Category: <span>Depression</span>

COVID-19: Coping Strategies at Home and Online Therapy

A Guide to Staying Home

Common risk factors and symptoms of depression include self-isolating, not getting out of bed, not being able to enjoy activities you would normally take pleasure in, lack of concentration, chronic fatigue, and feeling hopeless and helpless. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all been asked to physically self-quarantine as much as possible. Natural side effects from that would be any or all of the symptoms of depression listed above. Additionally, the economy, employment, and the future of our nation are all uncertain, thus creating the perfect recipe for anxiety. Therefore, it is important to stay proactive and take your health and wellness into your own hands before it has the chance to spiral into a depressive episode. So you might wonder what you can do to help prevent this?

Here are 10 ideas to help you get through this difficult and historic time:

1. Get out of bed. Even if you are working from home, make an office space for yourself so you can separate work from personal life.
2. Maintain your routines. Wake up at the same time as you normally would, continue to exercise or eat at the same times. You might have to change what you eat or how you exercise based on what is available, but it is still important to maintain habits or they will be much harder to get back into later on.
3. Now is the time to reach out to friends and family. Call, text, video, or any way you can think of to maintain regular contact without being physically together. Make dinner dates via skype or facetime. Try out the new Netflix hang out option with google chrome. Play games with each other in real time. Try starting a book club or video-teach each other new skills (like knitting or music, etc.). Have a video dance party! Be sure to ask each other how you are doing at this time and be supportive.
4. Stay active. If you are located somewhere that allows going outside, then I recommend going for walks or runs. Be mindful of public play structures since COVID-19 can live on surfaces for 3 days. If the weather is not conducive to being outside, try working out from home with something like “beachbody” or yoga with youtube videos.
5. Is there an indoor hobby you have always wanted to try but have never had the time? Try picking up a new hobby such as drawing, painting, writing, crafting, pickling, baking, or anything that strikes your fancy.
6. Spend quality time with your pets or take this opportunity to foster a pet.
7. Meditate: Spend 5-30 minutes every day doing a guided meditation or listening to guided imagery while practicing diaphragmatic breathing. I recommend listening to The Honest Guys on youtube. Check out my therapeutic resources page for more specific details and resources.
8. Get an audible subscription or listen to books through your digital library. Read more books!
9. Try to cook a new recipe every week with what you have in the house.
10. Organize and donate things you can part with once quarantine is over.

About Telehealth/Online Therapy

I am accepting new patients at this time provided that my skillset matches what you are looking to work on. Given the acceleration of the COVID-19 situation, I will be exclusively doing online-only sessions for a few weeks at a minimum. At this time I am only able to accept private pay and commercial Blue Cross Blue Shield or Blue Care Network plans, Please double check with your insurance to make sure they cover telementalhealth.

While engaging in online sessions, be aware that it will be different from what you might be used to with in-person sessions. There could be potential connectivity issues and you will be responsible for privacy maintained on your end of the connection. Additionally, some therapy interventions such as EMDR or use of the lightbar for processing will be unavailable for online use, however, I am currently developing a way to incorporate auditory EMDR as an alternative. Please ask any questions or concerns you may have regarding using this platform. If you are interested in telehealth, we can discuss more details as to how to access your online appointment. Note that if you are using your insurance to pay for your sessions, you may want to verify that they cover teletherapy. Most plans do, however, out-of-state plans may not and you should check with your insurance by calling the customer service number on the back of your insurance card. I am only legally permitted to offer therapy within my practicing licensed state (Michigan) on both sides of the conversation.

Don’t forget to fill out the Telehealth Consent Form required prior to our online session.

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You may contact me via e-mail at jmorris@jmmhc.com or voicemail at 248-327-4643.

Harry Potter: Depression- Using a Patronus Charm

*I do not own Harry Potter, therefore, mention of characters/concepts are solely intended for educational and therapeutic gain.*


J.K. Rowling has been open about her struggle with Major Depression, describing emptiness and a lack of hope. Many have likened her description of dementors to depression, creatures who suck the life and happiness out of anyone nearby. They are employed by the ministry of magic to deliver a “dementor’s kiss” to criminals sentenced to a fate worse than death. A dementor’s kiss involves having one’s soul sucked out, leaving behind a shell of a body to wander the earth for eternity. Dementors have been described with black cloaks, scabbed skin, skeletal bodies, and rancid, rattling breath. They feed off of emotion, however, are unable to withstand happiness. Dementors cause individuals to feel as if they will never be happy again and all warmth is extinguished from the body. Chocolate is used in the Harry Potter series to help with the after-effects of a dementor encounter, described to return warmth and feeling back to the body. In the muggle world, science often debates the potential relationship between chocolate and depression (whether it helps, hurts, or is simply a marker as a comfort food).

In the DSM-V, Depression occurs in episodes containing 5 or more of the following symptoms within at least a 2 week period of time: Anhedonia/lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed, hypersomnia/insomnia, chronic fatigue, frequent thoughts about death or dying, increased or decreased appetite, social isolation, frequent tearfulness, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or helplessness, difficulty concentrating, body feels slowed down or agitated, and feeling sad/empty.

In the books, dementors have been demonstrated to affect some more than others. In particular, Harry experienced true horrors in his past, therefore, he was affected strongly by dementors, often fainting while hearing the voice of his screaming mother upon her death. Due to his heightened susceptibility, Harry works with Remus Lupin to learn how to repel dementors (actually a boggart) using the patronus charm. A patronus charm is a wisp of light created by thinking of a very strong, extraordinarily happy memory, while saying the incantation: “Expecto Patronum”. This charm has been described as very advanced and difficult to produce, however, when done properly, takes the form of an animal or creature. If you are unsure what your patronus form would be, go on pottermore.com to take the patronus quiz.

The idea of using a patronus charm for combating depression serves to remind and provide perspective in contrast to depression’s strangling grasp. While it cannot entirely alleviate a depressive episode, it encourages positive memories to balance out the negative thoughts invoked by depression. Comparing symptoms of depression to characteristics of dementors paints a relatable picture for readers of Harry Potter. If you or someone you know identifies with some of the aforementioned symptoms, the following exercise could be helpful for managing thoughts and mood:

  1. Identify your current negative thoughts.
    1. Write them down on some paper or in a journal.
    2. Imagine your negative thoughts transforming into dementors with black cloaks, scabbed hands, and rancid, rattling breath.
    3. Take a moment to reflect on the emotions that the dementors impose.
  2. Transitioning to the next stage will be difficult, just like it was for Harry when he resisted collapsing each time: Now think of a few strong, positive, happy, loving, or peaceful memories. (Don’t let yourself minimize them!)
    1. Are some memories stronger than others?
    2. Write down as many as you can.
  3. What emotions come up when you conjure those memories?
    1. Write them down
  4. Are there any details of your memory that you noticed this time around?
    1. What did you see and experience?
    2. Imagine yourself reliving your special memory.
  5. Think of animals/creatures you identify with as a representation of you.
    1. Why did you think of them?
    2. What characteristics do you share?
    3. Picture the shape and appearance of your patronus.
    4. How does it move?
    5. How do you feel next to your patronus?
  6. Now re-experience your positive memory again and say (or think), “Expecto Patronum”.
    1. Allow yourself to feel the bliss and joy that lives in your memory.
    2. Imagine your patronus trampling the dementors, banishing them far away.
    3. Visualize your negative thoughts breaking apart from the dementors as they flee. Your newly detached thoughts disintegrate along with your depression.
    4. Write down how you feel after completing this exercise.
    5. How would your life be without those negative thoughts?

Please note that these therapy exercises do not qualify as stand-alone treatments and it is recommended that you seek help from a licensed professional mental health provider.

Thank you for reading this Harry Potter psychotherapy exercise. For personalized professional support, please contact me to schedule an appointment at:

E-mail: jmorris@jmmhc.com

Voicemail: (248) 327-4643

Depression

What is depression?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-V), Depression occurs in episodes containing 5 or more of the following symptoms within at least a 2 week period of time:

  • Anhedonia/lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Hypersomnia/Insomnia
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Social Isolation
  • Frequent thoughts about death or dying
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or helplessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent Tearfulness
  • Body feels slowed down or agitated
  • Feeling sad/empty

Although symptoms are variable, if you identify with multiple items on the list, you may want to consider reaching out for professional counseling. You don’t have to force yourself to suffer through every day because depression can be treated. My psychotherapy approach focuses on negative thought patterns, interpersonal functioning, perceived insecurities, and experiences that have shaped current belief systems. I recognize that it is not always comfortable opening up to a stranger, however, I work with my clients to ensure their preferred pace and comfort level.

For some introductory tips, check out my Therapeutic Resources page: http://jennifermorrismentalhealthcounseling.com/therapeutic-resources/

Also, be sure to journal about your journey in emotional processing. There is power in putting pen to paper and letting your ideas flow. If writing is not your favorite, then you can try an alternative creative art form, whether it include coloring pages, painting, drawing, design, or crafting (anything that feels personally expressive).

For information on the effectiveness of psychotherapy, please visit: http://www.apa.org/about/policy/resolution-psychotherapy.aspx

COVID-19: Coping Strategies at Home and Online Therapy

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