Tell Me More Podcast - Episode 1

Stopping the Stigma of Mental Illness

Listen to Episode 1 of our new podcast – Tell Me More

For more than a year, Americans and people from all over the world have dealt with a global pandemic and much of our fear centered on what would happen to us or our loved ones if we contracted covid-19 and had to face its potentially life threatening effects. But now with vaccinations in the United States on a roll many of us are now confronting something else – the effect of the pandemic on our mental health.

I’m Susan Brozek Scott and in this episode of Tell Me More, we’re talking with Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com who can help us all sort through this unprecedented time in our lives.

SUSAN: Don good to be with you today.

DON: Thank you Susan. It is a pleasure to be with you as well.

SUSAN: Don, Some of us have lost loved ones, some of us have lost jobs and incomes and some have lingering effects of a disease that literally ravaged the world and sent us into quarantine for weeks and isolation for months. So, then is it okay – is it expected of us to have a broad range of emotions right now?

DON: Absolutely Susan! It would be more unusual for anyone right now to say that they weren’t feeling stressed or frustrated, sad or anxious. We’re facing issues that are unprecedented for our modern times and this has and will undoubtedly create new challenges for how we understand and treat mental health – not only in our country but globally as well. Susan the next wave of this pandemic will not be treated with vaccines or antibiotics the next wave will include mild to severe levels of trauma, depression and anxiety and if that’s left untreated it’s only going to get worse. In fact, we’re starting to see it right now. So talking about mental health, furthering the conversation and gaining access to affordable treatment options is more important than ever. There will be years of wellness issues; scars that will run deep; and questions that will not just go away over time. In short, it’s okay to feel the way you are feeling right now, but it’s what you do with those feelings that counts.

SUSAN: How do we start, Don, to find our way back to either where we once were – where many people think they’d like to get back to – or maybe to an even better place?

DON: okay so let’s start there. You’ve been hearing for a long time now (at least a year plus) that we’re all in the same boat, but nothing can be further from the truth. Everyone is different. Everyone’s situation is different. We are all NOT in the same boat. We’re in the same storm. Some people have big yachts, others have canoes, some are simply floating in a raft or life jacket just trying to keep their head above water. We’re not ALL in the same boat physically, emotionally or spiritually – so one size does not fit all. Also let’s be frank here, there will never be a return to quote/unquote normal. Some things will go back to a recognizable baseline, but this pandemic has been a real game changer. The liberating thing about that – don’t want to make it sound like all doom and gloom – the liberating thing about that is, is that we get to create a new baseline, a new normal if you will. For some, that sounds freeing. It just becomes a question of how do I make that happen. But for others, for most of us, it sounds like change, and you know as well as I do that we as humans do not do change very well. We talk a good game, but the unknown can make us anxious, unsettled or afraid. So the two keys will be acknowledging and being mindful of our mental health strengths and those limitations, but most importantly, taking steps to create a new and healthy baseline.

SUSAN: For the person out there who might me listening right now who maybe isn’t sure if they want to talk to somebody yet but is looking for some practical things that they can do on their own just to start – where do they start?

DON: Sometimes the simplest acts can have the biggest impact. The fields of psychiatry and psychology have made things monumentally more complex than they need to be. So let’s start with some basics – deep breathing and grounding techniques – they’re straight forward and they take only a few minutes to do. In fact Susan, if anyone would like to email me at etalktherapy@gmail.com I’ll gladly send them the basic instructions, free of charge, on how to implement deep breathing and grounding techniques into their daily routine. These two things are extraordinarily important when it comes to how we deal with stress and anxiety and depression. Making that mind body connection is so important right now – we’re all trying to heal from this pandemic and deep breathing and grounding techniques are two keys to help with that healing process.

SUSAN: Now, beyond those steps that people can do on their own or start on their own, what can you offer if someone is looking for more direction and more help?

DON: Sure, at eTalkTherapy, we offer 15 to 20 minute free phone consultations with any one of our therapists, me included. Our highly trained and experienced therapists are available to answer questions regarding the therapy process, how to get started, and therapy options. You can go to eTalkTherapy.com for details, fill out the free consultation form, it’s quick, it’s easy, it’s convenient and since 2017 we’ve been providing Pennsylvania with affordable and private live online therapy or phone therapy. Look going to a therapy session doesn’t mean having to leave your house these days. The pandemic saw to that, but finding an experienced therapist who is a good fit for your needs – sometimes that’s a completely different story. At eTalkTherapy we want to create a meaningful relationship with you along with addressing your symptoms and issues. We want to help every client we work with create a life worth living – more important now than ever.

**Closing music**

SUSAN: All right! Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com, thanks for helping guide us through these challenging times.

DON: Thank you Susan. It’s been a pleasure and until we talk again, I wish you and everybody listening good health.

**Music picks up**

SUSAN: Thank you so much!

This podcast does not provide medical advice. The content is for informational purposes only. Consult with your doctor on all medical issues regarding your condition and treatments. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional psychiatric or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment nor does it replace the need for services provided by a medical or psychiatric professional. Always seek the advice of a medical professional, psychiatrist or therapist before making any changes to your treatment.

**Music ends**

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness in the Wake of Covid

Promoting Change and Self-Care

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and this is a year in which it seems more vital than ever to look at our lives and to check in with ourselves to see how we’re doing. Now that Covid-19 cases in America finally seem to be in a steady decline and the smoke is clearing, so to speak, it seems like good timing to focus on the mental and emotional fallout from it all.

It’s been 14 months since the country started its Covid lockdowns, and I just wanted to invite you to take a moment with me and really think about the past year. Covid-19 was a really big deal (and very much so remains a big deal in many parts of the world). Let’s start with the physical aspect of the illness. Chances are, you knew someone with Covid-19. Maybe that person skated through it was like it was no big deal, or maybe that person was out of commission for a couple of weeks, or maybe they even had to be hospitalized. That person may not have made it through. And if you didn’t know them personally, chances are very good that you know someone who has lost someone – or very nearly lost someone – from this illness. You yourself may even have been struck with it. Maybe it was just a bothersome cough or a sore throat. Maybe you were in the hospital. Maybe you became a “long-hauler.” Maybe you were afraid you weren’t going to be able to pull through.

That’s a lot to carry, isn’t it? And that’s only one aspect of very many. That’s just the physical aspect. There’s the economic aspect. Maybe your business was shut down, and you were forced to put your livelihood on hold. Maybe you lost your job.  Maybe your hours were cut, and you had to pinch pennies in a way that was very frightening to you. Perhaps you would have liked to go to work, but your children had to learn virtually from home and there was no one to take care of them while you worked, so you had to cut your own hours.

There’s the emotional aspect, as well. Or maybe you were incredibly lonely. Maybe you were grateful to have not gotten Covid-19, but you felt a terrible isolation. You were tired of seeing people’s faces on a screen. You missed touching other people, getting hugs. Not being able to see their faces and how they felt as you saw them in person from a distance. Physical isolation is a very real thing, and it is a very valid emotion to feel afraid, sad, and depressed because of it. And there was fear involved – a lot of fear. Who would we become as a society after this? You may wonder if you can trust this person, that news source, the next-door neighbor? What will happen if we get the vaccine? What will happen if we don’t?

No matter how someone was affected by Covid-19, no one can say they were not affected by it. And it can sometimes be very painful to go through a traumatic event like this one – to really feel all of your feelings, to take the time to marvel at this journey: the difficulties of it, the struggle of it, and to look at the person you’ve come to be at this point because of it.

If you are struggling in this very hard time, please reach out to talk to someone. Our website https://etalktherapy.com/ can point you to treatment options that can work best for you.

It can be a cliché to say that “we’re all in this together,” and I don’t know if that saying really applies. Yes, we are all experiencing the same event together, but each in our own way – ways that may be very similar to others, and some that are very different. It is true, however, that we are not alone.

The theme for this year’s awareness month, hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Health, is “You Are Not Alone.” You can visit their site here (https://nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-Health-Awareness-Month) for more resources and help if you find your mental health concerns are getting insurmountable and to help you begin the process of unpacking this very difficult year.

Here’s hoping that each day gets better and better!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

***

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Emerging from the pandemic a message of wellness

Emerging from the Pandemic

A message of wellness from eTalkTherapy

In 2017, we gave you our word.

To provide you with professional, compassionate, and affordable therapy, and to see you as a person, not as a diagnosis. To meet you with patience, kindness, and care and to help you create a life worth living.

Rising out of this pandemic is not going to happen overnight. Emerging from isolation and facing different life-challenges may have us feeling uncertain and hopeless. New questions will be around every corner. Words like trauma, depression, and anxiety now carry new meaning, and phrases like “going back to normal” feel hollow and disingenuous. Hidden traumas abound, and the road to recovery will likely be long and, at times, intimidating. Yet, life is lived forward and it is experienced in the present. It is not without heartache, but it is not without joy either.

Despite what has happened to all of us in body, mind, and spirit, eTalkTherapy’s mission has not changed, and our promise to you remains strong. In good times and in bad, eTalkTherapy has been here for you.

We were providing quality live-teletherapy years before the pandemic started, and we will continue to do so for whatever comes next.

We are here, and we are ready to help you.

In Good Health,
Don Laird

Coping with anxiety during Covid quarantine

Coping with Covid anxiety

Finding Meaning and Connection in My Family Tree 

As I’m sure many people have done since the Covid lockdowns began, I find myself down a rabbit hole of binge-watching some TV every now and then. One show in particular that I can lose many hours to is PBS’ “Finding Your Roots.” It’s a show in which celebrities and other notable people are taken on a journey of discovery through their ancestral paths using a combination of public documents, films, photographs, censuses, and DNA testing. It’s a fascinating look at where these people come from, because the celebrities we know and see all the time are the end result. Finding out who came before them and how their actions and their decisions shaped the generations that came after them is a lot of fun.

Some episodes are poignant and feature stories of terrible traumas. Some stories are funny, and my favorite parts are at the end, when host Louis Gates Jr. reveals to his guest a distant cousin who is also a celebrity or another notable figure, discovered through common chromosomal links in their DNA. Every guest in each episode is struck in some way by the fact that those who came before them played a pivotal role – even if it was a small one – in shaping a life that would come after them.

I think it’s natural when watching a show like that is to think about your own family tree. My parents used to have a sign in their kitchen that said something like “My family tree is full of nuts,” and maybe yours is too. Maybe your family tree is full of painful memories and people you wish belonged not only on some other tree, but in a whole other forest somewhere else! Maybe your family tree is filled with beautiful flowers, people who did the best they could and paved new trails or stood up for what was right; or maybe it is a humble tree that, although it doesn’t display any flashy leaf-color changes or produce exotic fruit, still gives plentiful shade just the same.

As we approach the end of the first year since the Covid lockdowns began and as we slowly ease back into a more normal-looking way of life, maybe take some time to write down your thoughts about it all.  (It’s not every day that we get to live through major world events like this one, you know!) Try to write about how you’ve felt about it, and include how you filled your days. What else were your grocery stores out of (besides toilet paper)? What gatherings did you miss? What fears did you have – and were they realized, or did they merely remain fears? Is there any benefit you saw from his time? How have you changed as a person?

Spending some time on these questions can be beneficial for us in the short term, but would also be a wealth of information for those generations who will come after us. How amazing would it be if generations from now, a great-, great-, great-, great-grandson or great-granddaughter learned about the Covid-19 pandemic and read what you had to say about it? How awesome would it be for them to sit back in a chair in amazement that they were related to you? I’m sure they would be amazed, because we’re living in quite amazing times. And you are very much an amazing person, well worth knowing about.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

***

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

How to deal with loved ones who don't take covid-19 seriously

What to do when a loved one won’t take Covid-19 seriously?

Article by Don Laird, NCC, LPC, DCC

You’re doing everything you can to protect your family during the COVID-19 pandemic: staying at home, wearing a mask, social distancing, and washing your hands until they are raw. You’ve done more virtual playdates, online classes, and work meetings than you can count, and your immediate family has more colorful cloth masks than underwear. You understand it’s not fake, it’s not the flu, the numbers are real, and the long-term health consequences are still not understood. You know people who have been infected or who have died. In short, you’re mindful, and you follow the science.

Yet even with all the preparation and precaution taking, you still find yourself worrying. Because with all the evidence and the skyrocketing numbers, there are those family members and friends you know who refuse to social distance and wear a mask. Will they get sick, perhaps die? Will they get someone else close to me sick? How can I convince them to stay safe? In short, you may not be able to do anything as they feel their opinion, fed by misinformation, is fact. You may have already lost friends and things are chilly with family members. You’re not alone.

Worry and anxiety leads to catastrophizing. The conclusion is usually a worst-case scenario, and it is typically based on those things we have no control over. Instead, try focusing on the present moment and those things you do have control over. Breaking your day down into two or three-hour increments can be helpful. Overthinking your plans or setting unrealistic goals will create inner-chaos and you will be disappointed or upset with the results.

Finding a way to engage your loved ones in a mindful and calm fashion can be tricky.

When it comes time to talk about COVID-19 and your concern about their lack of concern, try referencing information from resources your loved one is more likely to trust. This may be difficult if much of their news comes from unreliable sources that have fed much of the misinformation that we now know to be dangerous.

Is there a TV or radio personality they like who has given sound advice for mask wearing or social distancing? For instance, your loved one may have a dislike for the news media, but they like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or Arnold Schwarzenegger (both of whom have conservative views). Each of these individuals has advocated for social distancing and mask wearing. Are their articles available from resources your family member follows? While you may not agree with the political leanings, it may be a resource you need to reference. When possible, talk with each other and not at each other. Be curious about their perspective but be confident and firm with your perspective.

While you may be feeling frustrated or angry with your loved one, lecturing them won’t do any good. Remember to speak with kindness, care, and empathy. Show them that you care. If they do not reciprocate, there is not much you can do but be patient. Remember, you only have control over what you have control over.

Additionally, instead of focusing on their health and safety, encourage them to think about others. Wearing a mask and social distancing will help prevent the virus from spreading to someone who has a pre-existing condition and is more vulnerable to serious illness. As we know, COVID-19 can sometimes cause no symptoms, someone can easily spread the virus without knowing it.

Try to think of someone your loved one knows who may be at risk. Explain that the simple action of wearing a mask can help keep a diabetic relative, a pregnant friend, or a neighbor who has been diagnosed with cancer safe.

Even with all these approaches, you may not be able to convince someone to wear a mask or practice physical distancing. If this is the case, it’s okay to move on. Ultimately, they are responsible for their own health and actions. BUT you will need to draw a firm boundary that you will not be seeing them in person for a while. It may mean taking other steps for childcare, etc. However, it is far better to be alive than to roll the dice because your loved one has opted not to follow safe practices. It may even be best for your emotional wellness to break off communication for a little while. When you are ready to resume communication, try suggesting that you stay connected via phone or video chat. Schedule a call where you agree not to discuss COVID-19.

When it’s time to move on, you’ll probably find yourself feeling worried about the future. Learning how to navigate uncertainty can be tough, but you don’t have to do it alone.

Talking with one of eTalkTherapy’s caring and experienced professionals can help you learn how to cope with your fears and anxieties about the future. We offer private and affordable therapy sessions via video or phone in the comfort of your home. Contact us today for details.

In good health,
Don

two women on a bus wearing face masks looking at their phones

Love in the Time of Covid-19

Well, that came out of left field, didn’t it? For most people, I mean. You may have felt the tremors, but I’ll be honest with you: I certainly wasn’t expecting it. But that’s how life-changing (really, truly life-altering) things go, really: they’re sudden, even when you know they’re coming. There’s always a before, and then an after. Right now, I suppose we’re experiencing the during. But there will be an end, and then will come the befores and afters.

This cosmic blend of same and different – I’ll give you an example: I observed my neighbor getting into the car and backing out of her driveway. Same. She stopped the car to stretch blue medical gloves over her hands. Different. Here’s another: my kids learn during the day. Same. At home now, with me, rather than at school. Different. A hundred million little transitions that we need to make, and are making, sometimes without even thinking of them.

One of my mother’s favorite things to do while she was still alive was make us watch all of her favorite movies. Some were great fun (“The Birdcage”) and some were considerably less fun (“Spartacus”). The all-time great was (and I actually agreed with her) “The Sound of Music.” And now that I’m a mom, I get to make my kids watch my favorites, too. So, with great effort, I removed my much-screen-refreshed phone and settled in with them for three hours of merriment, humor, telegrams, and a wonderful puppet show. The VonTrapps, they too dealt with the same and the different. They too dealt with evil, and fear, and heartbreak against all of that beautiful mountain scenery. 

Humanity experiences suffering. Same. Humanity experiences COVID-19. Different. It is okay to feel every emotion you feel about it. It’s okay to cry when Fraulein Maria marries Captain VonTrapp, even if you’ve seen it fifty times. It’s okay to wonder what happens to Max at the end of the Austrian folk festival, because you know Herr Zeller wasn’t going to let that go. And it’s okay to be afraid when you’re fumbling around in the darkness, stumbling blindly toward the first light you see.

_

As part of their new educational experience, my kids watch one episode of “Our Planet” on Netflix per day. The episode on forests was particularly striking, because it shows the resiliency of our wonderful, absolutely amazing planet. There is a segment on a forest fire, and only a few months after hundreds of miles of forestland was absolutely devastated from fire, the floor was blushing again with green, with vines, with life.

As we go through our own, very particular fire of fear and uncertainty, don’t look down only in sorrow, and in regret, and in fear. Look down to see the life that is growing just below, underneath. Invisible, but certain.

Same.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

 

Hand hygiene. Person in the bathroom is cleaning and washing hands with soap

Anxiety, Stress, Social Distancing, & Healthy Control

By Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk MSPC, NCC

Anxiety, frustration, change, and uncertainty are a realistic and at times, a stressful part of life that humans grapple with. Currently, society as a whole is in a pandemic with many feeling highly anxious, fearful, and uncertain of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the long-term impact on society, the economy, loved ones, and the outcomes of overall health and wellness. It’s natural to have fear and anxiety of the unknown; to feel your healthy controls are being taxed and possibly becoming depleted.

During this time of uncertainty in the weeks to follow, there are ways to feel reasonably prepared while decreasing stress, anxiety, and worry.

Consider the following:

Grappling with Anxiety & Stress

For those experiencing anxiety, that have anxiety disorders, and/or a predisposition to stress, the fear and worry about the health and wellness of you and your loved ones, the economy, finances, having essential medications and supplies over the next few weeks or longer can feel overwhelming for some. Others are frustrated with feeling society is over preparing. Most are hoping for a level of preparedness and a positive outcome without mass hysteria.

During times of chaos and confusion, many seek out information from the news, social media, and other sources. It’s important to stay informed, it’s also vital to find good information based on statistics, data, and facts. Choosing how much to engage in information and when to disengage (put your phone down) assists with lowering feelings of uncertainty, of being out of control, and catastrophizing what is happening in the world around you. It’s normal to feel a sense of uneasiness, vulnerability, anger, confusion, and cognitive dissonance about the future.

It can be stressful for families and for parents to know how to talk with children about what’s happening. Being open, honest, and factual is important on an age appropriate level.  In addition, it’s important to balance your own fears during conversations and to do your best to monitor your own anxiety, anger, and stress to keep from instilling an unnecessary foundation of anxiety in children to potentially grapple with. It’s an opportunity to open a dialogue for critical thinking about individual feelings, values, the meaning of exploring those feelings moving forward, and how a person can learn and grow from what is happening.

It’s natural to feel the physiological and psychological impact of anxiety, it’s a protective mechanism; the fight or flight response in humans and animals. However, it’s what you do with the anxiety and stress you’re experiencing. Check in with yourself on how intense your feelings are, how long symptoms are lasting, and how your daily life is impacted. Implementing realistic expectations, allowing for flexibility, tapping into positive coping, tolerating frustration, and adapting for what is within your healthy controls day to day can help with lowering symptoms and the long-term impact. It’s beneficial to spend time in the present moments, practice gratitude, and enjoy yourself as much as realistically possible.

Social Distancing

Social distancing puts individuals at risk for social isolation; especially when depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues are present.  It’s important to have awareness of the differences between social distancing and social isolation by checking in with yourself on how you’re feeling day to day. Consider what activities you’re engaging in or not doing at all. This is a good opportunity to carve out time to rebuild a relationship with yourself, reflect on what’s important, watch the sunrise or sunset, and connect with family and friends via phone, social media, or through email. Getting back to basics can feel healing and reaffirming; especially when focusing on significant and already established relationships. Make family time fun by keeping it simple. Hopefully, this is a time for children, adolescents, and adults to take a break from the high stress and pressures of a few daily responsibilities and obligations.

With that being said, if you’re in a stressful situation at home whether it’s due to a strained relationship with your partner or feeling overwhelmed by stress and responsibilities, take time away to rebalance. Consider listening to music, going for a walk or run, spend time with your furry friends, laugh and enjoy yourself, and do your best to focus on who and what you do have in the present moment, which includes your relationship with yourself. Check out online options in your community for working out, yoga, supports, and keeping up with physical and mental health. Focus on your strengths, tap into your supports, and treat yourself with compassion.

Healthy Controls

It’s beneficial to be present and work within what is in your healthy controls. Healthy control is different than attempting to control uncontrollable factors and attempting to control those around you in unhealthy and damaging ways. Healthy control is an internal sense of strength, presence, and balance. It’s trusting yourself and valuing where you are, what you’re feeling, and what is best in moving forward. Therefore, it’s making decisions that work well for you and your loved ones in ethical and healthy manners. Putting life in perspective, having a level of preparedness, and moving forward from there realistically.

Allowing some time to decompress and enjoying time with those in your shared environment as much as possible is within the realm of healthy control.  Check in with yourself and your loved ones; if your mental health or your loved one’s mental health is suffering and/or you or a loved one is struggling, feeling overwhelmed, and need to talk, reach out for support. Therapy where you’re meeting face-to-face online through a HIPAA secure site from the comfort of your own home is a safe, healthy, confidential, and convenient way to work with a therapist and to begin the healing process.

In conclusion, find ways you can feel content, ways you can help yourself feel balanced, and reasonably safe without adding undue stress, anxiety, and social isolation. Do your best to plan in realistic areas and to take one day at a time when planning isn’t possible. Consider where your information is from, look for statistics and data to assist with keeping anxiety and the stress of the unknown as low as possible.  There are many opportunities for self-reflection, growth, connecting with loved ones, and to engage in healthy and beneficial ways. Seek out the support of an online therapist if you’re feeling overwhelmed; even in the midst of a pandemic you can get the help you need. It’s important to treat yourself well, with compassion, and to check in on how you’re feeling.

Keep first responders, medical professionals, and individuals at increased risk for direct exposure in your thoughts, and individuals with higher risk for complications too. It’s important to come together as a community in safe and healthy ways to increase feelings of belonging and to decrease anxiety, stress, fear, and social isolation.

Stay safe, healthy, and well!

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi

***

MandiTurk[1]Mandi Dalicandro-Turk writes about a variety of topics related to mental health, behavioral health, relationships, stress, anxiety, aging, grieving, self-care, therapy, and improving one’s overall quality of life.