Young sick woman in blanket with thermometer
Don Laird

Anxiety in the Age of COVID19

As human beings, we do not do very well with the unknown. Uncertainty and an undetermined future can create a level of constant worry that is often disproportionate and, at times, unmanageable. Anxiety manifests around that which we cannot control. What compounds this feeling is a sense that what is out of control should not be. When things feel uncertain, we don’t feel safe. However, it is okay to feel stressed or anxious, particularly when there is conflicting information around us.

Currently, most of us are worried about the Coronavirus (COVID-19). We may experience feelings ranging from helplessness to fear about what will happen in the weeks and months ahead. Again, it’s okay to feel this way. It may not feel good, but trying to push it away or act as if it doesn’t exist is the unhealthiest thing you can do.

In short, your mental health will likely suffer over the next several months.  You might feel on edge, nervous, angry, frustrated, helpless or sad. You might want to completely avoid any reminders of what is happening. “Normal” daily activities will alter drastically, and for those who already struggle with depression or anxiety the next few months will be quite challenging.

Remind yourself that you are in control to how you respond to any event (and anxiety thrives when you feel as though you have no choice). Yet, you are stronger than you may believe. Below are three basic things that can help you with your mental hygiene.

  1. You are not alone in this pandemic. Control what you can. Wash your hands. Remind others to do the same. Continue to exercise. Limit your exposure to the news. It’s healthy to update yourself once or twice a day, but over-consumption will have a negative effect. Checking your news feed every few minutes or every hour is not helping you stay informed, but it is helping you develop an unhealthy fixation. Also, limiting screen time is good practice regardless of the reason or situation.
  1. Social distancing does not mean hiding under a rock. Avoid crowds and close contact, but get outside. Exercise helps with both physical and mental health. Being in the sun and fresh air helps restore emotional balance and gives a boost to natural vitamin D levels. Stay grounded by being mindful to the world around you. Do this by noticing what your senses are telling you through sight, sound, taste, and touch. This will help you stay present and avoid projecting into an uncertain future. Remember, choice and change only occurs in the here-and-now.
  1. If you are feeling overwhelmed or need support, please talk to those you trust most. It’s okay to feel afraid or angry – it’s what you do with those feelings that matters. If needed, reach out for extra support or help. You don’t have to be alone, professional help is always available online with a therapist or counselor.


Be safe, be healthy, be well,



The Benefits of Deep Breathing on Anxiety

by Don Laird and Christina Pettinato

There are many great ways to promote physical and mental health for you and your family during this time of social isolation and distancing. One highly effective technique is quite simple and can be used anytime. Diaphragmatic breathing or deep breathing is intended to help you use the diaphragm (a muscle at the base of the lungs) correctly resulting in less effort and energy to breath. Additionally, it slows your breathing rate and heart rate and decreases oxygen demand, which in turn makes you feel more relaxed and calmer.

There are two ways to perform this exercise. In the video below eTalk Therapist and Mindfulness Expert Christina Pettinato demonstrates the chair method.

You may also perform this technique when lying down.

Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed. You can use a pillow under your knees to support your legs. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.

Breathe in slowly, deeply, through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand – think of it as a balloon expanding and deflating. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible. Tighten your stomach muscles as you do this, letting them fall inward as you exhale through your lips.

When you first learn this relaxing breathing technique, it may be easier for you to follow the instructions lying down. As you gain more practice, you can try the diaphragmatic breathing technique while sitting in a chair, as demonstrated above.

You should practice this exercise 5-10 minutes at least two times per day. Most people prefer to do it before bedtime because it can promote a better night’s sleep. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend doing this exercise, use soft music or a guided meditation video or audio to enhance the relaxation experience.

Be safe, be healthy, be well,
Don & Christina

girl running through flowers in spring time
Christy Gualtieri

We Get Spring

There’s a catchy pop song that was a big hit a few years back, and part of it echoes so plainly in my ears now: “How am I going to be an optimist about this?”  That song was about Pompeii, and what’s swirling around us these days is, no doubt, just as much of a candidate for the history books.

I don’t really know how I’m going to be an optimist about this, but I may have one little idea: I will sleep when the baby sleeps.

For those of you who aren’t parents, the phrase “sleep when the baby sleeps” is given to new* parents to remind them that they too need rest, and that you’d better get while the getting is good.  Of course you want to stay up and fret about whether your baby is breathing in the night. Of course you want to gaze for hours at their features while you hold them in the moonlight. But babies wake up, and cry, and nurse, and because you didn’t sleep while the baby slept, you’ll be tired and cranky the whole time, and possibly want to throw anything within arm’s reach at your napping husband.

And so it is in these long, languishing days of quarantine, I will sleep when the baby sleeps. Not really sleep, of course, because my kids are much too fond of crawling all over me and incessantly asking me questions, but I will just focus on what the immediate need is, at this moment. It’s all I can do. It’s all anyone can do.

Farmers have a similar saying: “Make hay while the sun shines.” There’s no point in making hay while it’s raining; it’d get ruined.  So instead, you clean the dishes or wash the walls or count raindrops sliding down the window. You do what you can with what you have in front of you.

We all want to make hay, I get it. We all want to watch the baby sleep. But most, if not all of us reading this will need to pretty much be sitting in their homes, where those things just cannot – or should not – get done. So what can you do? How can you be an optimist about this?

I can’t answer that for you. But for me, it’s truly getting down to the brass tacks. The minutiae of it all – what’s in front of you.

We have more time for walks, the kids and I, because we’re homeschooling now and there’s no one to tell us no. The smallest buds are coming out, and the robins have soared back into the yard, looking for bits and bobs to feather their nests. My kids are excited that Spring is earlier this year. “Because the groundhog didn’t see his shadow!” Says the oldest. “Yeah!” chimes the younger. “Punkshatawney Film didn’t see it! We get Spring!

We get Spring. Yes, we get trouble, too. But we get Spring. Enjoy it! And take a nap, when you can.

Until next time, be well!

*This advice is only for first-time parents, because once you have more kids all bets are off…unless there’s a tremendous gap in age between your kids and you have one newborn and one teenager who works and can drive themselves anywhere they like. Well done to you, I say.


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 and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Young girl and mother playing hide and seek
Christy Gualtieri


“Mom, can you hide like this?” My four year old asked me, as she covered her eyes and started to walk through the room, counting “One…two…three…”

“Oh, you mean like hide and seek?”


I watched her walk, still counting aloud, with her tiny hands over her closed eyes. I put an arm out so she wouldn’t walk into the wall. “It’s not a good idea to walk when you’re counting,” I told her.  It’s best to keep your eyes open when you’re seeking.”

I thought about that last phrase for a while, after she uncovered her eyes and wandered over to start another game, this time with her dolls.

It is best to keep your eyes open when you’re seeking.  


It’s such an interesting time in the world right now. We’re shown images – constantly, everywhere we look – of how we could (or, really, “should”) be. We’re also, in almost equal amounts, shown images and told words of how important it is to accept ourselves as we are. And we’re caught in the middle, staggering from one side to the other, trying to “be all we can be” while simultaneously trying to be perfectly satisfied with where we’re at now.

But are we satisfied? And can we ever be perfect?

The answer to both is probably no. We know we can never be perfect, because we know that perfect is an illusion. The person with one Instagram follower wishes for more just as the Instagram owner with one million followers does. The grass is always greener; the horizon is always just beyond; the kids could always be just that more well behaved; the dog could be better about shedding its fur all over the house.

So we know perfect doesn’t exist. But we could know that truth, understand it, and still not be happy with where we are today. We’re not satisfied, and that’s fair. Things may not be perfect but they could be better, and we can have a large part in attaining that for ourselves.

But we won’t, if we don’t seek it out for ourselves. And we can’t seek with our eyes closed.

It’s okay to look at ourselves objectively and work on ways to make ourselves kinder, more efficient, more punctual, less gossipy, whatever it is. It’s okay to say to ourselves, “You know, I love you and there are so many good things about you, but maybe we can start to work on this area of our lives so that not only others in the world will have an easier time of it, but it will help us too.” It won’t be a detriment to us to be more patient, or more loving, or more generous. It will, of course, in the short term. It’s not easy to be more generous, even though we want to be. It’s not easy to be kind, and it’s certainly not easy to be patient.  But we can be, even just a little bit more than yesterday.

In this season of Spring that will be here right before you know it, this time of renewal, what can we find within ourselves that can be cultivated, grown, tendered? How can we change for the better, and still love ourselves in the process?

How can we open our eyes?

Until next time, be well!


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 and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Woman puts roses in vase. Housewife taking care of coziness on kitchen decorating with flowers.
Christy Gualtieri

Flowers in Bloom

The vase needs water; at this rate, the flowers won’t last much longer. So I pick up the glass vase, still full of greens, reds, purples and yellows, and bring it to the sink. I lift up the stems, trying to avoid the thorny ones, and stream some fresh water in from the tap. I bring it back to its spot on the wide, flat windowsill, and admire the way it is a lively contrast to the bare, winter-naked trees just outside.

I only have one vase, at least that’s the way it seems. I’ve gotten a few over the years but they’re scattered somewhere, surely full of dust, and one full of old palms that have become crispy over time. I didn’t want to risk a pile of palms crumbling all over my living room floor, so all of the flowers have gone in the one remaining vase.

The red roses are the freshest, just a few days old. Lovely and plump for Valentine’s Day, straight from the grocery store (my unironic favorite – seriously, grocery store flowers last a long time!) along with armfuls of goodies for the kids. Then come the baby’s breath, then bunched in the middle is the wildflower bouquet from the neighbor, marking the four years it’s been since my mother died. She’s so sweet to remember, every year, without fail – one of the only ones who doesn’t need a Facebook post to be reminded.  This year was harder than the last, I think, for reasons I am not entirely sure of, and so this year the flowers (and their lovely colors, both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time) were especially welcome.

Such a simple thing, flowers in a vase, sitting on a windowsill. But it does not escape me that the roses, given to me on a day that signifies love, surround the flowers that remind me of loss. In this vase, love and loss do not exist without the other. I didn’t plan that arrangement. I really just pushed the flowers in where they fit, but there it is just the same; and it is because of this particular mix of flowers that I feel especially grateful today: that I am on all sides cared for and loved during the moments of my life that are the hardest.

My wish and hope for you is the same: may you always be surrounded by love and beauty, even in the most difficult of times.

Until next time, be well!


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 and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.