It goes without saying that the current coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented and is impacting on society and the world in lots of different ways. Everything from our health services, to our supermarkets, to the way we live our lives every day, has been affected. On top of this, with social distancing and self-isolation measures in place, it’s not surprising that it’s having an effect on many people’s mental health.
That’s why now, more than ever, being able to access online mental health therapy is so important. Also, the fact that lots of people are now unwilling or unable to access face-to-face therapy, due to their health and ongoing Government restrictions, means that online support is currently the preferred route for many. In this blog, we offer tips for accessing online therapy and provide information on the online mental health support that we can provide at Priory.
Accessing therapy during the COVID-19 outbreak
Try and find a quiet space
If you’re accessing online therapy from home, it’s important to try and find a quiet space for this and somewhere where you’re least likely to be disturbed. However, for many people, we know that’s easier said than done. You may have children off school, or may live in a shared house or flat, which can make finding a quiet space tricky.
If your children are off school and you have another adult in the household such as a partner, who can look after them while you’re accessing online therapy, then it’s a good idea to make sure they’re on hand during your session and let them know you need a bit of quiet. Remember, online therapy sessions can be entirely flexible, so you can make sure you’re scheduling a time that works best for you and your circumstances – this could be in the evenings and at weekends.
You could also consider getting outside for your sessions. If you have somewhere to go that means you’ll still have some peace and quiet, such as a garden or yard, while also following social distancing guidelines, then this may also be a good option for you. Getting out in nature (as long as you’re able to), can also help to boost your mood.
Another thing you can do to block out any background noise is to wear headphones during your sessions. Also, make sure you mute or hide any notifications that may pop up on your phone or tablet or whichever device you’re using for the online therapy, so you’re not distracted by them.
By minimising noise and distractions, you’re more likely to be able to get the most out of your sessions, and take steps towards positive mental wellbeing.
Treat online therapy like a real face-to-face session
Speaking to a therapist or counsellor online can feel strange, at least at first. However, by treating your online therapy sessions like usual, face-to-face appointments, this can help you to adjust quicker and really get in the swing of things.
First of all, make sure you’re up, dressed and feeling fresh. By sticking to your daily routine in terms of general grooming and getting ready, this can help bring some normality to the situation and help you to feel how you usually would when attending a therapy session. Also, simple acts such as having a shower and brushing your hair can help you to feel better generally, which can lift your mood.
Also, don’t hold back during your online sessions – make sure you’re getting things off your chest in the same way you would during a face-to-face session. By allowing yourself to become fully immersed in the session, this can help you to forget about any initial strangeness you may feel, and really get the most out of your appointment. Online therapy is also a good way to benefit from some human contact when you’re self-isolating or following social distancing guidelines. This can help you stay connected to the outside world which, in itself, can boost your mood and wellbeing. After all, humans are social beings, so really try to make the most out of this.
It’s completely understandable if you need some time to adjust to the concept of online therapy but remember, your therapist is there to help and guide you during this time and has your best interests at heart.
Use your time online constructively
As well as accessing online therapy, there are other ways we can use the internet constructively during this time, to help with our wellbeing.
With the closure of gyms and leisure centres, many people are now offering online exercise sessions, such as yoga, to help people stay active and improve their mood. Signing up for online yoga may be particularly helpful during this time – not only will these sessions help you to stay active and benefit from social contact, but yoga is also really relaxing and can help to keep anxiety at bay.
The internet has interconnected much of the world, which is why we’re able to benefit from online mental health therapy. However, it also provides you with an excellent way of keeping in touch with family and friends during this time. Sending messages and emails can help to keep you connected to your loved ones even if you can’t see them in person. You can also go one step further and use video calling such as FaceTime or Skype so you can physically see someone as you talk to them. You can make this a real event by going for a ‘virtual coffee’ with your loved ones, where you each set the time aside to relax and catch up.
While the internet can be a really positive outlet during this time, certain types of internet usage can actually make us feel worse. If news of the coronavirus outbreak is making you feel anxious, then the constant stream of online news and social media speculation can really get on top of us. If this sounds like you, it’s a good idea to limit your exposure to the news and social media for the time being. Set yourself the goal of only catching up on the news once or twice a day, and consider unfollowing unhelpful social media accounts or even temporarily coming off social media altogether.
By committing to only spending time online for helpful reasons such as accessing therapy, doing online exercise, or keeping in touch with loved ones, you’ll be able to safeguard your wellbeing during such a difficult time.
Support for expats during the COVID-19 outbreak
For expats, this may be a particularly challenging time, as they may be used to frequently travelling back to their country of origin to visit lived ones, which is not possible during a 'lockdown'.
In this short video, Dr Paul McLaren discusses the mental health issues expats may be facing during the COVID-19 outbreak, such as depression and anxiety. He offers his support for those very far away from home, who may be feeling more isolated than most, and offers practical tips on how to look after mental wellbeing during this difficult time.
Priory’s online therapy service
At Priory, we have an online therapy service called Priory Connect which can put you in contact with highly qualified specialists, experienced in supporting people with their mental health at this time when people are being advised to stay indoors.
Our online therapy offers:
- Therapy sessions with one of our expert therapists in the comfort of your own home
- The flexibility of being able to receive specialist treatment without having to travel to one of our sites – all you need is an internet connection. This is helpful if you’re self-isolating
- Day time, evening and weekend sessions available
For more information on our online therapy, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Remember, even if you’re self-isolating, you don’t have to struggle with your mental health. Now is the time to get the online support you need.