Maintaining good mental health is important, especially in times of crisis. There is a pandemic raging and a very stressful election coming up. Elle Anzalone is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in California. She specializes in addiction and recovery, process addictions, anxiety, relationship issues, depression, and impulse control issues. She co-owns CNTRD counseling in Orange County and has been in the field for 14 years. I called on her expertise to determine how we call all get through this very stressful time with our sanity in tact.
Grit Daily: Do you think there is cause for concern when it comes to mental health in America this year?
Ella Anzalone: I think mental health is a primary issue in America’s health and it’s treated as a luxury service. I have been on both sides of the couch. It’s amazing how underserved and misinformed people are about what therapy is and what psychiatry is.
GD: Have you seen an increase in stress-related mental health issues this year? If so, do you think the upcoming election is contributing to this?
EA: 100% [I’ve seen an] increase in panic and anxiety. ALL of my clients are reporting an uptick in anxiety. Some clients are having relapses in symptoms in anxiety issues that were once in remission. I think it is coming from a lot of sources. I do think the uncertainty of the upcoming election is part of it. I have had quite a few clients who have used a portion of their therapy just to process the political angle with me. It has become weaponry to discuss it in a public setting.
GD: What are the best ways to manage stress surrounding a major national moment, like and election, that we have only limited control over?
EA: My focus is on always finding the things you naturally do to calm yourself. I call them intuitive coping skills. I am not a journaler and I know that from buying hundreds of books to only write on the front page and then hate myself for failing something ‘so simple’. The coping skill can’t be a trap for more shame or it is counterintuitive. Though I am not a journaler, I am spiritual and I can use whatever tools I have to connect to that energy to ‘be in the breath/the moment’. That calms me. What works for me won’t work for others. It’s really about using what we naturally do and perfecting a few good ‘tricks’ to pull out of the bag when we are in crisis.
GD: Your best tip?
EA: To ‘soothe at a 3-5’. If you let the anxiety get to a 10, NO amount of aromatherapy/meditation/calling a friend will help.
GD: What are the best ways to take care of ourselves and our mental health during these turbulent times?
EA: People are going through so much right now and it feels trite to mention going on a meditation retreat. If you have the means to hire a nanny/take a drive/commit to a 30-day nutrition boost, GO FOR IT. Having something to look forward to is also a pretty good trick to get us in the ‘I can do this’ momentum. I know a lot of people get a lot of hope by going to church and community groups. COVID-19 has made it difficult to do that. The core function of those groups is ‘shared missions’ and ‘cooperating.’ If they can tap those values without putting themselves at risk I would consider that a win.
GD: Is there anything else Grit Daily’s readers should know about mental health right now?
EA: You are not crazy. You just have some old skills that need some fine-tuning. The stuff that worked before might not work anymore and that’s ok. A lot of the stuff we get from our parents is at odds with our current environment and it takes guts to get better. I have never met a person in therapy that wasn’t trying their absolute best, whether that be to sabotage or grow. Having a person listen to you with no agenda feels pretty good. Give it a try!