How to Manage Your Anxiety Level & Other Mental Health Impacts From the COVID-19 Pandemic

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It has been over 5 months since we received an email from our daughter’s school indicating that education was moving from in person to virtual.  “School will be moving remotely for two weeks,” it read.  “We will reassess at that time to determine next steps,” the email continued.  At that time, communities across the country were trying to process such significant changes that were happening.  As our private practice transitioned quickly to telehealth, few realized that this can potentially be the format for mental health services for the foreseeable future.  Shortly after the pandemic began, I received a good amount of messages from clients indicating that they would like to “wait and see what happens.”  “I’ll reach back out in a week or two since I would like to continue to see you in person as opposed to online,” they said.  Little did everyone know the pandemic would linger on for several months and longer.  Now, our practice is seeing a few hundred clients per week via telehealth as so many are in need of mental health services during these challenging times.  Individuals, couples, and families are really liking the new format as it is flexible and convenient.  In addition, many insurance policies are covering telehealth sessions at 100% making mental health services much more accessible than they have been in the past.

Although the pandemic has been around for several months, people are continuing to grieve pretty hard as their feelings of loss persist.  People are going through a loss of a loved one, a loss of normalcy, a loss of life experiences like a prom, freshman year of college, weddings and birthday parties, and more.  This weighs heavily on people making day to day life more challenging to manage.  Smaller obstacles or disagreements can trigger stronger emotions of anxiety, depression, frustration or anger.  This can lead to bigger arguments and conflicts which can be damaging to relationships and families.  Additionally, individuals and families are emotionally exhausted.  Parents of young children have been going months without a break.  They have been responsible for child care, education, and entertainment all while having to work a full-time job.

Another layer that has been a large cause of anxiety for individuals and families is that big and quick decisions are needed to be made.  Should you send your child to school or daycare in September?  What changes do you need to make to the policies and procedures of your business?  How are you going to make ends meet and continue to pay for rent or your mortgage?  These are all real situations that individuals and families are being faced with today.  In addition, due to circumstances and laws constantly and quickly changing, it is making it extremely challenging to plan accordingly.  People are put in a position where they have to spend an extraordinary amount of time planning only to have to adjust their plans a few weeks later due to circumstantial changes.  For instance, school districts spent months preparing to transition back to school in September.  Many of these plans were recently shared with parents and students.  It seems that a hybrid approach combined with in-person and virtual learning is the common plan for districts.  However, due to many unknown factors, it is difficult to determine if these plans will remain once school begins in a few weeks.  Should the virus spread throughout schools, they will be forced to shut down again and go 100% virtual.  This will impact school professionals as well as working parents and students.  Little to no options are ideal making it nearly impossible to plan for.  To summarize, all of the unknown factors and having to plan to make big decisions have been crippling to many peoples’ mental health.

Impacts on Social Dynamics

For many, it is difficult to cope with change, whether it be a change of job, home, or relationship.  The pandemic has not only caused these types of changes, but also much more substantial changes specifically in societal/social norms and how people interact with one another.  This is primarily due to the fact that people are responding to the pandemic very differently from one another.  Some believe it is a hoax and choose to not wear a mask or practice social distancing while others still do not feel comfortable leaving their house.  There are also some people who find themselves somewhere in the middle.  These people leave their house, wear a mask, practice social distancing, and have become well adjusted to new social norms.  Nonetheless, many people now have a new layer of anxiety that impacts how they interact with those around them.  There is an added stress level for how people socialize.  They now have to gauge others’ comfort level with socialization and need to communicate theirs.  For example, if your friend invites you and your children over for dinner, you may not feel comfortable unless you bring your own food and if masks are worn by all.  However, when you get to your friend’s house, you find that their family isn’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing.  If your children come to the BBQ wearing masks, what do you do if your friends’ children aren’t wearing masks or being socially distant?  This can impact your stress and comfort level and potentially even your relationship with that family.  You may then choose to not stay or spend time together in the future due to these differences.

How to Cope With These Impacts

It is difficult to wrap your head around the changes around you.  As I indicated, everyone is experiencing loss during these times.  You may still be in a state of shock.  As you begin to acknowledge these changes, it can be helpful to focus on what is directly in front of you.  Rather than focusing your mind on “having things go back to normal,” try to focus on adjusting and creating a “new normal.”  This may include more outdoor activities, zoom meetings, wearing of face masks and hand sanitizer, and quarantining/COVID tests before family vacations.  Whatever the case is, create a new framework for you and your family and you will find a way to make it work.  The more times you get out and experience life within these new changes, the more comfortable you will become.

As you continue to take steps towards adjusting to your new normal, you may find it necessary to communicate with others since their new normal may be different than yours.  When making plans with others, don’t be afraid to ask questions first and share your comfort level with others.  If you are invited to a BBQ, for example, you may want to first find out how food is being shared.  You may also communicate that you are going to bring your own food if that is what you feel most comfortable doing.  Some people feel safer wearing a mask no matter what the circumstance is while others are okay not wearing a mask if they are outside and are being distant from one another.  It can be helpful to always have a mask with you as you gauge others’ comfort level.  If you are outside and they are wearing a mask, you can ask if they would feel more comfortable if you were wearing one too or you can just put it on at that point.  Otherwise, interactions and relationships can be impacted as some people have a difficult time speaking up about their emotions if they are feeling uncomfortable.

These are challenging times for everyone.  Times are constantly changing and there continues to be so many unknown factors.  As long as you are taking care of yourself and your family while also focusing on the greater good and doing your part, you are doing what you can.  Again, try to focus on now and what you can do moving forward and your feelings of anxiety will be as manageable as they can be.  If you find yourself out of control of your emotions and your decision making and relationships are being impacted, do not hesitate to reach out to us.  Many have been doing that as therapy can help ground people.  We are always here to listen.

4 More Ways to Manage Your Fear & Anxiety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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“Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace.”

Currently, humanity is in a prolonged state of crisis.  What happens tomorrow is unknown.  People fear the unknown.  It feels unstable, unpredictable and scary.  You are acting aggressively.  You are in denial.  You feel frozen.  You are anxious and sad.  You feel alone and are missing family, friends, and loved ones.  These are all common responses when your mind believes you are in danger.  You can learn more about the anatomy of fear by reading the first part of our COVID-19 blog, 4 Ways to Manage Your Fear & Anxiety During the Corona Virus Pandemic.  You are grieving your old normalcy.  However, although the world has and will continue to change, you are still in control of yourself regardless of what your emotional experience is telling you.

To ensure your safety and the safety of those around you as well as to help slow down the spread of COVID, the government has established a set of strict rules and guidelines and are enforcing social distancing until further notice.  These vast social changes along with possible financial hardships are just the right 1-2 combo to knock the wind out of you.  For some, this may have knocked you off of your feet.  Regardless, it is up to you to regroup and get back up.  But what does it take to stand back up again?  The following 4 tips may give you the boost you need.

  1. Focus on your basic needs first.  Practice safe social distancing.  If you need to go out to buy food, wear a mask.  Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds when you get home.  Learn more about how to take proper precautions by going to  Make sure to still eat nutritious food throughout the day, find time to exercise, and get enough sleep at night.  To learn more about ways to maximize energy, you can read the following blogs:

4 Ways to Maximize Energy

4 Ways to Maximize Energy: Part 2

4 Ways to Maximize Energy: Part 3

4 Ways to Maximize Energy: Part 4

Symptoms of anxiety, stress, and, if you are a parent, taking care of children can be extremely draining.  Make sure to maximize your energy by focusing on your basic needs.  If you don’t maximize your energy, your days will be physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing on you.  You will be more likely to lose control of your emotions if you do not care for your basic needs.

2. Develop structure.  During the pandemic, it is easy to fall off the tracks of structure.  You may go to sleep later, wake up later, take your time getting out of bed in the morning, and skip a meal during the day.  The more you fall out of a routine, the more likely you will be impacted physically, mentally, and emotionally.  You may become more withdrawn and lose energy and motivation to do things.  Create a schedule for you and your family and make sure you keep consistency.  Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.  Continue to eat at least 3 meals per day around the same time.  Incorporate free time in your days for you and your children so you can change things up a bit.  However, the more you stick to a schedule and find structure, the more stable you will feel.

3. Shift your mindset.  When emotions deliver a message (thoughts), it doesn’t mean the message is accurate.  For example, your anxiety may have delivered a message that the pandemic won’t ever end.  If you needed to apply for unemployment and the check didn’t come yet, the emotional message may be that it won’t ever come.  Your heart will race, your breathing will be heavy, and your stress and anxiety will spill into your relationships with others.  Shift your mindset.  Don’t believe every message your emotions deliver.  Counter these messages and have a positive mindset.  Do what is in your control and what you can to help your situation as well as your family’s.  Be persistent and perseverant if necessary.  Make sure to breath as you persevere.  You will run into obstacles.  Find another way.  It is there to be found.  However, worrisome thoughts will not help you back up from being knocked down.  Positive thoughts and energy will.

4. Live for today, plan for tomorrow.  You will most likely never get this opportunity again.  The world is paused.  There is no rush to be anywhere but home with your family.  Go outside and play with your children.  Make a picnic in your backyard for you and your partner and enjoy some sunlight.  Meditate.  Practice yoga.  Learn how to paint, play a musical instrument, or another skill that will enrich your life.  There will be a time when life will be fast paced again.  That time isn’t today, tomorrow, or next week.  Enjoy it while it lasts.

Tomorrow will eventually come.  Be prepared.  Discuss a plan with your family for when regulations are loosened.  Do all of your family members have access to a mask?  What will life look like for you and your family?  What will safe socialization look like for you?  Start to think about the answers to these questions.  Don’t let the COVID pandemic cause you to freeze and do nothing.  Take action.  A solid plan will help to ease your anxiety and you will be ready for when the time comes.

4 Ways to Manage Your Child’s Anxiety, Depression, & Behaviors During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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It has been close to a month now since COVID-19 has changed society forever.  More and more people are realizing the seriousness of the pandemic, that it is not going away for the foreseeable future, and have been practicing social distancing as a result.  Initially, people were in a state of denial.  Now, anxiety and sadness has taken over as individuals and families are starting to break down emotionally.  In our last blog, 4 Ways to Manage Your Fear & Anxiety During the Corona Virus Pandemic, we discussed ways to manage anxiety during the pandemic.  In this blog, we are going to focus on 4 ways to manage children during the pandemic.

My wife and I have 4 young girls.  We have a 7 year old, a 4 year old, and two 16 month old twins.  If your family is anything like ours, it is quite challenging managing children during the pandemic, especially with no additional support (ie: grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.).  You need to be able to maintain finances during a time when finances are limited and you need to keep up with your child’s education at home since they are not in school.  You need to do this while managing your fears and worries along with your children’s emotions.  It almost seems impossible to keep your family moving forward during these times.  However, if you take a step back and shift your mindset a bit, you will realize the silver lining of this pandemic.  We will discuss this later in the blog.  For now, here are a few ways you can help manage your children while you are at home during the pandemic.

  1. Maintain structure and keep things predictable even during unstructured times

If your child was at school, their days would be predictable for the most part.  This is because they received a schedule at the beginning of the year and their teachers mapped out expectations early (ie: classroom procedures, behavioral expectations, etc.).  They would get to class, complete a do now, turn in homework from the night before, and then sit quietly for instruction, all without prompting from the teacher.  There would be some sort of group activity followed by a classroom discussion.  Although the group activity does not require a teacher present, children remain on task because they are engaged in the assignment.  For the most part, the flow of the lesson would run smoothly, mainly because the teacher spent time prepping and planning.  Without this prep work and planning, it would be difficult to manage a classroom of children.  This is mainly due to the level of engagement.  In order to keep your children engaged, you may need to get creative and change things up a bit.  This will require daily planning and prep work.  Incorporate time in your day to do this.  Otherwise, it is likely your child will be less engaged and the days will be much less structured.  If you thought your child would sit still for an hour or two and complete their work without getting off task every couple of minutes, you probably realized by now that this is not the case.

2. Send your child outside to play and do not let them come back inside until you say it’s ok!

If you are a parent, you probably remember the times when we were children.  We would come home from school and play outside until dark when our parents called us in for dinner.  We used our imagination, got dirty, built forts, hiked in the woods, and played ball in the street.  Today, you will rarely see children doing this.  They come home from school, quickly do their homework, and then their parents drive them from one activity to the next.  There is no time for imagination or play.  This is one of the silver linings of the pandemic.  Since activities are canceled for a while, your child is now able to take advantage of time and play.  They may be resistant to going outside at first because it is new for them.  However, encourage them to create a game, build a fort, build an obstacle course, and use their imagination!  If you set the expectation that they are not allowed to come back inside until lunch or dinner (depending on the time of the day), they will adjust and start to enjoy that time.  Who knows, maybe when this pandemic ends, children’s play and use of imagination will remain.

3. Spend time and connect with your child.  

There will never be more of an opportunity to spend time and connect with your child than now.  If you have young children, get on the floor and play with them.  They will want to create a game.  Go along with it.  Color with them, create a puppet show, paint your nails, push them on the swings, or create other crafts and projects.  If you have older children, go for a short hike, ride bikes, play kickball, dodgeball or another sport, or do something else outdoors.  If your child is into video, create a stop motion or a movie.  Learn an instrument together.  Exercise together.  Find a way to help the community with your child (create masks for health care workers, donate, or deliver food to people who need it and don’t feel comfortable leaving the house).  Whatever you choose to do to spend time and connect with your child, your relationship will come out stronger when the pandemic ends.  This will also SIGNIFICANTLY help to maintain your child’s behavior as they will feel grounded and secure during these difficult times.

4. Listen & talk to your child about their feelings regarding the pandemic

The other day, my 7 year old daughter told me she feels worried about the pandemic.  She said that she is afraid that she will never get to go back to school again.  She shared that she is worried that her grandparents will die from COVID-19.  Clients who I have spoken to through telehealth the last few weeks have said the same.  Listen to your children and help them process their emotions.  Acknowledge your own fears and worrisome thoughts as well while talking to your child.  For example, it is okay to say, “I am afraid too.”  However, provide comfort and reason as well.  For instance, you may say, “There are a lot of unknown factors right now but as long as we stay home and practice social distancing, we should be safe.”  Remain calm.  Check in with your own emotions and find ways to cope.  Let your child know that you are there to listen and provide reassurance that we are in this together.  Ask your child about ways they can help others during these times.  Although there are a lot of uncertainties, your child will see and remember how you and your family dealt with crisis and the pandemic.  This teaching will be extremely valuable in their future as they will have a better understanding of how to deal with uncertain times and crisis situations.

We hope you and your family stay safe and are well.  If you need any support, please do not hesitate to reach out to us!

4 Ways to Manage Your Fear & Anxiety During the Corona Virus Pandemic

Image result for corona virus

The corona virus has captured everyone and everything.  The world is on hold until further notice.  Schools are closed, sporting events are cancelled, Broadway is postponed, and grocery stores are packed as people prepare to be home.  Fear and panic has taken over and humans are in an extended state of fight or flight.  For those who struggle with anxiety on a normal day, this can be crippling to their mental health.  For others, this can be the start of what can turn into a long-term anxiety and fear issue.

The anatomy of fear

When a person senses fear, the body responds with “fight or flight.”  Hormones are released including Cortisol and Adrenaline.  Your heart rate increases, you begin breathing faster, and your body prepares itself for survival.  Typically, this doesn’t last long as your body starts to go back to normal again.  However, with stressful situations that linger, a continued state of fight or flight can occur.  This can take a toll on a person’s physical, mental and emotional health.  In the case of the coronavirus, since there is a lot of unknown factors, people are remaining in a state of fight or flight.  This is when panic sets in and irrational thinking happens.

4 Ways to Manage Fear & Anxiety

  1. Pause & breathe

When your body is going through fight or flight, you are inclined to react immediately.  Run to the store to load up on essentials!  Wipe down your entire house!  Yell at your kids because they aren’t listening!  When you react quickly without a plan, others around you feed into your panic and experience fear and anxiety as well.  Take a moment and breathe.  It will help manage your body’s fight or flight reaction so that you can begin to think rationally.  If you remain calm so will others around you.

2. Create a plan

If you have any children, you can imagine what educators and other school staff members have been doing the past few weeks to prepare.  This consisted of many school officials meeting to collaborate a plan so education continues during school closures.  This didn’t happen overnight.  These plans were well thought out and carefully planned before it was communicated with all staff, parents, and eventually students.  Do the same for you and your family.  Take a moment when you are calm, sit down, and create a plan so you and your family are prepared.  Do you need to stock up on food and staples for the next few weeks?  If you take medication, did you order a bigger supply?  Keep in mind, there are others who are also planning.  Be courteous and only buy what you need.  It is not necessary to purchase 24 rolls of toilet paper for yourself.  If you do, you are probably still in a state of fight or flight and need to pause and breathe.

3. Educate yourself

As you probably have noticed, there is a lot of information going around regarding the coronavirus.  People are glued to the news and their phones as they read articles and comments and posts from friends and family on social media.  Find reputable sources, use common sense, and learn how to keep you and your family safe during this time.  The more knowledge you have, the less anxious and fearful you will be.  Although there are unknown factors with this particular situation, do what you can based on what you learn and continue to breathe through the fear and anxiety that you may experience due to the unknown factors.  Disconnect from information as well.  Too much information will cause overload, increase anxiety and will be counterproductive.

4. Take time to enjoy the break

There is usually a silver lining in the midst of a crisis if you look for it.  In this case, everything is on hold until further notice.  Individuals and families are forced to remain where they are and activities are limited.  No sports.  No activities.  No school.  Work has decreased or become remote.  Your once fast paced lifestyle has suddenly come to a halt. Enjoy the moment.  Be with your kids.  Play with them.  Take out some board games, a catch outside, a movie day (at home of course!), or spend the day cooking together as a family so you can freeze some meals.  Go outside and enjoy the weather.  It is Spring after all!

Don’t forget, this pandemic will eventually end and you will go right back to your once fast paced life.  If there is anything that this pandemic has taught you, it is that health is the top priority.  Everything else is not as important.  That is why everyone and everything is on hold for now.  Reflect on this so when life goes back to normal again, your priorities and values will reset.

We hope you and your family stay safe and we wish you well.  If your fear and anxiety is difficult to manage alone during this time, we are just a call away!


Seek Happiness, Not Pleasure: The Difference Between Happiness and Pleasure & How to Keep Your Mood Leveled

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It is easy to confuse pleasure with happiness as they both feel very similar.  If people sit down to a delicious meal at their favorite restaurant, are they feeling happiness or pleasure?  What if you unwrap a gift during the holidays and find it’s exactly what you wanted?  Pleasure or happiness?  Or maybe you come home after a long week of work and your partner is waiting for you with a glass of wine and a good movie ready to go?  Before I discuss ways on how to find happiness, it is important to understand the difference between pleasure and happiness.

What is pleasure?

Pleasure is produced when the neurotransmitter, dopamine is released in the brain.  It is the “feel good” neurotransmitter which is why people continue to chase it.  This is also why, in psychology, it is called the “reward pathway” in the brain.  For instance, when you have sex, eat your favorite food, gamble, use any sort of drug, open up a gift, or even gossip, dopamine is released in your brain and pleasure is produced.  Since the experience feels good, you go after them again…and again…and again.  It gets to a point that the thought or anticipation of the experience can release dopamine.  However, once the experience ends, so does the feeling of pleasure, only leaving you wanting more.  Pleasure is short lived.  It doesn’t last long and can ultimately be unhealthy if it leads to addictive behaviors (ie: drug, sex, gambling, food addictions).

What is happiness?

Happiness is produced when the neurotransmitter, serotonin is released in the brain.  When people feel happiness, they are at an even keel for an extended period of time.  Their mood is level and they are feeling good about their life.  You may feel happy with life at home, at work, or where you are in life.  For example, if you are sitting around a table full of family and friends during the holidays, you may pause, reflect, and experience happiness since you are surrounded by people you love.  This feeling will most likely last through dinner and for the remainder of the night.

What is the difference between pleasure and happiness?

Although they feel similar, there are a good amount of differences between pleasure and happiness.  Some of these differences are listed below:


Short lived

Dopamine is released

Serves as a “reward.”  As a result, you may continue to seek it.

Can lead to unhealthy addictive behaviors


Lasts longer

Serotonin is released

No reward is present.  It serves as a result.

Mood is level

How to seek happiness?

People often ask what the secret to happiness is.  In my opinion, this can be different for everyone depending on what you are looking for in life.  And there is plenty to find!  A good place to start is to imagine how you would want your life to look like when you wake up in the morning.  Do you want to surround yourself with people or would you prefer to go for a run with your dog?  Would you stay in bed and snuggle your partner for 15 minutes or would you enjoy sitting together on your porch and talking instead?  Do you prefer to work at a job around other co-workers you really connect with or would you rather be an entrepreneur and have more flexibility in your day?  What would you do if you had that flexibility?  There are no secrets to finding happiness since it is different for all.  What works for some people may not work for others.  However, the path to happiness is rarely short and there is no quick route to getting there.  This is not the case for pleasure, which means if you continue to seek it, you will realize that it will not lead to happiness as pleasure is its own separate path.  This will leave you feeling empty in the end since pleasure is short lived.  If you want to find happiness, start thinking about how you want to live your life.  Then, start taking the necessary steps to get there.  Start off small and work your way up.  Do what ultimately makes you happy as opposed to chasing a temporary reward.

What if I can’t find happiness?

If you find yourself struggling to find happiness regardless of what you do, you may need to seek professional help.  This may be a therapist, a psychiatrist, or a combination of the two.  Life is challenging in general.  If you find that nothing you do brings you happiness, it is possible that there is also a chemical imbalance that is causing this, as opposed to life just being challenging in general.  A therapist can help you figure this out and also point you in the right direction.  Not only this, but they will stay on the path and walk alongside you as long as you need them to.  This will provide the support you need until you are able to find happiness.

We hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday and New Year, and that you find your happiness!