Keeping Your Cool in the Midst of Covid 19
How, you ask? Certainly, this is a very stressful situation we are all in. But often times, people's worry gets out of proportion. Some amount of thinking about the situation is needed, to be able to respond appropriately. But you know that worrying too much, like catastrophizing or thinking worst case scenarios all the time, doesn't help. In fact, it leaves us too anxious and even works against our immune system, which we need to keep as healthy as possible right now. Here are some tips on how to keep your stress-level low and keep your cool.
1. Routine, routine, routine. Keep it. Or if you lost your routine, recreate it. You may need to modify it, but do find a daily routine that works for you. And don't forget those routine visits to your doc and your dentist. Follow their recommendations to keep your health up!
2. Self-care. Do it! Find a way! Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep. Exercise 30 minutes daily - whatever works for you (consult your doc). Find a few minutes each day, to do something enjoyable for yourself. Also watch what you are eating. Food is like fuel to our bodies and minds. Would you put sugar water into your car's gas tank? Make sure you get the right nutrients your body needs. Finally, watch the alcohol. Too much of anything is no bueno. If you need help with these, check in with your doc.
3. Put that phone down and stop checking social media or the news for Covid updates. I mean, do be informed so you can act accordingly. But - Too much checking the new etc. is going to increase your anxiety. Think of it as info is "diet" for your mind - what you feed it is going to create the state of mind you will be in. Balance the info. searching with fun or interesting input. Discovery channel? And ah!!...Don't become a couch tater. Limit the sedentary activities and get outside daily! There seems to be a growing number of people with low Vitamin D levels due to not being outside in the sun enough these days. Low Vitamin D can be connected to low mood. May want to get that checked.
4. Be creative! Necessity is the mother of invention. Try that new hobby that you never took the time to learn. Find new ways to connect with others. Have a socially distanced meet-up with a friend at a park or order in and "share a meal" via video chat. Or maybe pick up the old art of letter writing again. The possibilities are endless.
5. Mindfulness activities - these have been shown to help people stabilize their mood. There are various apps you can try for this. Or check out the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center by UCLA. http://marc.ucla.edu
If you are struggling with anxiety or depression due to Covid 19 ~ Let's Talk!
Self Care - Learn to Love Yourself
Self care = self love. Is this you? Some people give and give and soon find themselves empty, tired and often even sad or depressed. Why is this so hard for some of us, you ask? Well, partly, taking care of yourself, or not taking care of yourself, is learned. And to some degree or another you are probably telling yourself things like, 'it's selfish to take care of myself.' Yet, "take care of yourself" is exactly what we tend to advice others to do. Fact is, if we don't take care of ourselves, we will soon be depleted of our own physical and mental health and unable to help anyone. So, looking at it this way, taking care of yourself, is taking care of others, as well. By taking care of you, you ensure that you will continue to be around; that you will be mentally and physically able to "be there" for yourself, and for others. Start with the basics. Here are some tips to get you started on learning how to take care of- and love yourself.
1. I would argue that taking the time to go to your regular check-ups and doctor's appointments is the first and most important step towards self-care. By attending your scheduled check-ups you can identify medical issues early on, potentially saving your health or even your life. What could be more self-loving? Also, physical health and mental health go hand in hand; one affects the other and vice versa. Follow your doctor's recommendations for staying- or getting healthy, such as taking medications as prescribed.
2. Allowing yourself to get the sleep you need is self-care. Lack of sleep affects your health and your physical- and mental functioning. Figure out how much sleep is optimal for you. Most people need between 7 and 8 hours, some as much as 9 or 10 hours. Quality of sleep is important, as well. You know if your sleep quality is good, if you wake up feeling refreshed and not tired. If your sleep quality is poor, you are likely having trouble staying asleep or falling asleep, or your sleep is restless. Look for my post on sleep hygiene; which talks about things you can do to ensure you are getting a good night's sleep. Also, if your sleep is lacking, your doc may have some recommendations for you to help improve this.
3. Keeping your body fit is a form of self-care. Take the time for yourself to follow an exercise routine. I can't emphasize enough the importance and the powerful effects of exercise on a person's mental- and physical wellness. Not only will you get stronger and stay more agile and fit, but also the endorphins that are being released in your body while exercising will help you to develop and keep up a more positive mood-state. It's a good idea to check in with your doc and follow recommendations before starting a new exercising program. For most people, about 30 minutes of some type of aerobic activity most days of the week is recommended. Things like stretching and yoga will also add to your overall well-being.
4. Eating healthy = self-care. Think of food as fuel for your body, which it very much is. You can notice a difference if you pay attention to how you feel and function after you eat certain foods. People who eat healthier food choices tend to feel better physically and mentally, because their bodies get the nutrients it needs. Not saying you can't have some treats or your favorite foods. Everything in moderation. Depriving yourself is probably not going to work for long. Generally speaking though, you want to aim for balanced meals with lots of fresh vegetables and some fruits. Again, speaking with your doctor or a nutritionist about what they may recommend for you is a good idea. Different people have different types of nutritional needs.
5. Talk to a counselor if you can't find a way to get off the self-sabotaging train of thoughts that keep you from taking care of yourself. Often times people get stuck in negative thoughts that are not helpful. It is important to identify underlying beliefs to these negative thoughts. In counseling we can work towards debunking these beliefs, and creating new, more positive thoughts, so you can learn to love- and take care of yourself.
Take care of yourself. We need you to be OK :)
You're not alone. ~ Let's Talk! ~ Petra
If you are experiencing a mental health emergency please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at
1-800-273-8255 Or go to your nearest emergency room.
Have you had the following experience? You go to counseling, thinking you will get to feeling better. You get frustrated, because things don't change. So you try another counselor. And another. And then, you give up. And your conclusion: Counseling doesn't work. You're not alone in this. I've heard this from several clients, who have decided to give it one more try. And I'm here to tell you, it Can work. So how Do you get your goals met in counseling?
1 First things first. The shoe has to fit, sorta speak. For example, if you have a foot problem, you see a foot specialist, not an ear-, nose- and throat specialist, right? (I mean unless it's something like, your toe is stuck in your ear while doing a yoga pose? lol jk...hope I made you smile). What is true for medical issues, is also true for mental health issues. So, for example, if you have symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, you want to find a counselor who specializes in and has experience working with people experiencing this.
2 Are you feeling comfortable talking to your counselor? THIS, is probably the most important of all. Counselors are people like you and me (oh, wait, I am a counselor lol...well, and a human being :). As you know from experience, you don't feel comfortable opening up about your life to just anybody. There has to be a "connection." A kind of sense that "yeah, I can talk to this person." Not that counseling is like a full on friendship, but it is a professional partnership between a client and a counselor. If it doesn't "feel" that way to you, chances are slim that you will be able to really address what's going on and...meet your goals. So, find someone you feel you can really talk with, about anything and everything.
3 Is the counselor using evidence based - researched and proven methods? This is important because there are lots of un-researched approaches used by counselors, that may not be the best choice for your situation. It is similar to the foot in ear scenario explained above. You need help that works for the problem you are addressing. How would you know what practices a counselor is using, you ask? You can find this information by checking out websites like National Alliance on Mental Illness -NAMI. There, under the different diagnoses, you can see the types of treatments that have been proven to be the most effective. Then, when looking for a counselor, or if you already have one, you can ask them what type of treatment model they use in counseling with you.
4 You will NEED to be HIGHLY involved. This is work. More accurately, this is TEAMWORK. And what I mean by “team” is you and your counselor, but it can also include others, like your doctor or support from family and friends. Your part in this is to actively participate in putting together a plan of action, called a treatment plan. You and your counselor identify what “the problem” is (and no, it’s not “you”) and define some goals towards resolving this problem. Your counselor will then talk with you about the specific how to’s (called objectives and interventions) and write those into your plan, as well. As you start working together, you will need to do “homework,” like reading information about the topic at hand (this is called psycho-education), journaling or tracking your moods and thoughts. There will be things you will need to do outside of the session to incorporate what you learned into your life. For example, you might learn about the connection between mental and physical health, and may need to incorporate more ZZ’s and more exercise into your life. Yep, we counselors can’t wave a magic want and just make it all go away. A large part to achieving your goals in counseling really depends on how much you put into this.
6 Understanding that it will take TIME. Usually, the person has developed unhelpful thoughts that are underlying the problem over many years. These unhelpful thoughts are connected to the negative emotions the person is experiencing and can be connected to unhelpful behaviors, as well. The longer these unhelpful thoughts continue, the stronger they become. Therefore, it will take some time to break that cycle of thinking and to establish more positive ways of being. This requires you to be patient with yourself. When things are not going so well, be kind to yourself, like you would be kind to your best friend. It is also important for you to recognize and celebrate each small achievement you make. This will help make the new positive thoughts stronger and help you achieve your goals faster.
You're not alone. ~ Let's Talk! ~ Petra
If you are experiencing a mental health emergency please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at
1-800-273-8255 Or go to your nearest emergency room.
The last counselor told me to just pray...
Have you ever been told to just pray about your problem when talking to a mental health professional, even when they knew you are not a believer? You are not the only one. This is flat out unethical and disrespectful. As mental health professionals we are taught to not push our own beliefs onto our clients. So if this happened to you, I am so so sorry you experienced that.
No, not all mental health professionals are like this. Please do not give up on us. It is important for you to get connected to someone who is either going to keep their beliefs out of the therapy sessions with you or to find someone who is on the same "wave length" as you. I am Agnostic friendly, Atheist friendly, Free-thinker friendly, Skeptic friendly, non-religious friendly, Humanist friendly and I offer secular counseling. I am also approved and listed as a secular therapist with the secular therapy project. My approach in counseling is to only use evidence based practices, such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) or Solution Focused Therapy.
If you would like to chat with me about my non-religious background and to see if we are a good fit in therapy, please schedule a Free 30 minute phone consultation via this website or by calling 208 321 5552. I will be happy to meet with you over the phone. And I promise, I will not tell you to pray.
My counseling office is conveniently located off the Meridian exit. It is also centrally located and easy to get to from Boise, Eagle, Kuna and Nampa. However, for Telehealth video sessions you do not need to come into the office and can do counseling with me from anywhere in Idaho. Check out my profile on Open Path Collective for a low fee option, if you don't have insurance, or have financial difficulties.
~ Let's Talk! Petra
May is for Mental Health Awareness - Be Aware of Symptoms of Acute Stress Reaction from COVID 19
For May Mental Health Awareness month 2020 we are facing extraordinarily difficult times during this Coronavirus pandemic. Suicide hotlines are reporting an increased volume of calls since the outbreak of COVID 19 in the United States. Another sign of these distressing times are the news reports about people becoming victims of suicide. All of this prompts extra importance to raise awareness of possible symptoms of mental distress, now more than ever. By raising awareness, we can better identify the distress in ourselves or in others and get the help that is needed.
Could you or a loved one be having an Acute Stress Reaction due to COVID 19? Many people have reported experiencing distressing emotions and other symptoms in connection to the current distressing situation we are all living under. The pandemic has reached the threshold of being classified as a traumatic event, as it has been threatening lives and taken many. An Acute Stress Reaction is when a person is having symptoms in response to a traumatic event.
You may be having an Acute Stress Reaction in response to COVID 19 if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms.
- Distressing memories, flashbacks or nightmares of traumatic experiences connected to the pandemic.
- Extreme or drawn-out reactive distress in response to reminders or cues of the traumatic events.
- Relentless negative mood or lowered ability to experience feelings of happiness, love, or contentment.
- Feelings of being in a daze or a sense of altered reality.
- Being unable to remember some things connected to the traumatic event.
- Doing things to avoid triggers setting off distressing memories and feelings in connection to the trauma, such as avoidance of certain conversations, people, or situations.
- Having difficulty falling or staying asleep, or an inability to achieve rest-full sleep.
- Anger outbursts, irritability, verbal or physical aggression.
- Being hyper-vigilant.
- An inability to concentrate.
- Being easily startled.
The corona virus pandemic and necessary social distancing is taking its toll on people's mental health. It is generally better and recommended to deal with mental health issues as soon as possible to avoid lasting or worsening of symptoms. Please reach out and get help if you or a loved one are in distress from mental health symptoms connected to COVID 19.
You're not alone. ~ Let's Talk! ~ Petra
If you are experiencing a mental health emergency please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 Or go to your nearest emergency room.
Are you having trouble sleeping?
I hear from many that they’re struggling with falling asleep or staying asleep. Others say their sleep is not restful and they feel tired all the time. Is this you? Well, sleep disturbance can be a symptom of anxiety, which may have developed or increased during this time of COVID-19 and social distancing. So what can you do? You may have had an irregular sleep schedule doing this time and your brain might be confused as to when it is supposed to sleep. When a person has a regular sleep schedule, they tend to fall asleep easier and have better quality sleep overall. So you could try to retrain your brain 🧠 back to a regular sleep schedule.
But how do I know if my sleep disturbance is connected to anxiety you ask? Anxiety has many symptoms. It can look different for different people. See if the following symptoms might fit you. Are you also experiencing Restlessness, Feeling keyed up or on edge, Being easily fatigued, Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank, Irritability, or Muscle tension? Maybe you are constantly worrying about yourself or a loved one getting the coronavirus, or about whether or not you have been cleaning enough or about the whole social distancing thing. Are you finding it difficult to control your worry? Also, are you noticing the anxiety spilling over into your relationships with your loved ones at home? (By the way this is not uncommon, with everyone being cramped into small quarters during the social isolation.) Or are you noticing the anxiety hindering you from being productive at work or notice it affect any other area in your life? If you answered yes to a couple of these it might be a good idea for you to get some counseling.
We are all experiencing some degree of difficult emotions during this time of Covid 19 and social isolation. But leaving anxiety unchecked, it can get worse and even become depression. Also, if you are feeling alone during this time of social isolation it could help to connect and talk to a counselor. You can book your appointment on my website by clicking the book now button below. Not sure if counseling is right for you? I also offer a free phone consultation. You’re not alone. Let’s Talk!
No insurance? No problem. If you are struggling financially, I can offer lower fee rates through a program called Open Path Collective. Or, if there’s anyone in your household who qualifies for an employee assistance program (EAP), you might be able to get some counseling sessions through that. The employee connected to the EAP has to contact the EAP and request sessions for you. If you want to see me for counseling and I happen to not be on that particular EAP, let me know and I can contact the EAP to see if a one time contract is available.
Keeping Anxiety in Check During Social Distancing
Many of us feel anxious during this time of social distancing and COVID 19. You're not alone. Here are some tips on how to keep that anxiety in check.
Having a daily routine can provide a sense of control over the situation and therefore help you to stay calmer. Going to sleep and getting up at the same time each day. If you are working from home, schedule yourself regular work-hours. Not working right now? Schedule project-time, like for home improvements or in things that interest you.
Keep up Your Workouts
Regular exercise has been shown to be effective in lowering anxiety and depression. Continue your exercise routine, as much as possible. Don't have an exercise routine? Now might be a great time to start one. Do check in with your doc first, especially if you are worried and need some advice on what kind of exercises might be ok for you. If you can't go to the gym for your favorite yoga class, there are many online offerings for exercise-type classes right now. Got kids? Find a way to get them involved. It will do them good, as well.
Think Healthy Eating Habits
Balanced and healthy food choices will provide your body with the nutrients it needs. This will help to keep your mood more even overall. Be aware of those extra trips to the refrigerator. Routine comes into play here, as well. Have regularly scheduled meals. Feeling like snacking too much? Ask yourself if you are eating out of boredom, anxiety or if you are really hungry. Paying attention to your bodily needs, moods and thoughts, you can figure out what is going on for you and give your body what it really needs. If you are living with family or friends, try to have at least one meal a day together. This can lessen the feeling of loneliness during social isolation.
Do Spend Time Outside
Gardening, going for walks or runs and other outside activities are also great ways to reduce the anxiety of being cubed up. Getting some outside time daily will help you to de-stress and provide you with fresh air and Vitamin D from the sun. Many people have low Vitamin D levels and don't know it. A low Vitamin D level can be connected to anxiety and depression symptoms. Be sure to keep up to date on information and follow the current social distancing recommendations. Lastly, if you are spending longer periods of time on the outs, don't forget the sunscreen!
You're Not Alone
Connect with family or friends over the phone or over a video chat. It might even be helpful to schedule these times to add to your routine. There are even support groups, such as peer groups for people dealing with mental illness, through the National Alliance on Mental Illness, that are held online. For additional help with anxiety and depression during this difficult time, you can connect with me via Telehealth sessions. Just click and book your appointment.
~Let's Talk! ~Petra
I pose this question twisting the term “locus of control” developed by Julian B. Rotter, an American psychologist, in 1954. Locus of control is a concept looking at the degree to which a person thinks they have control over dealing with things happening in their lives versus outside influences dictating the outcome.
People who focus too much on outside influences, may blame others, fate or bad luck for their situation. They tend to say things like "I have no choice" or "They make me feel guilty if I don't do this." Such thoughts have likely developed over long periods of time and tend to be great contributors to feelings of anxiety and depression.
I am not saying one should totally focus on the self, in all situations. Certainly, there are events and circumstances brought on from the environment, that can throw us a wrench sort-to-speak; and some are bigger wrenches than others. Many people even have to deal with a whole toolbox full of wrenches that have been thrown into their lives. Some are traumatic, some are painful, some are horrific, or all of the above. And sometimes it really sucks, is not fair, etc. etc. etc. Yes, absolutely do we need to pay attention to these outside circumstances, events or influences and deal with them appropriately.
And that’s the key right there. We Choose how to react; how to deal with what has been given to us. Maybe we are not able to choose all of the outcome, in things that are beyond our control. But we can focus on the things we can control. This can help us feel better; less anxious or depressed.
Sometimes it’s hard to look at our own ways in which we can keep ourselves stuck and sometimes we don’t see choices. It can help to talk things through with a counselor.
Need help? ~ Let’s Talk!
Whether you are struggling with depression, anxiety, grief & loss, or any other mental health issue for that matter, or even if you are not - everyone can do these five things that help tremendously with maintaining mental health and well-being.
1. Reduce unnecessary stress and 'stressing.' Take a good look at your life and identify stressors. Then determine what YOU can do about them. Which stressors can you eliminate? What can you change about certain situations? Don't forget to check for stressors on your schedule, in your house (clutter?) and yes, in your mind - what are you 'stressing' about? Find ways to reduce the 'stressing.' One of my favs to dealing with stress (yes, I am a human being lol) is a mindful activity - to get outside and 'connect' with nature - being fully present with all senses and taking it all in. Other examples of how to deal with stress are journaling, napping (another one of my favorites) or talking to a friend. If you have a hard time stopping the stressing, talking with a counselor may be a good idea. Too much stress is not good for us; it can make us physically and mentally ill.
2. Get enough Zzz's. Your brain and your body NEED sleep. Especially if you are not feeling well, or are dealing with any type of illness. It is during sleeping, that your brain and your whole body work on things like making repairs, restoring energy, sorting out and strengthening information learned throughout the day (that's why it's especially important for students to get enough sleep). I prefer to get at least eight, if not nine or so hours each day. Listen to your body as to how many hours feel right for you. If you are struggling with not being able to sleep or if you are not feeling refreshed after nine or so hours of sleep, there may be underlying reasons that need to be addressed and it's time to talk with a counselor and a doctor.
3. Exercise. I can't say enough about that. Exercise has been shown to be Uber-beneficial to people's health, including mental health. As you exercise, 'feel-good' hormones are released, called endorphins, that do exactly that - they help you feel good. The more you exercise on a regular basis, the more of a benefit this will be to you. Find things you ENJOY, because you are more likely to keep doing them. Do a variety of activities to avoid getting bored. Find ways to reduce activities in the day that involve being inactive and ways to increase activity, such as getting off the bus a bus-stop earlier to walk home or taking the bike to work. Please do check with your doc, depending on your particular health situation, before starting any exercise program.
4. Speaking of checking in with your doctor ⚕️; regular check-ups and getting recommended tests done is also very important in maintaining overall health. When you feel something is off in terms of your mental health, getting a check-up is especially important. There are numerous 'medical' conditions that could be underlying or connected to mental health issues. If the doc talks with you about meds, try to have an open mind about it and at least listen to what is offered. Speak your mind about the issue, if you have worries or concerns about medications. If you do decide with your doc that meds are important for you to take, take them as prescribed and communicate with your doc and your counselor about how this is going for you or if you are experiencing side effects. Keeping a journal just for this is a good idea, so you have an objective and written record you can take with you to your appointments, and you don't forget in that few minutes that you are actually seeing the doctor about things you may have wanted to mention. Typically you only see a doctor about once a month or so, therefore it could be easy to forget about things that seemed to be important information at the time.
5. It's all about balance. Look at any areas in which you feel your life may be out of balance. Some examples are balanced eating, work-life balance and balance between time spend by yourself and time spend with others or doing things for others. Try to figure out how to re-balance these areas. Of course, sometimes we have to work a lot or we have to spend a lot of time doing things for others (for example if a family member is ill and we are the main care giver). The idea here is that, eventually, the pendulum needs to swing in the opposite direction, meaning, we NEED to find ways to re-balance from time to time. Being off balance for too long = too much stress (see number 1 above :)
If you are struggling with any of these and would like to chat, please call (208) 321 5552 or schedule online at www.petracounseling.com.
An EAP - employee assistance program can be a great option to get some free counseling. Many employers offer it to their employees and some also extend it to their family members or persons they live with. There are many EAPs and their benefits vary. Here are some things to know about EAPs:
I am registered with some EAPs and in the progress of registering with others. If you would like to find out if I am connected to your EAP please call (208) 321 5552.
~ Let's Talk! ~ Petra
For more information about me please check out
I am a Nationally Certified- and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in the State of Idaho. With over eight years of experience, I specialize in counseling and consulting with adults of all ages, facing anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, grief & loss, life stage issues, stress and more.