteria and spread of misinformation that goes along with really life-changing national events. 9/11... Y2K... Ebola virus... the AIDS crisis... All of these and more have been met with a certain amount of panic (and inflation of that panic). 

What is most challenging about the Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19 is that we just, honestly, don't have a fully accurate way to know how to track it, or isolate those who have it. Much has been made of the stock market plummeting. Events larger than 250 people in Oregon are being canceled. Those in the healthcare fields are dedicated to doing all they can to help, but we are unsure at the moment how much this will impact our health care facilities. All of this evokes a strong fear of the unknown in people, and we as humans HATE fear of the unknown on a really primitive level. 

Yet, despite the huge and lasting impact of those crises I just mentioned- if you're reading this, you are still here. Right now, you are surviving. Life as we know it right now has, largely, gone on as usual. We have faced many threats as a nation and as a society, but we have somehow managed to continue to pull through. 

The best thing to do in the face of a national (and global) threat is counterintuitive, and sometimes challenging: It helps best to REMAIN CALM and make real-world plans, based on what information you find the most sensible or accurate. 
Many of the efforts that helped with that, in past times, came from people living their every day lives, sticking things out and finding ways to help one another however they could, using their ingenuity, common sense, and resourcefulness to care for themselves and others. For just one example, we have so many examples of people in New York City who had previously been complete strangers to one another, pulling together to help those in need during the 9/11 Ground Zero event. And we can do it again. You can start anywhere, anytime.

So what can be done about all this? 

1. Keep alert for local  updates. 

Stay in touch with resources you feel you can trust, to provide guidance and information. Here are a few you can try out. Click on the titles below: 






2. But don't be TOO alert! 

As a mental health provider for more than the past decade, and having done a bit of studying into areas such as mind-body medicine, mindfulness approaches, wellness and longevity, I can back up the message coming from many of today's health resources: UNMANAGED STRESS IS NOT GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH. 

We have a body of evidence suggesting that stress, i.e. what happens when you don't feel you have the resources to meet the demands of everyday life, can have a direct impact on your immune system, heart function and blood pressure, mental or emotional health symptoms, pain levels, and more- when it is not being managed properly. 

I see a lot of people hyperfocusing on information about COVID-19... Or being forced to, because of the nature of their personal or work-related involvements. And of course, worrying about the future is inherently stressful! 

While you are working on upping your hand washing game, talking to others about current events, or stocking supplies, ALSO make time in your day to build in some stress reduction and healthy coping strategies. This could look like a variety of things, but it includes:

-Taking care of basics, such as getting good sleep, eating nutritiously every day, keeping up on any daily health routines, setting medication or supplement reminders, etc. 

-Get some (fun) exercise. If you aren't moving, or haven't been doing much moving around other than daily tasks, consider doing a yoga or stretching practice, walking the dog, shooting some hoops, playing with the kids, etc. You can get a break from staying indoors by going for a hike or just being outside for a little while. (hint: direct exposure to daylight- no sunglasses- for just 5 or more minutes per day can help boost your mood and your body's Vitamin D levels!) 

-Build in daily mindfulness. There are plenty of apps available on our cell phones these days to help you relax and unwind. Calm, Headspace, The Tapping Solution, Heart Math, Noom, etc. Find one that speaks to you and use it- or perhaps listening to guided imagery podcasts or relaxing music is more your thing? Try to spend at least a few minutes a day on mindfulness breaks, and work your way up to at least 10 minutes daily. If you have trouble sitting still, try practicing walking, or doing a routine chore such as dish washing/floor sweeping plus deep breathing and present-moment awareness (i.e. active meditation).

-Spend enjoyable time. Do you craft? Maybe it's time to pick up creative journaling? Do you like to hang out on the phone or play online videogames with friends? Have a show you love to binge watch? Now might be a good time to allow yourself to get absorbed in an activity, or spend quality time with others. (hint: if you talk to friends/family, try to limit the amount of time you discuss current events & re-focus on things you both enjoy.)

-Maintain a positive outlook. This basically comes down to learning how to self-reassure. Reminding one's self of key phrases, such as "Yes, this is scary, but those scary things aren't happening to me right now" are one way to handle this. Write out some phrases you can believe and keep them handy to help yourself stay calm. 

3. Learn how to prepare for the unexpected. 

For those of us in the local Central Coast area in particular, and folks generally, it's not a bad idea to review your Emergency Preparedness level. Here are a couple of websites that offer practical advice to consider when making plans:


One personal observation I'd like to empahsize: While you are stocking up for a possible emergency, PLEASE DO NOT CLEAN OUT LOCAL STORES OF ALL SUPPLIES! It will make the community, as a whole, LESS and not MORE safe, if members of the general public are not able to access basics such as cleaning and sanitizing supplies, medical equipment, OTC medications, (ahem! toilet paper) and so on. Last notice I saw recommended preparing for a two-week supply of basic necessities/non-perishable food, in case of slowed supply lines. Remember that you can now also have many items delivered through UPS, USPS, and Amazon Locker, which should be at least- if not more- safe than getting your items in person.

4. Do what you can do, leave the rest.

At the end of the day, there's only so much any of us as individuals can do. Learning to recognize and work within your own limitations- and respecting the limitations or vulnerabilities of others- is extremely valuable in any type of crisis response. Our limitations help us remember what it's like to be human and infallible, and how precious that can be!

Try to avoid the urge to over-extend yourself or give in to fear-based reactions. Others will make do if you become ill or too worn out to help. Communicate honestly what you can or can't do, and try to ask directly for what you need of others. Let's set our minds on getting through all of this together.

5. Schedule a session.

If the above tips aren't helping you enough, consider scheduling a therapy session and talking things over. I have availability for both remote and in-person appointments. I am able to take a variety of private insurances, and I offer a pay-what-you-can arrangement for those who can't afford a full fee out-of-pocket appointment. I can also refer to other therapists or health resources, where necessary. You can reach me at the "Contact" page on this website.