Diary of a Therapist During the Coronavirus Outbreak: Elizabeth Hinkle, LMFT

Elizabeth Hinkle - Therapist Diary

Diary of a Therapist During the Coronavirus Outbreak is a new series bringing you insight into the daily lives of Talkspace therapists — those on the frontlines providing support to all of us dealing with what is an utterly singular period in recent history. Therapists are the barometers of our emotional well-being, gauging our feelings and thoughts as we all struggle through this time — alone and together. While the uncertainty of the future may leave you feeling lonely, scared, and stressed, hearing that others are dealing with the same things can be a tremendous comfort. With these video diaries you’ll get insights into what our therapists are seeing, how they’re dealing with the crisis, and tips for how to better manage your emotions and behaviors. Join us!


4/30/2020

Recently, I’ve been talking to clients about ways to use your energy, when you’ve got it, and ways to rest and recharge when you don’t. Some of us are morning people and some are night owls — and a few fall in between. However, during this time of the pandemic, sleep is difficult for many and energy levels may be fluctuating.

My tip of the week is: check in frequently with yourself about how you’re doing and give yourself permission to relax when possible. Give yourself extra time to get things done. Set your priorities and adjust accordingly. And take lots of breaks!

This week I’ve been working on my 1000 piece puzzle and doing some cooking. I’ve been managing my energy levels by making double portions to save myself on cooking, dishes, and have leftovers for the next meal. I encourage you to consider how you can implement energy-saving techniques into your own routine. 

4/23/2020

Today I did my hair for the first time in a while-a part of my self-care. Some of the recent client discussions lately have centered around, “What’s the point?” Why bother doing our hair, or getting dressed when we have nowhere to go? Do it for yourself! It’s important to still take care of ourselves and have some sense of routine. It may feel like a small thing, but also might be a big accomplishment and give you a sense of normalcy.

Another theme lately has been the ongoing nature of staying at home. Is this Groundhog Day every day lately? My tip of the week is to challenge yourself to come up with a daily or weekly theme to make each day or week a little different or special. 

There is a light of the end of the tunnel-we will get back to our special events and outings someday soon. Hang in there! 

4/9/2020

Today I want to talk about a common theme in conversations recently — judgments. We all make judgments, it’s a natural type of thought we have as humans. Lately, judgements feel heightened with the COVID-19 situation and with really difficult decisions some of you need to make. The need to balance income, leaving the house for essential work, and protecting yourself and your loved ones.

Using a non-judgemental stance can give some relief to the stress and anxiety that we’re all feeling. Focus on what you can control, choices you’re making, and the facts of the situation. Give yourself credit for all you’re doing and the tough decisions you’re making.

My own self-care has included spending time with my 2 cats. I highly recommend spending time with animals; they do so well naturally staying in the moment and keeping us grounded. Find ways to connect with animals, whether ones you live with, a video on the Internet, or maybe one of your friend’s animals.

4/3/2020

Today is Thursday, April 2nd. I’ve been slowing down and pacing myself with work as part of my self-care, doing my best to practice what I preach! I discussed with a colleague our priorities during this time and how we’re keeping self-care at the top of the list. Self-care is not a luxury, it’s essential.

My tip of the week is to find ways to set boundaries. This includes learning how to take more breaks and communicate how you might need space from talking/interacting.

Boundaries are important, especially when working from home. Set your work hours and stick to them. Find a stopping point and get a change of scenery. See if you’re able to take a few small steps to protect your mental health and well-being this week!

3/26/2020

Today I continue to work with my clients to explore the theme of uncertainty. We’re all facing the challenge of not knowing what our lives are going to look like in the foreseeable future. 

This brings me to my tip of the day: using mindfulness as a skill to stay in the here and now. We aren’t able to do this all of the time and it takes a lot of practice, however, finding ways to ground yourself is important. Today I’m teaching you about the A-Z game, which we’ve played a bit in our Facebook COVID-19 online support group. Follow this link to join us.

My own self-care today continues to focus on taking breaks and pacing myself. Self-care is always important to me as a therapist, particularly now with the added layers of stress and uncertainty, it is essential to check in with myself and keep at a steady, but sustainable pace. 

3/21/2020

Hi my name is Elizabeth Hinkle, LMFT, and I’m a Peer Consultant and Virginia-based therapist at Talkspace. Have you wondered what a therapist’s life is like during an absolutely unprecedented-in-the-modern-era global pandemic? Well, hopefully this gives you a little snapshot. 

Mental health providers like my colleagues and myself, as you may imagine, are busier than ever providing support, in all kinds of ways. And I assure you, this is what everyone’s talking about. 

Here’s a look into a day — and I don’t believe there is such a thing as an average day for any of us right now — of a therapist. Much of my time is spent with clients, of course, as well as supporting our colleagues and connecting with loved ones.

It might be unique to our field, actually, but I always think of it as we ourselves being the tool of our trade. Therapists are therapy. But what this means is that we must take care of ourselves and that our own needs have to to remain a priority. We need to practice what we preach to our clients — self-care, boundaries, kindness — and remember that we can’t pour from an empty cup. 

There’s also something else a little different about being a therapist in these unprecedented days — I notice clients asking how I’m doing, wanting to be sure I’m safe, and that my family is okay. I truly appreciate my clients for checking in on me.

Check in with me here for a bird’s eye view of the mental health struggles my clients — and all of us — are facing. You’ll also hear how I’m attempting to navigate this pandemic, the complicated mental health challenges of our new norm, and ways I’m trying to practice good self care in order to be there for others.

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