Managing Anxiety and Worry Around COVID-19

Have you noticed your anxiety levels rising around the COVID-19 outbreak?

Do you find yourself worrying about what the illness means for you, your family and your friends?

Are you struggling to adapt to the ever-changing news stories, event cancellations and economic fluctuations?

You’re not alone. We’re all in this situation together: sharing the same worries.

The American Psychological Association has recently offered some strategies for managing the inevitable stress and fear that arises in situations like these where there are so many unknowns. Check them out:

Five Ways to View Coverage of the Coronavirus

Corona Virus

Tips

New reports about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, becoming more widespread are making some people anxious. Here are some tips to help you manage your anxiety, put news reports in perspective and maintain a positive outlook.

  1. Keep things in perspective. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that the number of confirmed infections in the U.S. is extremely low. The fact that there is a great deal of news coverage on this issue does not necessarily mean that it presents any threat to you or your family.
  2. Get the facts. It is helpful to adopt a more clinical and curious approach as you follow news reports about the virus. To that end, you will want to find a credible source you can trust. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a webpage dedicated to information on the coronavirus outbreak. You may also find useful information from local or state public health agencies or even your family physician.
  3. Communicate with your children.  Discuss the news coverage of the coronavirus with honest and age-appropriate information. Parents can also help allay distress by focusing children on routines and schedules. Remember that children will observe your behaviors and emotions for cues on how to manage their own feelings during this time.
  4. Keep connected.  Maintaining social networks can foster a sense of normality and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress. Feel free to share useful information you find on governmental websites with your friends and family. It will help them deal with their own anxiety.
  5. Seek additional help.  Individuals who feel an overwhelming nervousness, a lingering sadness, or other prolonged reactions that adversely affect their job performance or interpersonal relationships should consult with a trained and experienced mental health professional. Psychologists and other appropriate mental health providers can help people deal with extreme stress. These professionals work with individuals to help them find constructive ways to manage adversity.

For more ideas about coping with the emotional toll of COVID-19, check out the American Psychological Association’s Help Center.

Gun Ownership, Suicide and Safety

I recently saw this wonderful, sensitive and informative video clip created by the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment about firearms and suicide in this state. CDPHE partnered with Jimmy Graham, a firearms instructor at Centennial Gun Club to provide some tips and strategies for keeping guns out of the hands of folks considering suicide.

Some important points brought up in the video:

  • Colorado is consistently ranked in the top 10 states in terms of deaths by suicide
  • Suicidal crises and thoughts are often brief in nature – meaning folks often don’t plan their suicide for long periods of time. It is often an impulsive decision
  • Because of the impulsive nature of many of these decisions, it becomes important to “put time and space between a suicidal person and means” by which they can harm themselves (i.e., a gun)
  • It’s OK to ask a loved one directly if they are thinking about suicide. This WILL NOT make them more likely to attempt suicide, instead it will give them an opportunity to share feelings that can be hard to express.

This video offers important information about how to own guns, while also being mindful of the health and safety of those in our families. Check out this awesome resource:

Are You A Pro At Deflection?

Photo credit: Mindful.org

I was recently interviewed for an article about deflection over at Forge. While inspired by political events, like debates, the article offers so much more than the same old commentary about how politicians just say what they want to say and don’t answer the darn questions!

For example, the author describes different types of deflection used in various communications. Check out some of the excerpts from the article:

The Pivot: You recognize the question, then immediately pivot away from it, using a response like, “I understand what you’re saying, but I think the more important point is…” Then shift into the subject you really want to be talking about.

The Spin: “Instead of saying you’re leaving because your job makes you feel like a cog in the wheel, or because your voice isn’t heard, turn it into a positive: ‘That’s exactly why I’m here—because your company offers me a seat at the table and an opportunity to make real change.’

The Attack: It was 1984, and then-73-year-old Ronald Reagan was facing questions about his age in his campaign against a younger opponent. “At the debate against Walter Mondale, when they asked, Reagan said, ‘I won’t make age an issue, or exploit my opponent’s youth and inexperience,’” Bratt says. “It became this really famous deflection.”

Another take away? Deflection can be used in some really positive ways (think: steering the conversation away from politics when talking with a neighbor at the bus stop). But, using it too much can backfire.

Check out the entire article here.

Where to Find Help with Addiction

After reading the last few posts about alcohol, drugs, and addiction; do you think you know someone who is struggling with some or all of these behaviors and symptoms? Watching someone you care about abuse substances can be painful. And it can also lead us to feel helpless in knowing how to help them. Obviously, we cannot force someone to abstain from use and become sober. Likewise, we cannot force them into treatment against their will. What we can do, however, is offer support, knowledge, and resources around addiction treatment.

Navigating the world of addiction recovery and treatment is tricky, so by becoming informed yourself, you can aide your friend or family member in understanding where to go to get help when they’re ready.

Luckily, there are a wide range of treatment options available for those wanting to achieve and maintain sobriety. Many experts in addiction treatment recommend that folks have more than one resource or treatment modality on board for the best chance of success. Here are the options:

Detoxification: “Detox” is a service offered by some addiction treatment and    hospital facilities. A stay in detox typically lasts three to seven days and is intended to help you safely withdraw from drugs or alcohol with professional medical help. At the end of the stay, patients are referred on to other, longer-term treatment    facilities or programs.

Inpatient Treatment: Residential/live-in treatment for addiction is the most intensive  option for treatment of alcohol and/or drug addiction. Inpatient treatment can last anywhere from several days to one month or longer.  While participating in residential treatment, you can expect to receive: individual psychotherapy, group   psychotherapy, psychiatric/medication services and possibly family psychotherapy in one place. 

Intensive Outpatient: Intensive outpatient treatment is a form of addiction treatment in which you continue to live at home while attending treatment sessions three to four days per week, two to four hours at a time. The idea behind intensive  outpatient treatment is that you learn to live a sober lifestyle, while also going to   school, maintaining employment, taking care of family members - whatever you normally do in life. Intensive outpatient treatment usually includes psycho-educational and psychotherapy groups, family therapy groups, and individual psychotherapy.

Individual Psychotherapy: For people wanting to achieve and maintain    sobriety, individual psychotherapy is often recommended. Working one-on-one with a licensed mental health professional can allow you to explore, in a more  individual way, your substance abuse and family history. These individual sessions  also allow the mental health provider to assess for any underlying mental health disorders (anxiety, depression, etc) that may have been either exacerbated or   masked by your substance use.

Group Support: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the most well-known example of  group support available to alcoholics. AA is a free, peer-led support group that has been around since 1939. AA’s 12-step program has been used for a long time, by  many people and is very well established all across the world - making it easy to   access for most people. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a very similar program that     is specifically for people who struggle with drug (heroine, prescription painkillers, cocaine, etc) addiction. There are many other free, peer-led support groups in  most communities across the country. For more information about what is available in your area, try asking your physician, mental health care provider, faith     community, employer, or school.

Medication-Assisted Treatment: Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) programs combine medications and supplements, together with psycho-education to help you achieve and maintain sobriety. Naltrexone,  Acamprosate and Disulfiram are some of the medications that are often used to help ease the discomforts of withdrawal symptoms, as well as decrease cravings 8.

If you need assistance immediately, you can always call 9-1-1, or go directly to your nearest emergency room.

What Happens When You Drink Or Drug Too Much?

Problematic use of drugs and alcohol can impact just about all areas of your life and functioning. There are obvious risks of over-using drugs and alcohol that are associated with:
Relationship problems
Disruptions in education
Difficulty maintaining employments
Economic problems
Legal troubles/encounters with the criminal justice system

Drug and alcohol use can also cause many physical and mental health problems, including:

Changes in appetite
Trouble sleeping
Changes in blood pressure
Change in mood
Psychosis
Heart attack
Stroke
Cancer
Lung disease

Additionally, when you spend much of your time impaired by alcohol or drugs, it can effect your ability to make healthy, sound decisions. Impulsivity and poor decision making are common when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These poor decisions can lead to other health-related problems such as:

HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other communicable diseases
Poor nutrition
Being at higher risk for trauma or violence

Lastly, drug and alcohol abuse is costly! In fact, it is estimated that alcohol and illicit drug use cost the United States about 160 million dollars each year in lost work productivity, health care costs associated with addiction, and crime.

Addiction – It’s a BIG Problem

Alcohol and drug addiction and abuse are an unfortunate part of life for many Americans. Whether it’s by personal experience, or through watching a friend or loved one struggle, millions of Americans have an experience with drug and/or alcohol addiction each year.

In 2014, more than 16 million adults – that’s about 7% of the population – met criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder. Another 5 million American adults admitted to engaging in risky alcohol use that could lead to addiction in the future.

Alcohol is the most heavily used drug in the United States, followed by marijuana. And unfortunately, recent surveys have found that illicit drug use is on the rise in the United States. Illicit drugs include: marijuana, prescription drugs used other than as prescribed, cocaine, heroine, methamphetamines, etc.

Most people use drugs for the first time as teenagers, and more than half of illicit drug users begin their drug use by using marijuana. Drug use tends to be highest among teenagers and those in their twenties, but recent data suggests that drug use is increasing in people in their fifties and sixties as well.

Drug and alcohol use in children and teens is on the decline overall, with one exception: vaping. As of 2018, vaping among young people had increased dramatically, with 17.6% of 8th graders, 32.3% of 10th graders, and 37.3% of 12th graders admitting to vaping at least once in the last year.

Talking to Kids About Mental Health

Here’s the bad news: Many millions of children in the United States deal with some type of mental illness. Here are some numbers:

9.4% of children aged 2-17 years (approximately 6.1 million) have received an ADHD diagnosis.
7.4% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.5 million) have a diagnosed behavior problem.
7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety.
3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression.

Source: Children’s Mental Health

That’s a lot of kids! But here’s the good news: stigma around mental illness and psychological disorders is decreasing as more programs take aim at eradicating incorrect assumptions about mental health disorders and their treatments.

One of the best ways we can combat stigma around mental illness is by talking to our kids early and often about mental health and illness, as well as psychological treatment. The more we normalize these types of discussions, the better. Here are some tips for talking to your kids about mental health:


Be open about your own emotions. One way to help your kids become used to sharing their emotions, is by sharing your own on a regular basis. In a developmentally appropriate manner (i.e., using simple brief concepts with young kids, and progressively more complex words and concepts with older kids), try talking clearly about your own feelings: “Geez, that hurt my feelings when I didn’t get invited to Jenny’s birthday party,” or “I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with all the work deadlines I have this month,” or “I am so proud of the hard work you put into that homework assignment”


Be open about how you manage your psychological health. Try sharing with your kids what you do to manage your mental mental health. Sharing things like: “I’m going to be taking a walk this evening. It was a tough day at work, and the fresh air helps me feel less stressed.” or “I am feeling a little down today, I think I might call Grandma. Talking to her always helps me feel better.” Again, we want to keep these conversations developmentally appropriate, and our kids aren’t our therapists. However, sharing the healthy strategies we use to manage our emotions will provide them a template for when they need strategies to manage their own psychological health.


Make talking about mental health an everyday thing. We don’t need to talk about the state of our kids’ mental health every single day, but it’s best if it can be a pretty regular occurrence – say, a couple of times per week, for example. We want to get to a point where speaking about emotions and mental health is just as easy and normal as talking about the soccer team, your favorite TV show or the new super hero movie you want to see. Here are some questions to get you started:
”What are you excited about these days?”
“What’s on your mind right now?”
“How would you describe your mood today?”
“What are you worried about?”

The possibilities are endless, and each family needs to find their own, unique language for talking about mental health. But here’s a quick tip: Try asking questions that are open-ended, these tend to produce much more interesting conversations than those that can be answered by a simple “yes” or “no.”

New Office

Just a reminder that I have moved my office to:

671 Mitchell Way

Suite 109

Erie 80516

All contact info is the same:

stephaniesmithpsyd@gmail.com and 303-828-3080

Here are some photos from my new place:

Main Lobby
Waiting room – Come on in and have a seat!
My new (little!) office. Cozy and quiet, with views of Stop and Save (!!) and the occasional critter outside the window. Welcome!