How can I help at this time as a Counselling Psychologist?
I can and do try to process my own responses to the ongoing trauma of this pandemic.
I am vigilant in knowing the difference between a normal response to traumatic events with a heightened experience of anxiety, panic, irritability and depression that settles with time and resilience, to when my clients are feeling progressively overwhelmed with uncontained anxiety, major depression and the need for urgent, further professional intervention/s to prevent significant current and future mental health issues.
I can listen deeply and empathically to each person’s story. It is a privilege for me to share their stories and emotional tapestry in a collaborative, safe space; their anxieties, depression, joy, resilience and huge courage.
There has been a tendency to cook, bake and eat comfort food at a very distressing time in our lives. This is often an attempt to comfort the deep dis-ease within. We talk in therapy about clients’ different ways of sharing food with people who are desperately poor and hungry, to ways of donating money, time, talents or other resources with those who are in need. We talk also about the value of eating nutritious food and snacks at this time so as to avoid unnecessary weight gain; a common complaint of my clients.
It has been interesting in this slightly eased lockdown, to look and listen to the natural urge of most people who can, to get out and move around; walking, running, cycling. It goes without saying that exercise inside or preferably outside in the fresh air is a great way to burn up stress and to calm down. It is a way to feel in control when the unpredictability of the pandemic dictates that we do not have control, and may raise the question of whether we ever did have control in the first place.
With no control over the outside world and the future, I am enjoying metaphorically and virtually walking with my clients into their inner worlds; exploring their imagination and creativity; these from the foods that they are cooking and baking for themselves and for others to the paintings and other artworks that they are making. One client was waiting for lockdown to end so that she could buy mannequins to paint. When she could wait no longer, she searched her home and found some porcelain pots. She showed me the most beautiful artwork that she has created on these and how it has been so healing for her. This client is in lockdown after getting out of a physically dangerous marriage. So not only is she coping with the anxiety and depression of her abusive marriage but also with the isolation and financial uncertainty of her forthcoming divorce. I have been inspired by her courage and faith.
I can learn from the tools that people are creating and sharing with me and with others. I have listened to classical musicians playing wonderful music for patients who are in ICU in New York. They have organised to have phones placed next to patients. The patients who previously were hearing the frightening noises of the ICU are now hearing the beautiful sounds of music. The healthcare workers are reporting significant calming of the patients. I have encouraged my musical clients to play their music; for themselves and to hear the excitement in their voices, when they can join others in their neighbourhood or further afield and play music together. Those of us who do not play an instrument, can listen to the music of others and feel our breathing get deeper and more rhythmical.
Clients are remembering the fun memories that they treasured in their lives and the fun moments that they are experiencing through the pain and loss of the pandemic. This is not only okay but also recommended (without guilt) as a healing tool.
We are walking together into the unknown. While I have always felt respectful of my client’s journey and always believed that I should walk at the pace of my client, with this pandemic, I am even more careful and respectful to walk at the same pace as my client, so that we can navigate this everchanging learning curve together.
Regular sleep is known to build resilience with a healthy immune system. This helps us to cope better with anxiety, depression and the challenges of relationships. So sleep hygiene; with regular bedtime in a cool dark room is part of what I suggest. This, together with the relaxation exercises discussed below.
One of the skills that I learned and adapted over the past many years is deep muscle relaxation with creative visualisation and music. It is a tool that I have successfully shared in workshops with colleagues, the business community and in my private practice. I have used this, in general, to lower anxiety levels and in particular for pain relief, improved sleep and much more. I would like to offer this deep muscle relaxation to anyone who would like to use it. Should you wish to try this and add it to your toolkit, please send me an email to email@example.com with DEEP MUSCLE RELAXATION in the subject line and I shall send it to you via WeTransfer. There will be no cost to you.
If, however, you are feeling overwhelmed, and increasingly anxious and depressed, and this feeling persists for a while and is worsening over time; despite that you have used some of the above and/or your own self-help tools, reach out to your medical, psychological and/or holistic healthcare provider.
Some useful signs that you need more intensive help could be worsened sleep and eating patterns. This pandemic should also be viewed as a traumatic time in history; in our world, our minds and our bodies. With current thinking about the treatment of trauma, there is a tendency to not rush to treatment. Rather give the body and mind an opportunity to settle and to find a new equilibrium. So, in therapy my role is to look and listen and be cognisant of when to allow the process of time to heal and when to offer or suggest more intensive help.
Take Care and Stay Safe.
For information on talks and workshops, to order the books CDs, or if you would like to contact Dr Musikanth, please use the details below:
|Dr Susan Musikanth
609 Thorniebrae,York Rd,
Green Point 8005, Cape Town
|Telephone: +27 72 154 9695
Fax Number: 086 617 0656