Benefits / Resources / Articles
April 24, 2020

In It Together: Handling Anxiety in a Crisis with Dr. Amy Cirbus

Do you feel like your mental health is suffering right now? If so, you aren’t alone. This is a difficult time for so many people. With compounding health concerns, financial worries, and huge changes to our daily routines, it makes sense that you may be feeling more negative emotions than usual these days. It’s important to do what you can to take care of your mental (and physical) health during this time. Last week we were joined by Dr. Amy Cirbus from TalkSpace to chat about ways to handle the uncertainty, fear, and anxiety brought about by this worldwide crisis.


If you haven’t heard of it, Talkspace is a convenient and affordable way to connect with licensed therapists. Right now they’re offering free resources to increase access to therapists for both existing users and non-users alike, including free therapist-led Facebook support groups where individuals can seek guidance, tips, and resources directly from a licensed therapist. These groups also allow individuals to cultivate a sense of community during what can be an isolating time. Join the Talkspace Facebook Group here.

Additionally, Talkspace launched a COVID-19 channel on their Instagram account. Individuals can ask questions related to coronavirus and relevant topics (anxiety, loneliness, fear, WFH, etc.) using the “Questions” feature on Instagram Stories. One of Talkspace's licensed therapists will answer these questions daily. They are also gathering all of the past Q+A’s on their COVID-19 Story Highlight (the small bubble that appears at the top of their Instagram feed). Learn more about this Instagram channel here.


Since March 5th, Talkspace has seen over a 30% increase in the number of people seeking help with coronavirus-related anxiety, depression, and support. Many people feel overwhelmed by the unknown. They’re trying to take care of themselves and to simply understand the current situation. Dr. Cirbus shared some advice on coping with the situation at hand. Read a short recap below, and be sure to watch the full video for more details and information! 

Lack of Control 

All of a sudden, day-to-day life looks very different. There is a collective understanding that everyone is struggling in one way or another. Unexpected change can trigger a sense of powerlessness and lack of control as people try to gain their footing. Dr. Cirbus advises focusing on today and on the things that you can control. This will look different from person to person but may include things like:

  • Creating a daily schedule so your day has a routine and rhythm 
  • Deciding on your self-care activities including diet or exercise activities


Achievement-Oriented Culture 

There is a plethora of information (and in some cases, pressure) being put out there in blogs, newsletters, and social media posts about what people can or should be doing during this time to be productive, work on their business and be creative. For some, this may be inspirational and helpful, yet for others, this may trigger feelings of guilt or shame for not being able to optimize their time the way that they are “supposed” to. As human beings, we have a natural drive to be productive and do the right thing, right now—but this can be very difficult when we are faced with new situations. 


Not a Time for Comparison

It’s important to realize that what works for you may look different from what works for family, friends, coworkers, and peers. What works for you may also look different from one day to the next. Now is not the time for comparison. It is a time to listen and to hone in on what YOU need right now.


Mind vs. Emotion

We might feel as though we’ve gotten a handle on this situation and neatly compartmentalized it in our brains. What we have to remember is that our feelings and emotions don’t always work that way. You may feel like you are on a roller coaster or riding waves throughout the day as these emotions ebb and flow. You may wake up energized, feeling creative and productive but in a few hours become overwhelmed or overcome by negative feelings. You may feel like you “just can’t”. And this is okay.


“We are not supposed to know what to be doing right now,” - Dr. Cirbus


Giving Grace

When life gets stressful, it can be hard to remember to do simple things like drink enough water or to go to bed on time, but by being intentional and setting time aside to focus on taking care of yourself, you find a better balance, especially during difficult times. That said, it’s also critical that we offer ourselves grace and manage the expectations we place on ourselves, our families, and others. Even if today did not go as planned, it’s okay. You can regroup, reorganize and try again tomorrow!


Family Advice

Communication is key when it comes to our families during this time. Make time to check in as a family as well as with each member of your family. Ask questions and find out how they are feeling; this can truly help to keep everyone on the same page (or at least on the same chapter of the book!). Figure out as a family what’s working, what’s not, and what can be adjusted to help everyone manage their time, emotions, and activities better and in a healthier way. 


Human Being vs. Human Doing

Being able to sit in this moment, be still, and listen to what you need despite the ambiguity and unknown is not easy, but Dr. Cirbus reminds us that it’s okay if you aren’t reinventing yourself right now, making art, baking bread, coming up with new recipes, working on your business…. It’s okay if you do nothing other than taking care of yourself so that you can take care of your family during this time! 


For more tips and advice from Dr. Cirbus, be sure to watch the full video. Remember that we are all #InItTogether and PPA is here to support you during this time. If you haven’t already, be sure to bookmark for up to date information on assistance as well as resources and live chat services to assist you!

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