May 1, 2020
Coping in the time of
Q&A with HOPE CEO, Darlene Davis
Q. How can people access mental health resources when there is a shelter in place order in CA?
A. Fortunately we are able to offer what is known as “telehealth” or “teletherapy”. It is a live video/audio platform where you can meet in a private session with your therapist. This keeps clients and counselors safe and healthy. Telehealth has been utilized for many years. We can also offer therapy over the phone. What could be better than laying on your couch in comfy clothing and talking to your therapist!
Q. What are the biggest challenges your clients are facing while they practice social distancing / quarantine?
A. Clients, or should I say everyone has some type of mental health challenge and social distancing can make these challenges worse. Think about if you are an anxious person and you are on “shelter in place” and all you have for connection is the news that reports all the sickness and death going on in the world. This causes more anxiety and yet you can’t utilize your coping mechanisms such as, exercising, gathering with friends, joining an activity with others. Telehealth can offer new more appropriate coping mechanisms and a connection to someone that can help.
Q. What are some helpful mental health tips that people can try at home while they are in quarantine?
A. We all have to be creative right now. Even though you cannot gather with friends and family you can feel close to them through the same platforms we use for telehealth. Have a “happy hour” gathering via Zoom with your friends. Share a cooking experience with a family member. You can both have a Zoom session while making a recipe together. Another helpful tip is to turn off the news. Sometimes it’s habit to leave the news on in the background not realizing your brain is soaking it all in. Watch it one time a day for any important updates and then turn it off. Lastly make a list of those things you always say you don’t have time for and schedule it in your day just like you scheduled work tasks when you were working all the time! You will have a feeling of accomplishment when you complete the task and you can remind yourself that when the shelter in place is lifted you will definitely not want to do those tasks then, instead you will want to get back out in society and have some fun!
Q. What are some of the common mental health effects you’re seeing from people who are currently experiencing unemployment due to COVID-19? If so, what are they and do you have any recommendations on how to mitigate those effects during these uncertain times?
A. It’s such a hard time right now. This has affected our most basic needs, shelter, food, connection. Many do not have jobs and are waiting for assistance. The bright side that may be possible is that most everyone will have their jobs once we return to normal, we will definitely have a greater sense of gratefulness for those we love, and we may have learned some new skills that allow us to live on a more economical level. With that said it doesn’t necessarily help in the moment but sometimes all we have in the moment is Hope . Sometimes it’s difficult to ask for help but we are all in this together so if you can reach out for help whether it’s emotional support, financial support, or just to be reminded you are not alone, do it!
Q. How important is it for people to go outside and get fresh air every day during these shelter in place restrictions?
A. I’m not a doctor but we all know how important it is to get outside in the sunlight. Our bodies need the Vitamin D! Take a walk somewhere and listen to the birds, look at the beautiful flowers, and remember to practice social distancing even when outside.
Q. Do you have any general parenting tips for parents who are balancing work and childcare at home? What is essential that we teach our kids everyday and what can we let go of?
A. It’s so difficult for parents to now become teachers on top of all the other hats we wear! So first thing is give yourself a break. You didn’t go to school and get a master’s degree so you could be a school teacher! The kids know more than they may admit. They can adapt much faster than adults to change. Let them take on some of the responsibility of guiding the process. Stay connected to your child(s) school for any assistance they can offer. Keep a routine. Help them feel safe and secure through this time of uncertainty. Choose connection and love over academic frustrations!
Q. How can I level out the ups and downs? I am gainfully employed and grateful for the opportunity to work from home, but there are points in the day where I feel overwhelmed with anxiety or “heaviness”. Do you have tips for this? Is this normal?
A. OMG so normal! Many of us are working in a completely different environment than what we are used to and what we enjoy. We no longer stop to talk with an office mate, go to lunch, or share what you had for dinner last night while taking a walk around the office complex. So while working at home take the same time to walk around the block, send an email or call and talk about a recipe. Sit in your dining room and eat your lunch, don’t sit at your computer! Find something on the internet to laugh at. There are so many parody’s right now about the pandemic. Allow yourself to laugh.
Q. I am used to working full time and only being with my child in the morning and during bedtime. This transition to being at home with my child 24/7 is difficult and I am simply not happy being with my family this often. What are your thoughts? How bad is this?
A. Forgive yourself. You cannot be a teacher, a parent, and a working parent 100% all at the same time! Give grace to yourself and to family members. We all default to old coping mechanisms that aren’t necessarily positive during times of stress. One idea is to have a funny code word when you feel you or someone in your family is acting out in a way you or they may regret. This will cause everyone to stop and think and maybe even chuckle.
May 20, 2020
Q&A with The Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) and HOPE CEO, Darlene Davis
Q. There are certain items that people are panic-buying that is keeping store shelves empty. This includes toilet paper, hand sanitizer, flour and yeast, cleaning supplies, canned food, pasta, spray bottles, diapers, and formula. Can you tell me why people are so panicked about purchasing these items and the behavioral science behind their decisions?
A. Yes when people are fearful that their basic needs will not be met they go into crisis mode and begin to behave in ways they might not normally behave. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs says that the longer we are without food, water, warmth, and rest, known as our physiological needs the more we will want for those things maybe even to excess. The fight, flight, or freeze mentality takes over and rationale thinking goes off line. Their brain may say, “do whatever it takes”.
Humans can also become part of the “mob mentality”. According to Kristen Polito in an article on Inpathybulletin.com, “This is where humans adopt behaviors, buy merchandise, and follow trends based on their circle of influence”. The belief may be that everyone else is going to buy up all the toilet paper, hand sanitizer, etc., so I better get it first.
Q. Why do you think people stockpile these things even after authorities tell them they don't need to and that the supply is good?
A. Again it’s based more on what our emotional brain is telling us. We have all been isolated to a degree except maybe to go to the grocery store. Early on we saw other’s buying excessive amounts of toilet paper and we tell ourselves that something bad must be happening or will happen soon so I need to “join the group”. This can make us feel part of something and not so isolated. This behavior is emotionally driven.
Q. Do you think some people hoard more than others and if so, is there a reason why?
A. Some people already have a tendency to stock up or even hoard items. This can be among other factors, due to anxiety, depression, or an obsessive compulsive disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, hoarding disorder occurs in 2 to 6 percent of the population and are more prevalent in older males age 55 to 94. There’s a sense of need for the particular items and an unwillingness to part with these items. This can isolate the person from others which unfortunately causes more anxiety and depression. It’s a vicious cycle.
Q. Is there a difference between a hoarder who stockpiles junk and items to the point that it disrupts their daily activities and the hoarding people are doing during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A. Hoarding disorder is found in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) and is not necessarily connected to an event although an event that is traumatic could trigger hoarding. I think the majority of the stockpiling we are seeing does not meet the criteria of a hoarding disorder. More so people are fearful that this may go on for a long time or worse yet it will be like this forever. The more they hear bad news the more their fear and anxiety grows.
Q. When do people need to seek therapy if they think the hoarding is out of control?
A. Whenever a behavior affects someone’s daily functioning it would be beneficial to talk with a trained professional such as a therapist. Therapists have the training and skills to help people. Therapists utilize cognitive therapy and other modalities to change people’s way of thinking and therefore improve functioning, increase supports, and build healthy relationships.
Q. The shortage of flour and yeast points to people just wanting to bake because they have nothing else to do. Do you think this is a good way to relieve the stress of lockdown or is it not a good idea to rid the shelves of flour?
A. This is a double edged question. Yes it can bring comfort to people as they find the time to bake. It can be a very mindful activity. The downside is comfort food usually contributes to weight gain or empty calorie intake. This can effect self-esteem and lead to more depression/anxiety and health issues in the future. Moderation is always the key.
Q. Anything else you can think of that you would like to point out about people hoarding/stockpiling goods?
A. During this very difficult time it is important to seek out reliable and factual information but to limit the amount in a given day. Trying to find normalcy in everyday life and find ways to connect with loved ones can help reduce the feelings or isolation and/or fear driven decisions.