Q: I think I’m depressed. I’m not sure if it’s the coronavirus epidemic itself or cabin fever with the stay at home orders, frustration with MoCo online school, or fears about the future of our economy, but I am definitely not in a good place. I have more time than ever to finally clean out my closets or do some other home projects, but am I doing them? Nope. I see my neighbors power washing their white picket fences and sanding down their decks for re-staining. What am I doing? Binging on Netflix, playing a lot of Tetris on my phone, eating cookies, sniping at my boyfriend, and crying at the drop of a hat. I know tele-mental-health is an option, and I plan on calling soon, but what else can I do in the meantime that could help? I’m already connecting with my friends and extended family through FaceTime. It’s clearly not enough.  

A: This is a difficult time for everyone. You’re not alone. Here are two suggestions for dealing with trauma from Dr. Elizabeth Carr, Kentlands Psychotherapy’s founder.

First, meditate and visualize a post-coronavirus resilient future. Start with visualizing what’s happening to you now, personally, to your family, your friends and the greater community –   medically, emotionally, and financially. Then begin to create a vision of what healing and rebuilding will look like. Envision people starting to reconnect socially and physically, imagine businesses reopening and thriving. If you’ve lost your job, see yourself finding new, satisfying work.  Picture yourself in a future where you once again are feeling safe and financially secure. Taking this time to quietly envision a healing future, in granular detail, can be an effective method for dealing with trauma by counterbalancing all of the negativity you’re being exposed to right now.

Second, write a letter to a favorite relative who you’ve always felt safe with, but is no longer with us, or a key mentor who you’ve lost touch with, or famous figure (real or fictional) you have always admired as grounded and strong, (e.g., Mother Teresa, MLK, Mahatma Gandhi, Susan B. Anthony, Katniss Everdeen, Harriet Tubman, or even Taylor Swift, whoever that is for you). Tell them about what has been going on with this coronavirus. Let them know all your fears, but also tell them about how you are coping. Describe your specific strategies and ask them for suggestions (see if you can hear their response in your mind’s eye), share what you’re doing in big ways or small to help others, share the things you’ve learned about yourself through this process, and any other silver linings you can think of. Doing a writing or journaling experience like this can help you re-center and renew your psychi. If you decide to save these letters, they will be a written history of your experience during this time that you can look back on with pride on how you got through. Give one or both of these self-care techniques a try to see how much they can help you.

As seen in the Lakelands Leader with consent for reprinting.