October 20th, 2020
Co-authored by Dr. Holly Holmes-Meredith and Bill Yarborough.
The Coronavirus pandemic, out-of-control wildfires, and an intense election cycle are all contributing to heighten levels of anxiety and depression in many. BenefitsPRO reported that a study published in early September found depression symptoms among U.S. adults has increased threefold during the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers from Boston University and the University of Chicago announced that depression symptoms jumped from 8.5% before the pandemic to nearly 28% after the pandemic took hold.
One helpful option available to us to gain relief from the pandemic and sheltering-in-place are walking outdoors and small gatherings at parks, outdoor restaurants, or backyard patios. But even those avenues are sometimes limited in Contra Costa County and much of the West Coast because of red flag warnings and the poor air quality from the wildfires.
So, must we grow increasingly anxious or depressed during these challenging times? When the helpful resources to relieve anxiety become restricted, explore those resources that lie within you.
Sometimes following such a path can lead to a life-changing renewal.
Holly had a client who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Besides receiving medical treatment, she embarked on a healing journey where she focused on how to make different life decisions. Instead of overusing drugs, she learned to establish better boundaries and found the strength to say “no.” She completed her healing journey and overcame her cancer.
“This may sound strange, but cancer was my biggest teacher,” she said. “It helped me realize what is important.”
There are many ways to explore the resources within. Some may choose creativity. Bill did so in his 20s when his brother became severely ill. It was difficult to witness the hardships the illness created not just for his brother but for his entire family. To find relief, Bill chose creative writing as an outlet. This choice led to a life-long passion for writing, which also markedly improved his job performance by enhancing his writing skills. Many people likewise turn to journaling to traverse difficult times. Numerous therapists recommend it as a therapeutic technique. Of course, there are other creative outlets, such as artwork, crafts, study programs, photography, blogging, organizing, video production, and countless others.
Generosity is another avenue. We met a couple who lost a child a number of years ago. To deal with the grief, they created a nonprofit, the Forever Family Foundation, designed to help other parents cope with the loss of a child or other loved ones. It became an enduring, caring organization, which has helped innumerable individuals better cope with bereavement. During the pandemic and wildfires, many individuals have given time and money to worthy causes helping those suffering through hardships, like the loss of a job, home, health, social contacts, or death of a loved one.
When you go through a period of challenges, you might want to focus on what matters to you. During this election season, you have an opportunity to have your voice heard through the ballot box. Some people are writing cards or making phone calls to voters in battleground states urging them to vote. If you are anxious about the outcome of the election, taking a proactive step may lessen your anxiety.
Of course, many find inner strength by turning to a higher power. Alcoholics Anonymous has long maintained it is a vital step to recovery from addiction. Religious, spiritual, and therapeutic practitioners can show you how to access the higher power of your belief system as well as your inner resources. Prayer, meditation, hypnosis, energetic exercises, such as Reiki, are just a few of the possible approaches that can lead you to become connected with something greater than yourself.
We all possess inner resources that hold the potential to turn us in a positive and life-changing direction. When times are good, we are often not compelled to explore those possibilities. But during hard times, such as these, we may have greater motivation and more time to engage in such an exploration.
If you find it difficult to address your anxiety or depression on your own, seeking professional help from a qualified practitioner can make a significant difference. Many practitioners are available online or in-person using a variety of therapeutic techniques to assist you. Teaching professionals often have interns who charge minimal amounts.
By Dr. Holly Holmes-Meredith, D. Min., MFT, Board Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Bill Yarborough, CHT, and Certified EFT Practitioner.
Below is the link to the October Diablo Gazette. Our Emotional Health column is on page 5.