Rachel Davis, MFT is a Marriage and Family therapist in Vista, California. She specializes in Peripartum Mental Health and is trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Rachel offers telehealth appointments for individuals, couples and families and runs postpartum support groups in the community.

Staying Connected During Social Distance

March, 27th, 2020

During uncertain times, we all need to reach out to our support systems and focus on what we can control. We are social creatures - from the oldest to the youngest - so even while we are maintaining our distance, we still need to connect. We also need consistency and structure to feel in control of our lives. We are all struggling with a lack of routine, normalcy and availability of our normal support systems. There are ways to stay in control of life if we focus on the right things. Please tune in to asking for and giving support to each other as needed.

Reach Out

Connect with those that you love and care about. Simply reminding others we are in this together helps everyone avoid isolation and depression. Don’t wait to hear from them, pick up the phone or computer and text, call or video chat. Go back to snail mail and write a letter or draw a picture to send to a loved one. This might even keep the children busy for 5 minutes! Help Others

Take some time to think outside the box and help those who are in need. Donate money to a worthy cause, donate extra supplies to others in need or pick up some groceries for someone at a higher risk level than you who is not able leave home easily. Focusing on the needs of others also helps with avoiding depression because we stop dwelling on our own negatives.

Structure for Uncertain Times

No one likes to be micromanaged so be mindful of not doing this to yourself or your family. It is important to create a routine but it does not have to be the same routine it was when people were working and going to school. Take a breath and tune into your priorities for your days in the midst of the current stressors and simply do your best. The best for you and your family is likely to be different to others and it is okay. I like to think about block schedules and time ranges for certain activities.

Stay Informed

We all want to be up to date on the latest news but please make sure you are getting your information from a reliable source. Your best friend’s cousin’s husband may be well informed but let’s still focus on resources we know are correct and up to date instead of passing along questionable information and creating more fear for everyone.

For more information visit: http://cdc.gov/coronavirus/

Self Care

Under the best of circumstances most of us struggle with self care so in times of stress it is especially important to take some time for ourselves. I know you are not supposed to go anywhere and your children are all home but there is always a way to find some time for you. We need to get creative and be flexible! Children and others who turn to you for support will thank you for taking care of yourself because then you can be there for them.

Prioritize Your Needs and Reassess Daily

What do you actually need to have happen today? I see people posting on social media about sorting their closets and completing some tasks they have not had time for. Great work for them but most of us are just trying to get through our days the best we can with all the changes and staying healthy. This may not be the time to declutter the house and the pressure to achieve things beyond our capacity are more likely to create anxiety and depression if we cannot achieve them. Be gentle with yourself.

Beware of Your Perspective and Privilege

Everyone is trying to figure out what they need to be doing and it is challenging. However, it is important to tune into our own perspective and privilege to be respectful of others. Many individuals and families have different needs and we all deserve support. Normalize the stress, ask for the help you need and please be mindful to remain grateful for the positives in your life because others are not so fortunate. Not everyone is able to work from home, or survive without work for weeks at a time or is ready to teach their own children at home.

Offer and Ask for Help

How do you know if someone else needs help with something? Do you read their mind and just show up with a meal for their family or a week’s worth of toilet paper? The reality of life is we do not know what anyone else is struggling with unless we reach out or they ask for help. If someone asks for your support let's commend them for reaching out and respond by supporting them. This does not mean they owe you an explanation for why they are seeking the help, just help when you can. Stay home so you reduce the risk for those with struggles you do not know about and often cannot see. We are all in this together.

Managing Anxiety

There are plenty of reasons out there to be anxious about but how do we manage it? Focusing on the things you have in your control. Making healthy choices for you and your family, remaining positive, finding fun things to do at home, turn off the news and focus on gratitude. Guided meditations, counting and labeling things can all help with grounding you in the here and now. If you are focused on the present you do not have time for the “what ifs” of the future.

Avoid Using Substances to Cope

This suggestion may be unpopular with all of the social memes and posts out there about stocking up on substances but it is an important one. Substances (alcohol, marijuana and other drugs) are very unhealthy coping skills especially in times of stress. Alcohol is a depressant and marijuana increases anxiety, which are things we are trying to avoid. We need to be able to keep our heads on straight to make good choices. If you choose to use substances please be mindful about your choices and set limits. Also be considerate of those in recovery by avoiding posting about using substances to cope as it is likely very triggering to someone in your life and you may not even know it.

Talk to a Professional

Remember you can always reach out to your mental health provider or find one today. Most providers are offering telehealth appointments by phone or video. If you have questions about physical health symptoms reach out to your physical health doctors to review or call your local community clinic. It may take a little longer for us to get back to you depending on our own situation but we are here to help or will gladly guide you to someone who can if we are not available.

Rachel Davis, MFT

San Diego Access and Crisis Line: 888-724-7240
https://up2sd.org/ (community referrals and crisis support)