Don’t focus on fear, says local therapist
Coronovirus crisis is causing stress, depression and panic for people. Ben Taylor, 84, has been a licensed professional counselor in the Verde Valley since 1991. We asked him about the stress people are suffering during the COVID-19 crisis.
1. Have you ever seen people so nervous? Not for an illness issue. There have been moments of crisis in terms of 9/11 for example. People felt helpless and fearful. This is going to change our lifestyle and change the way we look at illness. I think we are going to be worried about pandemics from now on. I was 8 years old when Pearl Harbor hit. You really realized you were at war. But I would say the events of Pearl Harbor were as shocking. There was a fear that day the Japanese would invade the California coast. It didn’t make sense when you look back at it now. You when you are in fear, a lot of things that wouldn’t make a lot of sense, seem to make a lot of sense. Our country has faced this and we have come through it before. You can look at the negative things on TV, or you can look at the beautiful human beings that are so dedicated in helping everyone. It offers an opportunity to pull our higher selves-out and pull together, or go into fear and let that take over.
2. What should people do if they are depressed about the coronavirus emergency? Some people don’t want to deal with it at all. You have to be careful you don’t put your head in the sand and you don’t get the advice of the medical and science equation. You want to be informed. On the other side of the equation is to be in fear and uncertainty all the time. We know that kind of stress is not healthy for mental health, but it’s not healthy for physical health. The idea is to be centered. Turn the TV off when you feel the fear rising. This should not be called social isolation, it should be physical isolation. Stay in touch with friends and loved ones. The next thing is to develop a structure. You wake up in the morning; don’t sleep in. Get up, get dressed, take of business. It’s also a great time to be in a state of “gratitude” to be thankful that you are healthy, that you have supplies. that you have family and loved ones. Exercise is very important, take walks, play with your pets, go to your favorite places in nature.
3. Is this kind of fear from the coronavirus normal? There are two enemies right now - COVID-19 and fear. Fear is normal. It’s a survival emotion. It’s there to protect us. But you don’t want it to get carried away and freeze you into immobilization. Fear usually comes from uncertainty. It’s important to stay in the moment. Look around. See your neighbor out the window. Play with your pet. Be aware of where your mind is taking you. If your mind is taking it into deeper fear, you replace it with distractions. Focus on caring for others: That’s a wonderful way of getting your mind off yourself and feel real good at the end of the day. Anything that gives some sense you have some control over this.
4. What if a person becomes immobilized or overwhelmed from fear and anxiety? Reach out to professionals. If you have a prescriber, a primary care physician, you call in and you tell them you are in a very deep depression. A counselor can help you by talking to you, on the phone, Zoom, Skype. There are Spectrum, there’s national hotlines, and if you go in the phone book and look up psychotherapy or counselors.
5. How is isolation affecting relationships? It’s very important you talk about that. If one of you needs space, how are you going to manage that? Find time to be together … find time to be separated and individually on your own. Some people recharge by being in nature alone. This (the crisis) may put stress on the relationship and it’s important to keep your sense of humor.
6. What about stress on children? The problem with children is they get bored so easily. You can spend more time with your child, reading them stories, watching a TV program together, playing family games. Sometimes you can look at a situation like this as an opportunity to have quality time, to get to know someone in your family better.
7. Why do families fight when they are hunkered down after a long time together in a crisis? It probably triggers some of the unresolved irritations that go in on a family. We take the stress that comes to us from the TV and the fear and uncertainty and parlay that out onto the people around us. Something that wouldn’t even bother us on a day-to-day basis … suddenly becomes the trigger.
8. What about working at home? There are interruptions. There should be places to work and times to work so you are not mixing family and domestic time with work time. It means you take frequent breaks from your work if you can. And you go out and connect and make sure everything’s OK out there and have a cup of coffee with your spouse. But then you come back and close the door, and only a family emergency should interrupt. If you take breaks frequently then people can interact. If you can focus on your work, that’s a major distraction from some of the fears. How do you structure your day so you connect all these dots in a way that works for you and your family?
9. Do you think it’s good to talk about your fear on social media like Facebook? It may for some people. It may be much better if they contact someone they love, they trust, someone that cares for them, and they talk about those feelings with those people. That’s an individual thing. Anything that helps you if it’s not destructive and doesn’t bring other people down and helps you center yourself.
From 1991 to 1996, Ben Taylor was a licensed professional counselor in Cottonwood and Sedona and in 2006 he began at the Verde Valley Guidance Clinic now called Spectrum as a crisis worker for seven years. He has been in private practice in Cottonwood since 2010. Previously he was a marriage and family counselor in California for 20 years. He has a Master’s Degree in counseling and a PhD in leadership and human behavior. He has been a counselor for over 40 years and still had a full and active caseload before the crisis. He is doing therapy with his clients over the phone during the coronavirus crisis.