Talk therapy has proven to have many benefits. First, putting feelings into words (affect labeling) helps in regulating negative emotional experiences. Affect labeling has both short and long-term effects for individuals experiencing stressful situations. In the short-term, an individual will display less stress and negative feelings toward a stressful situation when they talk about their feelings during the situation. A long-term effect is the individual will exhibit less stress from the same type of stressful situation in the future.
Another benefit is practicing the skill set of reframing. Reframing is a form of meaning-based coping, it is the adaptive process by which stressful events are re-construed as benign, valuable, or beneficial. An example of this is, you lose your job and it was a job you really didn’t enjoy, so now you have the time to do or find something you enjoy doing, maybe start your own company, or attend school. Or you really hated using technology, and now you have time to learn technology to communicate and socialize with people to support staying connected while social distancing. A therapist can provide “an outsider’s perspective” to a stressful situation. Chances are, this perspective will have a “big picture” thinking rather than limited focus due to one’s emotional experience.
Lastly, and put very simply, hearing yourself speak your thoughts, ideas, concerns, etc. has great benefits to one’s health and wellness. Thinking thoughts versus speaking thoughts, most often than not, puts things into perspective. For example, someone who has written novels and has landed on the New York Times Best Sellers list might have thoughts that they are not a good writer. Speaking this thought with a therapist provides the opportunity to engage with the reality of their accomplishments because it’s hard to deny they are “good” since they are well published. “Brainstorming” or “sound boarding” with a therapist provides the time and space to hash things out while challenging one’s irrational beliefs. All of these strategies of talk therapy (affect labeling, reframing, speaking thoughts) will help improve an individual’s ability to manage and cope with stress.
Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic has everyone social distancing and is definitely taking a toll on our mental health and can result in some long term negative effects. Humans are social creatures and we need social interaction for our overall well-being (mental/physical health). Isolation from others can lead to depression, anxiety, difficulty with memory recall, and decision-making. In addition, isolation can lead to illness and increases an individual’s susceptibility to illnesses.
In fact, researchers at California Institute of Technology have found that chronic isolation can have debilitating effects on mammals. Their research showed a buildup of a specific chemical in the brain that affected the hypothalamus and amygdala which are involved in emotional regulation and social behavior. They concluded that prolonged social isolation can cause behavioral changes like: aggressiveness, persistent fear, and hypersensitivity to threating stimuli.
So now, more than ever, people need to reach out and talk to someone, specifically if you are struggling with stress or depression. Even if you are lucky enough to be socially distancing with a loved one, a friend, or isolated by yourself, talking with a therapist has great benefits. Talking with a trained, skilled professional about current life stressors keeps one engaged with life without adding additional stress to an already stressful situation. Remember, self-care is not selfish. Take care of yourself, so you can take care of those you love.
There are many ways to find a therapist in your location. SonderMind is a provider network that accepts most insurance and works to pair therapist and clients based on needs of client and specialty of therapists. Concerned about how you would “get to” therapy with shelter-in orders? Not to worry, SonderMind offers video telehealth sessions to support all of their clients and providers.