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Lifestyle, Uncategorized, Wellness

Managing Anxiety & Mental Health Support with Tools to ‘Navigate the New Normal’

Daphne Thompson | April 20, 2020

If you’re experiencing shifts in your mental health as you navigate the “new normals” brought on by the coronavirus pandemic – please know that you’re not alone. With no definite end in sight to the rules and regulations in place to get us through this unprecedented time, so many of us simply don’t know how to cope with what we’re being told to do. During Mama Glow’s webinar ‘Managing Fear, Anxiety & Stress: Mental Health Support and Tools to Navigate the New Normal‘, Latham Thomas and Nneka Symister got candid about what this moment in time means for how we process the emotions and experiences that come with what Symister calls physical (not social) distance.

Mental health support during the prenatal period is important especially during a time like this when women have the added stress of the consequences of COVID-19 to consider. In the U.S., 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression and anxiety. Of that number, only 15% of women are receiving treatment each year. African-American women are stasticically less likely to receive care for depressive symptoms. Postpartum depression is a perinatal mood disorder and some people may have anxiety or depression that can be mild or severe and if left without treatment, the symptoms can amplify. If the new mother has access to mental health support during the prenatal period, the risks for postpartum depression decrease. Access to community support can make a huge difference. There are free and low-cost digital support groups and HIPPA compliant mental health counseling support available. Many providers are currently offering their services on a sliding scale.

Symister reminded us that although “I feel anxious” is a common response from those struggling with the current state of things, coronavirus hasn’t been impacting our lives for 6 months – which means these feelings we’re facing are not anxiety, but something else. By saying we have anxiety about what’s going on, we’re avoiding actually identifying and coming to terms with the fact that we’re experiencing fear, anger, disappointment, grief, sadness. By getting specific about what we’re feeling, we can then start to respond to it. It is important to recognize the function of our fear, as a healthy dose of fear keeps us doing what we need to do in order to stay safe. Furthermore, everyone is experiencing some kind of grief through this time – loss of people, loss of expectations, loss of plans, an entire birth plan and support out the window, loss of certainty for a future that we’ve had to take a pause in planning. It’s normal to have bad days, and while everyone wants to rush through everything but happiness, the emotions that don’t feel great are valid. Not only at a time like this, but always.

Once we know what we’re feeling and how it’s impacting us, we can start to navigate the present moment. If thinking about the longterm is overwhelming, think about time in shorter spans (i.e. 2 weeks at a time). If the news is adding to your fear, choose one news source you trust and restrict the amount of time you spend with it. If your family or partner are causing stress, allow yourself to set boundaries that give you private time away from the other people in your home.

Symister challenges us to identify our emotional triggers, establish our bandwidth for what we can handle, and decide how we are going to show up for ourselves before determine how much we are able to give to others. For doulas in particular, this time offers a rare opportunity for you to share with your client in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to, since you are both going through this same thing, at the same time, for the first time; however, you can’t show up if you’re lying about your feelings and not taking care of yourself.

So, how do you take care of yourself? Symister suggests starting each morning with a breathing exercise and at least one chosen thing that’s solely for you. It could be quietly drinking tea, checking in with a friend, preparing for the baby in some way (if you’re expecting). To maintain structure, dedicate yourself to ending the day with the same ritual.

To help tend to and maintain your mental health, through the present moment and into the future, read on for some resources you can take advantage of (curated with love by Nneka Symister and Mama Glow).  Take the tools that work for you and serve you, and let go of what doesn’t — there isn’t one “right” way to do this.

Affordable Therapy

Because of telehealth, all providers are able to give virtual care (earning the same amount of money that they were able to with in-person visits) and it is covered by insurance, including medicaid and medicare. Affordable therapy options include group sessions, mindfulness practices, community groups and people to talk to who will be able to hold space for you.

While speaking to a professional can be helpful, the most important thing is having people who you trust to share your feelings with, who can support you as you work through problems. Symister reminds us that saying “I’m fine” when someone asks how you’re doing doesn’t give the person who’s talking to you anything to follow up with that will provide you with support and help you move through it.

If you’re looking for therapy, here are some resources that Symister recommends:

We at Mama Glow are excited about the many companies making tele-therapy even more accessible.

Places for mothers and families specifically offering programs and services.

  • The Motherhood Center
  • The Seleni Institute
  • Postpartum Resource Center of New York

Podcasts

  • Therapy for Black Girls
  • The AFFIRM Podcast
  • Homecoming Podcast

Affirmations & Meditations

While it’s normal to have negative thoughts through this time, it can be helpful to focus on the good things that are happening right now because of the situation you’ve found yourself in. Rather than dwelling on what you’ve lost or what you’re missing out on, Symister challenges us to use “I get to…” as a mantra and affirmation that rewires our way of thinking and dealing.

There are a number of prerecorded affirmations and meditations available online, which can guide you toward a more positive and relax state, including:

Helpful Apps

These are our favorite apps for guided meditation and mindfulness.

Mindful Living Books

Journaling

You can’t think faster than you can write, so journaling and writing things down can be an effective way to slow your mind. If you’re triggered being triggered by multiple things at the same time, tackle one thing at a time in a journal, and accept that you’re not going to be able to figure out everything. You can also make a schedule and checklist of resources/tools you can use to work through an issue that is triggering you. Having a task list to check off as you complete each item can help you stay on-track and prevent you from spiraling too deeply into overwhelming thoughts that prevent productivity. Keep an audio log of your feelings, if you don’t want to write down your thoughts, speak them out instead and record what you have to say. Put the recording away for a while, and then listen back to it and give the advice you would give to someone else.

In addition to journal-keeping, here are some tools to help you get into the practice of tracking your feelings on a day-to-day basis:

Grounding Exercises

Breathing and grounding exercises are easy techniques to keep in your back pocket whenever you or your clients may need them. Here are a few we find helpful:

  • 54321: This simple grounding technique can be used to focus on the present moment. All you have to do is identify and experience 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can touch.
  • Sweet Sixteen: This breathing exercise encourages you to breathe in and out for 4 beats each, bringing your attention to a repetitive physical action and away from the overwhelming thought or feeling.
  • Qigong: For a full-body grounding practice, qigong coordinates body-posture and movement, breathing, and meditation.
  • Tapping: Tapping is a powerful self-soothing technique that combines modern psychology and ancient Chinese acupressure points. Tapping has been clinically proven to reduce the cortisol levels in the body. Join us for a master class in tapping. Pregnant During a Pandemic: Learn EFT Tapping to Release Stress & Anxiety

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