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NO STIGMA NEVADA: Carson City therapist: How to deal with stress and despair

As the COVID-19 pandemic death toll reaches nearly 100,000 in the U.S. and continues to rise, as do the numbers of unemployed, living with fear, anxiety, stress and even despair has become the new norm in Nevada and beyond.

And it’s understandable. Nearly 30 percent of Nevadans are unemployed, the highest percentage in the nation. National experts are predicting at least 40 percent of the more than 40 million unemployed Americans will not get their jobs back.

Those aren’t just facts. They’re a recipe for a mental tsunami.

I reached out to some Nevada therapists to get their thoughts and suggestions for therapeutic techniques for finding some light at the end of the tunnel — or at least some ways to relax.

Here are some ideas from Heather DeAngeli, a licensed clinical social worker and a clinical supervisor at Vitality VIP in Carson City.

She uses mindfulness and meditation, popular relaxation techniques these days. They’re a series of breathing and concentration exercises anyone can do in a small space, no technology or conversation needed.

When someone asks you for advice these days, what’s your first response?

First, I validate my client’s feelings, let them know that what they are feeling is normal. This is a scary time for everyone. We are living in uncharted territory and there is no playbook for how to respond to this pandemic.

People can be extremely judgmental toward themselves for not being able to “hold it together,” but the truth is, we are all human and no one is going to be able to “keep it together” all of the time during this coronavirus.

I stress that these days no one can predict the future, so spending hours feeling anxious about the unknown is not helpful.

What does the mindfulness technique involve?

Research has proven that mindfulness is highly effective in reducing anxiety and depression. It’s about feeling in control of the present moment rather than having your thoughts about the past and future scattered all over.

Mindfulness isn’t about being happy all the time. It’s about feeling whatever we feel without trying to resist or control these feelings while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s emotions, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It looks like this:

■ Stand up and breathe. Feel your connection to the earth.

■ Tune in to your body. Lower your gaze. Scan your body and notice physical sensations or emotions. Discharge any unpleasant sensations, emotions or feelings on the out breath. Notice any pleasant ones and let them fill you up on the in breath.

■ Observe. Lift your eyes and take in your surroundings. Observe something in your environment that is pleasant and be grateful for it and its beauty.

■ Possibility. Ask yourself what is possible or what is new or what is a forward step.

What about meditation?

I also teach my clients to meditate. Research shows that spending just 10 minutes each day meditating helps to better understand how we think and better manage our emotions. I suggest meditating using the app “Headspace.” It’s great for every skill level and takes you step by step through the process of meditation. The first few sessions are free then you can tune in to YouTube for more free classes.

This is from the Headspace website: Sitting down, take a nice deep breath, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Feel the mind in the body more present, more aware, more focused. Notice how the body feels, whether there’s a sense of energy or lightness, heaviness or discomfort.

Any other thoughts?

Take care of your physical health. Stay hydrated, eat healthy meals, go for walks and get adequate sleep. Get out of your PJ’s every day even if you’re working from home. Engage in at-home exercises or taking an hour a day to engage in relaxing activities.

Most importantly, reach out for help when you need it.

No Stigma Nevada is a series on mental health by Kim Palchikoff, a licensed social worker. She can be contacted at palchikoff@gmail.com. Heather DeAngeli is a licensed clinical social worker and a clinical supervisor at Vitality VIP in Carson City. She specializes in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

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