Finding Meaning and Hope in the Midst of Loss

We are living in unusual times where the whole world is experiencing loss. Sadly, many have lost loved ones to this aggressively-spreading coronavirus. Many more are losing jobs, seeing businesses shut down or investments dwindle in value. All of us have experienced the loss of cancelled events, postponed vacations, and isolation from extended family, friends, co-workers and communities. The purpose of this blog is to help to bring some hope in the midst of our common, universal loss.

Some of you may have heard of “wilderness therapy camps” whose purpose is to remove the visitor from all the distractions of daily life, stripping them of modern amenities so they can self-reflect and reset their life with the goal of moving forward in a more productive way (for example, see www.openskywilderness.com.)

Currently many of us feel as if we are in our own “wilderness camp” with the removal from our normal ways of life. Why not take this time to reflect on and reboot your life? The Hebrew word selāh denotes a musical interlude, a pause or break in a song, a place to reflect back, contemplate and prepare for what lies ahead. In my work with clients and talking with family and friends I am finding that some of us are doing this very thing.

For example, many people are choosing to count their blessings and reflect on the value of the things we may have taken for granted. This can result in a new level of appreciation for family and personal relationships. I have even heard of people being being reconciled with loved ones they have been in conflict with. Families are finding new ways of relating while working from home and supervising their children as they are home-schooled. Individuals are having time to reflect on their lives, and decide what is most important to them.

In 1969, noted psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross pioneered the concept of the five stages of grief which many of you are probably familiar with. Several years later she co-authored a book with David Kessler called Grief and Grieving which outlined the five stages of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Sadness and Acceptance. David, through his own experience with grief came, to discover a sixth stage he calls the “Meaning” strage and wrote about it in his latest book called Finding Meaning:

“In the sixth stage we acknowledge that although for most of us grief will lessen in intensity over time, it will never end. But if we allow ourselves to move fully into this crucial and profound sixth stage- meaning- it will allow us to transform grief into something else, into something rich and fulfilling. Through meaning we can find more than pain, Loss can wound and paralyse. It can hang over us for years. But finding meaning in loss empowers us to find a path forward.”

David Kessler, Finding Meaning

Finding meaning is not an escape from the other stages, but instead offers you something that takes you beyond just simply accepting your loss.

I encourage you to use this time for your own selāh; find some time to reflect on your life and relationships, examine what you believe in, and find or reinforce a greater purpose for your life. I hope you will find a path forward through whatever loss you are experiencing, and while processing your own grief, move on to that final stage of finding meaning.

Adjusting to the “New Normal” During the Pandemic

Depending on your season of your life and situation, your day may consist of working remotely, trying to keep your home stocked with necessities, home-schooling and entertaining your children and finding new ways interact with people online. Your routine for food shopping has become a project and things that were important a few weeks ago no longer matter.

Yesterday I was sorting through my shoes and realized I now only need three pairs. One for walking, one pair of sandals for when it gets hot, and one to hike in. I won’t be going to the office or out, so there is no reason to dress up. It felt a bit weird but also refreshing.

The COVID-19 Pandemic is causing all of us to experience loss as we hunker down at home. The best way to recover from loss is to acknowledge how sad, difficult or frustrating it is and allow yourself to feel. Common feelings during this Pandemic are anger, disappointment, loneliness, and sadness.

You may be feeling anger at the inconveniences, financial pressures or the delaying of your goals. You may be disappointed because a planned vacation has to be postponed or an anticipated event or your favorite activities have been cancelled. You are most likely feeling lonely due to the shelter-in-place order, missing seeing your friends and family and wishing you could get out and be social. The news and observing what others are enduring has made all of us feel sad.

If you allow yourself to pay attention to how you are feeling, perhaps have a good cry, and talk about the loss with others, you may be able to get to a level of acceptance of your current situation sooner. Acceptance doesn’t mean you like the obstacles the or the loss, but it gives you the ability to move on and live your life to the best of your ability. It gives you the strength to find peace in the midst of a precarious situation.

None of us know exactly what is ahead of us, but we can find a new normal in the midst of this season. If we try to live each day as it comes and work at becoming content with the current routines, simple activities and new challenges, we may settle in and adjust to this temporary change.

I think this is a good time to reflect on the Serenity prayer (Alcoholics Anonymous) most of us are familiar with: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

Managing Anxiety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Many people are working from home, schools and businesses are closing, grocery store shelves are depleted and “social distancing” guidelines have severely restricted our public gatherings. With so many stress factors from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s perfectly normal to feel some level of anxiety. You may be feeling unsafe, have trouble sleeping, experience distressing emotions, feel lonely due to social isolation or dealing with work-life balance issues. The more stress, the more vulnerable you can become to viruses.

I wanted to share a few things that can help you stay calm and function normally during this trying season.

Managing your Media Intake

There’s a fine line between staying informed and feeling overwhelmed by the news. In times like these, people tend to read and listen to the news most of the day. Research has shown that in natural disasters as people’s media exposure increases, so does their anxiety. While you shouldn’t avoid the news entirely, it’s important to limit your exposure. This is particularly true for social media, which can be vague or sensationalized. Rely on trusted forms of communication such as our local Marin County authorities, the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

Stick to Routine as Much as Possible

Your usual commute and life schedule might be uprooted, especially if you are working from home. Creating and following a new routine can be very calming, especially when it feels as though a lot of things are changing around you.

For example, set a schedule for yourself if you are telecommuting which allows you to take proper breaks and get enough relaxation. If you have children at home because schools are closed, plan a new routine schedule that works for all of you. Try and make the most of additional time spent with your family.

It’s also important to continue to exercise and eat healthy foods (and avoid caffeine which can increase your anxiety). If you usually relax on the weekend with books or movies, continue to do that. Prioritize sleep as research shows that people who are rested are better at protecting themselves from viruses.

Try and live “in the moment”

Give mindfulness a try. Each day brings us enough to deal with and decisions to be made. You will feel less anxiety if you live in the moment and not worry about tomorrow. Being mindful is not complicated or obscure: it means to take note of what is happening with the people and environment around you in the in the moment. Examples of everyday mindfulness include being present in a conversation, enjoying a walk with a loved one, or savoring every bite of your favorite food. Finding joy in simple pleasures can help you feel happier.

Be mindful of your emotions. If you allow yourself to feel your emotions they will more quickly pass. Anxiety gets worse when you try and shut out your feelings. You may look for ways to distract yourself, and that can be helpful as long as you still allow yourself time to feel.

Know you are not alone

Stay connected with family and friends because the pandemic can be very isolating. Looking out for your neighbors, family, friends and coworkers can also provide relief because we are social creatures by nature and helping others gives us a sense of purpose, reminding us that are are all in this together. When reaching out to friends and family try to find other things to talk about as it makes life feel more normal and can relieve their anxiety as well as your own.

Get outside in the fresh air

Getting out in the sunshine or nature can relax you. Realizing there is good in the world while in the midst of crisis can help you feel grounded. From a practical perspective, research has found that viruses have more difficulty adhering to people and surfaces in the fresh air. So go for that walk, sit outside and enjoy the beauty of creation.

May you and your family stay healthy, happy and calm during this temporary season.

Expanded hours, reduced fees for Online Counseling

Because of the current pandemic situation, I am offering expanded hours of availability (evenings and weekends) along with a 15% reduction to my regular fees for Online Counseling.

These changes apply to all existing and new clients located anywhere in California and will remain in effect until at least June 15, 2020.

Please contact me if you would like to schedule an online session. I also offer a FREE 20-minute introductory session for new clients.

7 Benefits of Online Counseling

The American Psychological Association recently found that one out of every four adults in the U.S. could benefit from counseling but only 13% of people get any kind of help. While there are many reasons for people to be hesitant to seek out a counselor, our busy lives and increasing pressures on all fronts are a major factor, not to mention that finding a therapist you can work with can be a daunting task.

Experts agree that Online Counseling is one of the solutions to help alleviate this situation, and in many situations has been found to be just as effective as in-person therapy.

I have outlined below 7 benefits of Online Counseling and why it is growing in popularity among my client base to the point where almost 25% are preferring the online option for at least some of their therapy sessions.

High-quality video-conferencing technology makes counseling accessible, effective and secure for everyone
(actual screen capture from a session)

Have more questions?
Visit my Online Counseling page here
Want to schedule a FREE 20-minute introductory online or phone session?
Visit my Contact Me page here

BENEFIT #1 – CHEMISTRY
The successfulness of any kind therapy has a lot to do with the “chemistry” between you and the therapist. You may not be able to find a professional in your area you like and who shares your values, but online counseling offers a much broader range of choices and also makes if simpler to determine if the chemistry is right without having to physically visit the therapy office. Therapists are licensed on a per-state basis, so I can work with clients anywhere in the state of California.

BENEFIT #2 – CONVENIENCE
How often do you physically visit your bank or a bookstore anymore? It goes without saying that we increasingly live in an online culture, and with the wide availability of fast internet connections and inexpensive computers with video chat capabilities, meeting online with your therapist is not only effective but can save you hours of time compared to in-person sessions, all from the comfort of your home or other private location.

BENEFIT #3 – PRIVACY
Doing your sessions online with an experienced therapist not only feels more confidential and private but in reality means you don’t have to physically visit an office building and the only person you will be interacting with is the therapist herself or himself. I use a HIPAA-compliant, fully-secure video conferencing system that assures your privacy, and sessions are never recorded. (Read more about this here).

BENEFIT #4 – ACCESSIBLE FOR THOSE WITH DISABILITIES OR ILLNESS
Those who have physical or emotional disabilities which hinder their ability to visit a therapist in person can easily benefit from online counseling. My in-person clients also appreciate that they can still meet with me online when they are sick or extra tired.

BENEFIT #5 – NO CHILDCARE, NO PROBLEM
Parents (or other caregivers for that matter) can still get quality counseling via the online option without having to arrange for childcare or a substitute caregiver.

BENEFIT #6 – SESSION FLEXIBILITY
Online counseling sessions provide more flexibility for clients with demanding, fluid schedules. For example, some of my clients will supplement their in-person sessions with online sessions because of travel or scheduling conflicts. In general, I can be more flexible with session scheduling for online sessions versus in-person.

BENEFIT #7 – ENABLES MULTI-PARTY SESSIONS
It can be difficult or impossible to schedule in-person sessions, sometimes even with couples counseling where only two people are involved. And Family Therapy almost always involves two or more parties. My online counseling system supports up to five separate parties, each in different physical locations.

Announcing my new website!

It’s finally here! As you will notice I have an all-new website with many new features and more to come over time to allow me to serve my clients better:

  • Faster, cleaner and more secure
  • Quick and easy access for my Online Counseling clients to login to my online waiting room
  • A Blog which I will update with regular wellness tips, news and upcoming events for my clients and the community
  • New videos about me and my practice
  • Online, secure. electronic forms for my practice (going all paperless!)

If you have any suggestions or comments, drop me an email or use the Contact Me page.

Be well!

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