LifeWork's response to coronavirus
A message from our director
March 18, 2020
Update: We are continuing to stay open during the worldwide pandemic. We are following all CDC guidelines and checking frequently to make sure we have the most up-to-date information. We are practicing an abundance of caution and feel that it is important to continue seeing our clients at this time. We are offering telehealth sessions (both individual and group) to anyone who would prefer that instead of coming into our office. There will be no extra charge for this.
Here are the reasons we are staying open for face-to-face visits:
Social isolation is not good for anyone. It can be helpful to take a break from people from time to time to recharge and reflect. It is, however, not a good thing for those with symptoms of depression, anxiety, effects of trauma, etc., to isolate for long periods of time (if you have those symptoms, you already understand this.)
Disconnection from people is a cause of these symptoms getting worse. Recognizing that others are suffering in the same ways that we are is powerfully therapeutic.
We will be breaking our groups apart and running two groups when the numbers in attendance are close to 8-10 people. We will also be encouraging people to use our different exits so as not to have people congregating. We will also be more proactive in using both of the waiting areas we have.
If you are uncomfortable coming in, by all means take advantage of our teletherapy services.
Please do not stop treatment. The temptation at times like these can be to shut everything down. If you need therapy, then you need therapy. All of us needs help at times.
I encourage everyone to use WISE MIND and make decisions based in Wise Mind, rather than using EMOTION MIND or REASONABLE MIND. We will get through this time as skillfully as we can.
March 10, 2020
At LifeWork, we are taking precautions to keep you safe in light of the recent outbreak of coronavirus. Your overall health and well-being are a top priority for us. We plan to take the following precautions to protect the health of our clients and employees.
If a LifeWork employee becomes ill, we will ask them to stay home. If you are feeling ill, we will ask you to do the same. During this time, we will waive any cancellation fees if you need to miss an appointment due to illness. We will also allow any fees from skills group to be carried over to the next month if you miss a group due to illness. Please be sure to contact your therapist or group leader prior to group if you need to miss a group.
Please wash your hands frequently, and please use the hand sanitizer on the tables in the group room. Please continue to be cautious about the health of those around you.
We will be checking regularly with the St. Louis County Health Dept. for ongoing recommendations and will alert you to any changes to our services.
If the situation worsens in St. Louis, LifeWork will be prepared to offer telehealth sessions as necessary. We may work to conduct our skills groups remotely if needed through Zoom or a similar online platform. You will be informed of any developments if these accommodations begin. We will inform you by 3 p.m. if we will cancel any evening groups or sessions. Please make sure that we have your e-mail for contact.
Currently we plan to continue business in our office as usual. At the same time, we will be stepping up disinfecting efforts at our locations and make you aware of any changes that may occur.
We continue our commitment to support you during this time, and please reach out if you have any ongoing concerns or recommendations.
Jeff Brenneman, LCSW
What skills might be most helpful now? Start with Cope Ahead.
Concern about coronavirus has come to the St. Louis area. For some, there is heightened anxiety. For some, there may be hysteria. For all, there is an opportunity for practicing skills taught in DBT. One that comes to mind is Cope Ahead from the Emotion Regulation module of skills.
When anxiety, worry, or panic may strike and you want to avoid, run away, or hide, Cope Ahead could be just the skill that is needed to help you become more skillful. Cope Ahead consists of paying attention to an upcoming event or situation that most likely will produce strong emotion. The arrival of coronavirus qualifies as a strong emotional event for many, if not all, of us. You may become worried that you will contract the virus, or maybe just the idea of a virus is enough to produce a reaction within you.
If we are not careful, emotions will run our decisions whether we react strongly or overcontrol them. In those cases, we will often look back and wonder if what our actions made sense in that moment.
When utilizing the skill of Cope Ahead, we focus on a potential situation and begin to imagine it as fully as we possibly can. So, here we are, a little anxiety, maybe a slight panic about the coronavirus being in the St. Louis area. That anxiety, that panic, may make you have urges to do things that deep down inside you know would not be helpful and that you may regret later.
Here are some steps you can follow to Cope Ahead:
Describe the situation to yourself, using factual descriptions of the situation. “The first case of the coronavirus has been discovered in St. Louis. Fear and anxiety are likely to make it difficult for me to think about how to handle this situation.”
Decide what skills you want to use in this situation. Maybe you want to engage one of your five senses intensely to get your mind back to right now. Maybe you want to use Check the Facts to look at whether going in for your appointment makes sense. Maybe you want to talk with someone to see if they can help you get a bigger perspective and see if your emotions fit the situation.
Maybe the fear is exposure to the coronavirus, and you may want to play that out in as much detail as you can. What would you do if you knew you were exposed? Call your doctor? Head to an urgent care? Maybe just stay home in voluntary quarantine?
Maybe you would think through the steps that you can take to keep yourself safe without disrupting your life too much. For example, plan to stay away from large crowds of people. You may say, “I will wash my hands multiple times per day instead of just after I go to the bathroom. I will make sure that I cough or sneeze into my elbow so that I am protecting others around me.”
Think about how you might handle any worry or anxiety thoughts that you would have coming in to the office. Visualize in your mind acting effectively and without the anxiety. Visualize acting from Wise Mind. And then practice relaxing. Let the tension leave your muscles. Used paired muscle relaxation if the tension will not leave.
Then notice that you have done a lot of work and have been quite effective. You can feel good about the practice, the effort and the result.
How to Cope Ahead for coronavirus
Did you know that there’s more to do than simply planning to stock your pantry with the essentials, washing your hands and having disinfectant on hand? When it comes to any situations that elicit anxiety and stress, our society is very good at planning for the logistics.
What about managing the stress that is involved? Maybe your day-to-day routine has changed or could change? Maybe you’re beginning to feel on edge when you leave your home. Do you notice a surge of anxiety when you hear someone cough? Do you find yourself being hooked to the online articles about the coronavirus? This is a potentially long-term and chronic stressor. We can reassure ourselves with precautions, and that can help reduce the stress we feel temporarily. But what about each of these surges we might experience throughout the day? What plan do you have for that?
Coping Ahead for anything, coronavirus included, is more than prepping for the logistics. It’s also planning for the stress you’re experiencing and likely to continue to experience. Coping Ahead is planning for the needs you will have AND planning to emotionally cope with the stress you’re feeling.
When we feel nervous or anxious, we often play the worst-case scenario in our minds and then try to distract ourselves or push the thought away. Instead of pushing the thought away, could you visualize yourself coping with it well? This means inviting in some of the panic, anxiety, disappointment or another emotion, and seeing yourself respond with effectiveness.
What would this skill look like?
Let’s break it down. Let’s say you have to be in your home for an extended period of time and you’re worried about feeling “cooped up” or worried about increasing stress. What skills could you use to lessen the distress? Can you envision yourself taking walks each day? Connecting with others via technology? Planning enjoyable activities that help regulate your mood? Maybe pulling out that project you’ve been putting off? Throughout this plan, can you imagine yourself beginning to feel stress and then utilizing some of your plan to respond to the stress? You can then practice relaxation techniques and breathing exercises as you do this visualization. Imagine yourself responding well to the stress and fear. If it’s stress you feel when being out of your home, how can you respond to the anxiety? Can you lean into it and visualize yourself breathing through the surge of anxiety you feel when you hear someone coughing?
In this situation, it’s important to practice relaxing your body each and every time you hear and/or think about the coronavirus. Pay attention to the fear so you can avoid becoming ruled by it.
And of course, reach out for support!
Rachael Livasy, LPC