LITTLE FALLS, NJ -- TAPintoTV spoke with one of our favorite experts, Clinical Psychologist Meryl Dorf, to help those having difficulty handling the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, we called on Dorf to provide guidance for navigating the uncertainty a crisis like this can bring. 

“It’s an ingredient of a stressful situation and when it becomes bad, it reaches traumatic proportions,” said Dorf, who also said we have to be on the lookout for symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) developing. 

Some people with a high degree of fear can enter what Dorf describes as “a freeze state” in which they shut down and go numb. “It’s kind of like they play dead in order to survive,” she added. 

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Dorf recommended three strategies for getting past these fears and anxieties, especially to combat some of the physical manifestations anxiety, like rapid heartbeat and hyper awareness. Breathing and mindful meditation can help calm us and slow down our automatic fear responses. Moving, whether doing yoga, taking an isolated walk or engaging in exercise helps keep us loose and unfrozen, she said. 

And while connecting to others is especially difficult right now, it’s also essential, according to Dorf. “Human connection,” she said, “slows down and calms our nervous system.” Technology has made keeping in touch during the pandemic possible and even enjoyable. 

Dorf suggested several outlets for people to get free or low-cost mental health assistance at this time. The New Jersey state hotline offers emotional support 7 days a week from 8am-8pm at no cost: (866) 202-HELP [4357]. Other state resources can be found online at the Mental Health Association in New Jersey website at www.mhanj.org. Dorf also suggested contacting mental health associations across the state which might be offering subsidized services. She recommends the Center for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis of New Jersey (www.cppnj.org) for low cost therapy resources. 

One thing Dorf said was helpful for everyone to remember is that “we’re in this together. We are not alone. Everybody is struggling together.” 

To learn more about Meryl Dorf and her practice, visit her website at www.meryldorfphd.com.