It's been seven months since staying at home became our new norm...and seven months since our anxiety has been spiralling out of control.
Across the country – and the rest of the world for that matter – people are being asked to stay inside and away from crowds to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus. This means no pints, cinema screenings, city breaks or family dinners at your favourite restaurant. It also means a lot of anxiety.
There's no denying that the coronavirus outbreak has led to a spike in anxiousness and uncertainty—collectively and on an individual level. We’re worried about our own health and that of our loved ones. We’re stressed about paying the rent, the future of both our and our country's financial state, and where our next paycheck is coming from.
The current situation is a perfect storm for stress, anxiety, and depression. It doesn’t help that the services many of us often use to manage our mental health (gyms, your therapist's office, your best friend's house) are no longer an option. What's more, there's a large percentage of Irish workers directly affected by the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 that may not be able to afford those costly services right now. But that doesn't mean you should suffer in silence.
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If, for whatever reason, you can't go to therapy right now, you still deserve ways to manage when you're struggling with your mental health. While there's absolutely no substitute for a therapist, we all have to get through somehow.
Ahead, 12 alternative options for when therapy just isn't an option.
Talk to a therapist online
With social distancing practices in place, virtual therapy options are more important than ever. If you currently have a therapist, you can likely arrange online sessions (video, audio, or text) with them.
If not, Talkspace is a mental health platform that connects people with trained therapists digitally. Right now, the service is offering frontline medical workers a free month of online therapy via Talkspace’s Unlimited Messaging Plus plan, which includes unlimited text, video and audio messaging with a licensed therapist. If you're not a medical worker, you can sign up for a monthly plan, starting at €60 per week (though they're currently offering €100 off!).
Alternatively, there's MyMind.ie. An Irish mental health charity who have devised a system in which it can help those struggling at home during the COVID-19 pandemic with the use of telemedicine. MyMind's digital platform provides virtual affordable therapy to those who may not have been previously able to access it due to location, financial reasons or internet access. The organisation uses purpose-built technology that can handle low bandwidth connections for those in rural areas or working and travelling overseas, and where there is no internet access, therapists can provide support over the phone. They also facilitate appointments outside of usual hours to adapt to our current unconventional living situations, such as when children are in bed.
They work on a flexible pricing basis, ensuring that help can be accessed by everybody regardless of employment and/or life situation. For students, the unemployed, those who are retired and older people who are currently cocooning, their current rate is €20 for an appointment. For more information or to schedule appointments within 24 hours, visit the MyMind website here.
send a text
If you've never opened up about your mental health or the way you are feeling before, it can be challenging to pick up the phone and call a loved one, a therapist or helpline. But there's something about texting that feels a little less daunting. 50808’ is a first of its kind for Ireland, a free 24/7 text service, providing everything from a calming chat to immediate support for people going through a mental or emotional crisis. Though it may never replace the value of in-person connection, text therapy has perks: it’s accessible, convenient, and totally pandemic-safe.
try Art Therapy
If you can't quite put into words how you're feeling, art therapy could be a helpful route in lieu of traditional talk therapy. The Irish Association of Creative Art Therapists (IACAT) defines art therapy as "an allied mental health profession which uses art media and creative interventions to encourage self-expression and reflection within a therapeutic relationship. The aim is to improve mental health and maintain emotional well-being." Multiple studies have shown art therapy not only eases the symptoms of mental health issues, but also anxiety and depression related to chronic physical illness.
Access student counselling services
If you have children at home, it’s likely that their mental health (and consequently, yours) isn't in the very best place right now. Thankfully, most schools are providing some type of ongoing free mental health support for kids and their families. This may include 24-hour hotlines, free videos answering common questions, referrals to local providers, lists of helpful books, and online yoga or meditation sessions. In addition, many school counsellors are still available via phone or email.
If you are a student, many colleges and universities offer free counselling services through their student health centres. Services range from group therapy to meditation classes to individual therapy. Even though campuses are closed during the pandemic, many institutions are keeping their health services open virtually or over the phone for students at this time.
talk to a loved one
Chances are there is someone already in your life who could be tremendously helpful. Different people can offer different kinds of support, so try to think of what your needs are and who in your family or friendship circle might best to talk to. Think of someone who you are comfortable with and trust, some who is likely to understand and will take your situation seriously. Remember: where and when you start a conversation is not as important as starting it in the first place.
Try a mental health app
Obviously, mental health apps aren't a replacement for professional mental healthcare, but they can help provide you with skills and small ways to ease your symptoms. PsyberGuide is a great place to find software and apps for managing mental health conditions. You can search by your condition or by type of treatment and see expert reviews and ratings.
Increase your sense of well-being with Headspace
Headspace is an app designed to teach you how to infuse more mindfulness into your everyday life. Being more mindful, even in small activities, can help you feel happier and less stressed. To help doctors, nurses, and other frontline professionals, Headspace is offering the service for free to them. Everyone else can download the Headspace app on the App Store for free, too, with in-app subscription options available.
Find calm with Dark Noise
Are you one of those people whose brain decides to kick into full anxiety mode as soon as you lay down to go to bed? Listening to ambient white noise can help calm your anxiety and soothe you to sleep. Charlie Chapman, founder of Dark Noise, an app that plays a variety of different ambient sounds, announced that in light of the pandemic, he’s releasing the beta version for free. The beta version includes daytime white noise options as well. “Maybe it’ll help people cope if they can simulate the sound of an office space or coffee shop while stuck in their homes,” he said.
Try Music Therapy
There's no denying that even people who live without mental health issues use music as a form of medicine. The benefits to working with a trained music therapist are substantial: Studies have shown music therapy and the vibration of sounds help relieve anxiety and depression, reduce physical pain, and have even help hospice patients better accept their illness.
In addition to regular music therapy, some people are turning to gong therapy (aka gong or sound baths) for the same exact reason. Much like music therapy, gong baths help some people relieve stress, lower blood pressure, and encourage wellness.
Meditate with Simple Habit
Meditation is probably one of those things on your to-do list that you’ve always meant to try but haven’t quite started yet. Simple Habit is an app that aims to make a daily meditation practice easy by providing 5, 10, or 15-minute options. Simple Habit offers a free week, and then it’s €55 per year if you decide to keep it. However, in light of recent job losses, they are offering free premium memberships to all individuals in need starting now until the end of April 2020. If you can’t pay but want to keep the app, email them at [email protected] to make arrangements for a free or reduced rate.
Practice mindfulness with Aura
Aura is an app to help you practice mindfulness, get better sleep and improve your emotional health. They’re offering a free three-month subscription which includes unlimited access to their mindfulness meditations, life coaching, inspiring stories, and music, all created by experts. Visit Aura’s site and use code FINDPEACE2020 at checkout to get three months for free (no credit card required).
Join a support group through Real
Mental health care platform Real is offering one month of their digital therapy services for free, in order to provide support during the pandemic. You can participate in group discussions in their virtual group salons, have mental health check-ins with therapists, or “attend” other therapist-run digital events to help you feel more connected.
Call A Helpline
Even if you're not an immediate risk, sometimes you just need to someone urgently. Crisis prevention resources will connect you with trained counsellors for free. Just remember that no crisis is too small.
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, there is help available:
- Samaritans – 116 123 – [email protected] or [email protected]
- Pieta House – 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444
- Aware - 1800 80 48 48
- Childline – 1800 66 66 66 or free text 50101
Main image by Finn