I miss walking into our tranquil office with the serene meditative sounds, the calming colors, and the soothing art. We have currently transitioned our energies from intimate encounters to an authentic presence onscreen, online and via telehealth networks. It does not represent our ideal mode but it’s the new ‘new’ and we are present, in the here and now with our clients, even when separated by cyberspace. Our expectations of normal; we can let that go right now. Our virtual weekly staff meetings have provided us a means of tethering our collective talents and skills, connecting us and ensuring that we are supported and ready to serve you.
There is not a better group of coworkers I would prefer to be collaborating with during this storm. Never have I been employed by an agency, practice or institution whereby I would describe my colleagues, each and every one of them, not only in Middletown, but at the headquarters in Eatontown, the Jackson office, as well as the Montclair office, as the most kindest, compassionate, empathetic, genuine, generous, friendly, sympathetic, good-humored, strong and responsive group of individuals I have the honor to work with.
Larry Thompson, MSW, LCSW and Seth Arkush MSW, LCSW, MBA both senior partners of Integrated Care Concepts & Consultation, both often stress and accentuate to all the staff; “We are a family,” and it’s never been more prevalent than now as we come together to help serve our community and those in need. Although we may be serving you looking professional on screen, it is of course possible we are still in PJ pants with pom-pom socks lol – but we are here for you.
Right now many of our community members are riddled with loneliness, isolation, sickness, fear, grief, frustration, feeling confined, feeling sad, with much anticipatory anxiety. It is all trauma and we can get stuck. We can get stuck in many of these negative events we are experiencing. According to Senior Partner, Seth Arkush, "We are helping our clients choose their focus, process their fear and the full experience of this current threat." The object is not to let our feelings overrun us, the feelings must move through us. With this collective loss of normalcy, if you are feeling on edge, feeling angry, imagining and ruminating about worst case scenarios and feel like you are spinning out emotionally, we can be a vital resource for you, via online or through teletherapy. We can facilitate communication helping you navigate your current feelings of stress, anxiety and or grief.
Katie Vashey, MSW, LCSW, LCADC – licensed clinical social worker at Integrated Care in Middletown, NJ expresses, “We are also here to offer mental health services for those that are managing the day-to-day on the front line. Healthcare workers and emergency services are trained to take care of everybody else and not on how to take care of themselves. We, as clinical social workers, are here to help join together and help them to help others! We are here to piece together and connect the mind, body and spirit in order to be our best selves during this challenging time.”
In addition, our clinicians are so happy to share many coping skills and mental health wellness tips for life during quarantine that help shift our perspectives:
-We hope you try to safely get some fresh air everyday
-Stay virtually connected to friends and family members
-Maintain hydration and healthy eating
-Daily exercise and movement for your body
-Maintain music in your life
-Engage in art: My family all sat around the table and chose an art topic, one day it was birds, another day it was dessert. The time spent doing art was so therapeutic, and we felt proud of our creations which are displayed in the photo carousal.
-Engage in what we can control: organizing, cleaning and projects long put off.
-Counter the worry and fear and balance it with humor: My family has been watching some funny Netflix movies and shows in the evening as well as stand up comedy videos. (A little Curb, a little Maniscalco, a little Mrs. Maisel)
-Remind yourself everyday that this will pass. Create strong affirmations such as “I can handle this” my favorite one from author Susan Jeffers.
-We may have to lower our expectations and incorporate calmer reactions to those around us who may be reacting from a place of fear and anxiety. Respond from a place of calm.
-Create boundaries for yourself and limit the news and social media
-Think about how we can help others? What are some ways we can give back?
-Share quality time with your pet or observe nature
Brooke Lichter, LSW in Middletown at Integrated Care often utilizes ecotherapy (outdoor/nature based therapy) and equine therapy (animal assisted therapy) in addition to traditional talk therapy. Brooke points out, “We have access to two major aspects of our life that are not only enjoyable but also great for coping in times of stress: nature and animals. As humans, we have had a long standing relationship with nature and animals. Now is the time to re-spark, foster, and nurture these relationships. Animals offer social interaction and feelings of well-being; relieving symptoms of depression, anxiety, agitation, hopelessness, and grief. The mere act of petting an animal increases oxytocin, a hormone that reduces anxiety and blood pressure; as well as facilitates a decrease in cortisol (stress hormone) and an increase in dopamine levels. This is mutually beneficial for both humans and animals! Overall, animals teach us life lessons such as living in the moment, reliance, making time for play, spending time outdoors, laughter, enjoying the little things in life, and more. So take time to spend important moments with your pets to experience these amazing benefits for stress relief. If you do not have a pet, take some time to observe wild life: watch the birds, squirrels, deer, etc. and take time to appreciate their beauty and peace. If you are lucky enough to get outside, be in tune to being present/in the moment and utilize all your senses to take in all aspects of the nature: the sounds, sights, smells, and textures (also known as a mindfulness walk).”
Lastly, as with any crisis we experience, we often want to seek meaning. This is truly a time for reflection where we may create new meaning in life. When we come to a place of acceptance and healing, we will find new meaning. May we continue to have faith and hope. May we respond from a place of calm.
“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Katie Vashey, MSW, LCSW
Brooke Lichter, MSW, LSW