A Therapist’s Reflection on COVID-19: A Time for Pause and Self-Work
By Esther Kane, MSW, RSW, RCC
I wanted to write something instructive and useful during this pandemic of COVID-19 which is affecting all of us at this time. At the time of this writing, a large part of Canada is shutting down schools, workplaces and environments which have the potential of spreading this virus.
I am now working with clients exclusively through video or telephone sessions until I’m advised otherwise by our health authorities and the BCACC.
For the most up-to-date information on how the counselling field in BC is handling COVID-19, here is a press release from FACT BC: The Federation of Associations for Counselling Therapists in British Columbia called British Columbians Urged to Protect Their Mental Health During Times of Uncertainty
As an individual therapist, I feel a very strong urge to provide a message of calm and to remind everyone that at our core, we are all incredibly strong and resilient- even when faced with such a huge health scare. I feel for those of you who are unable to attend your AA meetings or other self-help/support circles. Also, for those of you who take care of your mental wellness by going to community classes such as yoga or pilates and are now at home following along with videos instead, this is a challenging time.
Clients have brought me stories of how they cannot be with loved ones who have compromised immune systems who would benefit greatly from company and companionship. Others have told me sad tales of having to cancel vacations they had been looking forward to for months, or some concert they had bought tickets to that has been cancelled. A few have told me they were scheduled to attend work conferences they were excited about that were not happening since the spread of COVID-19 increased to dramatic levels.
Could there be an upside in all of this?
After listening to so many stories of how the practise of self-isolation is affecting people in their everyday lives, it struck me that while I cannot control this virus or our health authorities’ dictates on how we must proceed, I can do what I do best as a therapist- provide hope and find the higher meaning in the most difficult situations we find ourselves in.
Finding Hope in the Midst of Crises
I have a little wisdom card on my office desk from a wise mentor of mine which says:
May I learn to be a gardener of life
Nothing comes to birth
As without Light
One of the things I teach every client through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is to change their thinking from negative to positive by changing their self-talk and looking for the positives in their lives by writing gratitude lists every day. This goes a long way to lowering anxiety and producing a state of peace and inner calm.
In my experience thus far with watching how the world is reacting to COVID-19, I see the full picture of both graceful and destructive ways people in power are handling things- both the pitfalls and the triumphs. I choose to focus on the part of humanity which views an enormous challenge such as this as a way of building community, finding our caring and compassion for one another, and finding straightforward solutions to solving the problem.
If you look hard enough, you will see these amazing testaments to the resiliency and compassion that we all have within us everywhere.
But if you’re strapped for time like me and want to read about such heartwarming acts of generosity and kindness, click on one of my favourite websites- Tanks Good News. Reading the ‘good news’ stories will turn your frown upside down and leave you feeling hopeful and inspired by good old-fashioned real-life acts of kindness.
Here are some of my favourite stories from that site related to the outbreak of COVID-19 which were posted recently:
I’m sure the list goes on! Here I am going to take the opportunity to ask you to send in your uplifting examples of everyday people doing good things to help others during this pandemic. I will share them with my readers and spread good vibes across cyberspace- I think we all need that right now. Either leave them as a reply at the end of reading this blog post, or email them to me at: estherATestherkane.com
How Can I Best Use this Sanctioned Time of Isolation? Finding the Higher Meaning
The next topic I want to address is how to find the silver lining in these times of shutdowns, quarantine and self-isolation. Of late, this has been the number one topic I’ve explored with my clients and when applying open curiosity without strong emotion (i.e., a mindful stance), has borne many wonderful fruits which I am thrilled to share with you.
I feel that since most of us are not travelling, visiting people, or for some, not even going outside, this is the perfect opportunity to engage in something which most of us put at the bottom of our “to do” list- self-reflection, meditation and going within. I’ve suggested that many of my clients take this opportunity to slow down and get in touch with themselves and do an assessment on where they’re at emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Many have taken to journaling, meditating, and sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings and aspirations with the people closest to them. You may have to get creative here! Luckily, we have incredible technology which helps us stay connected with loved ones far away. I recommended Skype or FaceTime or telephone.
Luckily, I don’t have to see people in person to provide my services as a therapist and many of my clients are taking advantage of this and booking video or telephone appointments. Also, I’m finding that their self-reflections and “ah ha” moments are deeper and more profound and I feel it is a direct result of having to face a calamity which affects all of us and forces us to ask the big questions we so often push to the side such as:
What do I do with my time if I’m not busy (fill-in-the-blank)…working, going to school, going to meetings, social events, or travelling?
Now that other countries are quarantined what is going to happen to our supplies and trade items such as food, medications, and other things we take for granted which may not be available in the near future?
How do I find meaning/purpose/enjoyment if I can’t do all of the activities I normally do like go to work/school, attend classes, go out to movies/plays/concerts or travel?
Scaling Down and Finding Meaning in the Simple Things
I’ll end this musing with a list of things you can do during this time of shutdowns, quarantine and self-isolation which may “fill your cup” for the time being until things go back to normal.
- Look at your New Year’s Goals and see how you’re doing thus far and work on meeting goals you’ve slipped on (Hint: It probably has to do with eating and exercising!)
- Write in a journal and explore your inner life- how are you doing in the self-care department these days? What things can you do to nourish your body, mind and spirit?
- Meditate- I know that most of you have definitely been putting that one off big time- no excuses now! Get on that cushion, close your eyes and practise deep belly-breathing for at least 20 minutes. You may be mad at me now but you’ll thank me later
- Order books online and get back into reading. Now is a nice time to sit by a fireplace with a blanket and a good book and a cup of tea
- Call that friend or relative you have been putting off because you were “too busy”. I know for a fact that you aren’t now so pick up the phone- you’ll also thank me later for this one
- Seek out therapy if you’re struggling and opt for phone or video if you have to
- Find online support groups if there are alternatives to in-person ones
I hope you found this article helpful and if so, please pass it on via your social media networks. Stay healthy, calm and have faith that this too shall pass and we will come out the other side stronger, and wiser. Onward!
Esther Kane, MSW, RSW, RCC, is in full-time private practise in Victoria, B.C. With over twenty years of experience, her main focus is helping women to become free of barriers which keep them stuck so that they can become all that they dream of being. To learn more about Esther’s services, please visit her website: http://www.estherkane.com.