It was around 500 B.C. when the Greek philosopher Heraclitus offered one of his most enduring observations:
“The only thing inevitable in life is change.”
Certainly, we all recognize that change is a fundamental aspect of life. However, when change comes upon us suddenly and upends our lives, the fallout can be psychologically difficult to handle. Mentally challenging change isn’t always sudden in nature, however. It can also be more plodding or creeping.
For example, climate change has been encroaching upon us for decades. The dire warnings of scientists and media coverage of an ever-worsening situation that is producing more wildfires, catastrophic floods, hurricanes, and droughts are all coming true. It paints over our lives with a constant nagging sense of fear and worry.
Now consider a change that’s more acute. The COVID-19 pandemic raged into public consciousness in the early months of 2020. It wasn’t long before the general normalcy we took for granted was suddenly relegated to the past. Now, something as simple as going out to a bar for a drink, attending a kid’s soccer game, or going out for a meal in a restaurant may bring upon nothing less than the possibility of death!
Ashley Ertel is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) who offers her psychological counseling services through Talkspace, the online mental therapy app. She said the upheaval of changes the people of the United States have been enduring in recent months has dramatically increased incidents of anxiety, depression, flare-ups of problems with physical health, and more.
Ertel said tens of thousands of people are struggling to cope with what psychologists call “adjustment disorders.” John Hopkins Medicine defines adjustment disorder as an “emotional or behavioral reaction to stressful events that change people’s lives.”
Ertel and other Talkspace mental health therapists have been witnessing a dramatic increase in people logging into and signing up for digital counselling services.
Fortunately, Talkspace is exactly the kind of health care delivery system needed in pandemic times. Lockdowns and the necessity to avoid public places — including the physical offices of psychologists, counselors, and therapists — make connecting with a qualified mental health care provider a genuine concern. Getting the same quality of mental health care through a connected device turns out to have become a timely solution. It’s also one less thing to worry about.
Talkspace therapists say that an excellent coping strategy is “grounding.” It’s a simple but powerful exercise that involves stopping one’s thoughts from dwelling upon the swirling chaos by changing focus to plant yourself more firmly “in the moment.”
Ertel suggests the 5-4-3-2-1 method to ground yourself daily. Identify five things you can see, four things you can feel or touch, three things you can hear, two things to smell, and one you can taste. Then just experience them. Doing this exercise once or twice a day will anchor you at the moment. It engenders the feeling of having a higher degree of control over your personal existence.
Feeling anchored and grounded is exactly what millions of people need right now, Ertel said.