3 Therapeutic Techniques You Are Already Using to Cope During COVID-19
[Read Time: Estimated 10 mins]
COVID-19 is challenging us in almost every aspect of our lives. In response to the many disruptions, we are working from home, schooling from home, and even attending parties from home. Technology has been flexible to help pull us through all this uncertainty, however Synergy’s Clinical Supervisor, Terrie Sigler reminds us, “we are still confined for the current duration”. This confinement can be taxing on us psychologically!
Terrie works intimately with clients who struggle with feeling confined, even before COVID-19. She helps them unlock their hidden strengths to cope with disruptions. Her clients have goals to return to a more comfortable and functional way of living, and she empowers them. When her clients feel confined, Terrie uses three useful psychotherapeutic techniques to help stimulate their determination. These techniques are called relaxation, positive praise, and cognitive restructuring. They inspire resilience, meaning that they help us self-motivate and persevere when circumstances make us feel like quitting.
Over the past eight weeks, you probably experienced moments of difficulty that made you feel like stopping. The new rules of this pandemic can feel unmanageable, and that is unbearably discouraging at times. You may not feel as though you are handling it alright, but coping is something to try and accept without judgement or value. Fact is, if you are reading this article right now, then by definition you are successfully coping already! You have made it to today, despite what happened yesterday. You did this by employing a series of strengths that you have. You lean on them in times of difficulty, and repeatedly, they pull you through.
The three techniques outlined below are used by psychotherapists with their clients. But you may be surprised to learn that you are already doing them on your own!
Anything done with intention to revitalize the body physically, mentally, and spiritually is called therapeutic relaxation. In psychotherapy, the first goal of relaxation is to increase awareness of the body, and the second is to reduce the uncomfortable physical symptoms detected by reducing the heart rate. The most common way this is accomplished in therapy is through deep breathing. However, there are countless ways to relax.
Unfortunately, the tangible or physical fruits of relaxation may not be immediately apparent to you! This is why it’s hard to justify doing relaxing activities regularly. How could reading a book, taking a bath, playing with your kids, doing yoga, writing in a journal, or playing golf help me get a report done for work?
COVID19, while slowing the world down, has given us opportunity. We are not expected to be producing as much. This lack of hustle invites us to examine ourselves without distraction. What do you notice? Now, more than ever, we are listening to our bodies which call for rest. Now, more than ever, we are giving ourselves permission to dedicate our time toward something rejuvenating. Every bath, book, and play is helping to replenish the energy needed to continue living. If you are taking advantage of the healing quality of relaxation, then you are using this psychotherapeutic technique successfully to cope!
2. Positive Praise
Research consistently proves that genuine praise is not only uplifting for a person’s well-being, but it is incredibly motivating. Psychotherapists consistently use positive praise to encourage clients who are struggling to mobilize themselves toward reaching goals. When praise is accepted, it builds trust and feelings of love and support. These are the factors that make us feel like we can do anything!
Think about the past month. Did you thank anyone for anything? Have you felt appreciation for the healthcare workers putting their lives at risk? Have you thanked the workers at your local grocery store providing essential needs to your community despite the danger to themselves? You thank them because you have genuine appreciation for them, and you want them to know it!
Now, what have you said to yourself in the past month? Have you thanked yourself for being flexible in your part to socially isolate? Have you acknowledged that you are a considerate daughter, brother, cousin, or grandson for checking in on a loved one? Do you feel uplifted that, despite the interruptions, you have helped your employer adapt in this time of uncertainty? Are you encouraged by your strength to overcome life’s unannounced obstacles?
If you accept the positivity of praise given to yourself, then you are coping! Praise can be as small as a whisper or as blatant as a reward. If you are honoring yourself in a way that motivates you to move forward, you are using praise to cope.
3. Cognitive Restructuring (aka Reframing)
Cognitive Restructuring or reframing is a fundamental technique used in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). Reframing happens when a person can change the way they perceive a situation to manipulate the way they feel about it.
If COVID19 has disrupted any part of your life, I guarantee that you are already using reframing to cope! For instance, maybe you felt guilty or inferior because the quantity or quality of your productivity has fallen during this time. Consequently, your guilt feeling de-motivated you and affected your output–most likely lowering it! We are accustomed to producing at a certain level, and our brains expect us to maintain that level no matter what.
Your brain does not accept COVID-19 (and all its stipulations) unless you introduce COVID-19 to it with a reframe. For example, compare your feelings regarding your current work output before and after this question: How much can I realistically expect to accomplish working from home while I’m limited on resources from the office and have all three kids here distracting me? If you experienced any relief of guilt or negative feeling, then you have successfully cognitively restructured! You’ve reframed your thinking about your current work output, your attitude is no longer soured by guilt, and you gave yourself permission to be satisfied producing what you can.
This psychotherapeutic technique requires you to believe that your reframed thought is plausible in the first place. While finding a reframed thought that fits can be rather difficult at times, if you can choose the right thought to counter those that pull you down, cognitive restructuring is a wonderful source of psychological relief!
Take a deep breath. COVID-19 has stretched all of us thin, but you are resilient! Use this article to acknowledge all you have done over the last eight weeks. Give yourself credit, and recognize the strengths you used to get you this far. How will you remember that giving yourself the time to relax, thanking yourself for surviving, and simply creating a new interpretation of your situation all made you feel better? Make a memory of these moments. When the next disruption comes, you will have the confidence to tell yourself, “I’ve managed this before”. Reframing, relaxation, and positive praise can be practiced. How will you continue to honor these strengths after our pandemic passes?
Building awareness of your personal strengths is the first step in any journey to overcome obstacles. If you are ever feeling helpless to face them because your obstacles are too great, then our therapists at Synergy can be a support for you. We are trained to help you unlock your potential in challenging, yet safe and supportive manner.
Written by Spencer Kilpatrick, LISW-CP
Posted Tuesday, April 21, 2020