Connection to others can help provide stress relief

On Nov. 23, the County Health and Human Services Agency confirmed 1,546 new COVID-19 cases, passing a re­cord set just a few days prior. The rise in cases and hospital­izations, and San Diego’s read­mittance to the Purple Tier, has cast a shadow on the winter holidays.

According to the U.S. Cen­ter for Disease Control in June, nearly 40 percent of the adult population was suffering from COVID-19-related mental health issues.

Maricela Larkin, a clinical therapist, said it is important to recognize that the isolation and stress of the pandemic has affected many.

“It is OK to recognize that we are upset even though we don’t have anyone in particular to blame,” said Larkin, who has formal training in trauma inter­vention. “It is OK to recognize that this has taken our energy, that this has taken our hope away. It is OK to go through this difficult time.”

San Diego County laid out official restrictions and rec­ommendations for the winter holidays that are likely to add strain to what is a typically stressful season during what has already been a difficult year. Festivals, live-entertain­ment and gatherings of more than three households are pro­hibited, even if held outside, and certain seasonal attrac­tions like ice-skating rinks will not be allowed to open.

In a free counseling video on her website, Larkin recom­mends those struggling with COVID-19 trauma to unite and stay connected.

“It is extremely important to recognize that these are not times to isolate. Do not go through this alone,” she said. “While we want to be respectful to what the authorities are ask­ing us to do and practice social distancing, one of the most im­portant things that we must do when we are experiencing the effects of trauma is to stay in connection with one another… Find at least one good friend or one good counselor who can help you process your thoughts and emotions.”

Whether seeking profession­al help or personal connection, technology has allowed people to stay connected during iso­lation. Many counseling and therapy services have shifted to online platforms, like Chula Vista-based family counsellors Seeking Therapy who are tem­porarily offering online therapy sessions. They can be found at: www.seekingtherapy.com.

Zoom removed their 40-min­ute limit on free meetings on Thanksgiving, allowing fami­lies celebrating in isolation to chat as long as they wanted.

Trauma trained yoga instruc­tor Claire Ameya Bela said yo­ga can be an excellent way to create a mental safe space dur­ing the holidays.

“Yoga is really about self-care. Yoga asks you to embrace how you feel and honor it,” said Bela, who wrote and leads the curriculum for Southwestern College’s yoga teacher training program. “My favorite thing about yoga is that when I take a yoga class, or when I have students take my class, my in­tention is to refill their cup, not deplete them.”

Although many yoga com­munities are still meeting out­side and online, Bela said doing yoga from home can be a way to invite someone closer into com­munity with you.

“Maybe you can do your yoga practice with a family member or someone you live with,” she said.

San Diego County offers on­line mental health resources here www.sandiegocounty.gov/ content/sdc/hhsa/programs/ bhs/covid19_resources.html.

Connection to others can help provide stress relief

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