How to Cope With Stress Featuring Dr. Stephen Dansiger

Last Update: May 20, 2020

Learning how to handle stress effectively should be part of everyone’s quarantine survival strategy. We’ve all been forced into new routines, which means families are balancing school closures and close quarters, and employees are working from home—not to mention the stress of the virus itself. Our minds can quickly go from fine to panicked in a matter of minutes. So it’s probably safe to say a majority of Americans are experiencing varying levels of stress these days. If you’re in that camp, today’s post should help. We reached out to author and therapist Dr. Stephen Dansiger to get his take on the best ways to cope during a pandemic.

What have you been recommending to your patients to help deal with stress, especially as stay-at-home orders make it harder to connect with others?

I work with a lot of people in recovery, and I encourage them to go to 12-step meetings, most of which have gone online during the pandemic. You can go to meetings across the world, and find new permanent or temporary homes. For my patients who are not in a program or in recovery, I recommend finding group activities that can be done over Zoom, whether it’s a game night with friends, or a book club, or a martial arts or yoga class. Lastly, when I walk through my neighborhood, I have properly physically distanced conversations with my neighbors. Often I find I can be of service to them, and being helpful and of service is one of the greatest ways to connect.

Alone time can be difficult when quarantining with a family. What are some healthy ways to release strong emotions (that are respectful to others sharing the same space)?

Our family has figured out a good rule: Be quick to forgive. It is based on the fact that there is no way under these circumstances that we will be perfect in our expression of anger or other strong emotions. In the larger picture, we have been consistent in telling our 10 year-old that all her emotions are valid, providing a safe place for her emotions. Lastly, I work on mindfulness with all my clients. I wrote a book called “Mindfulness for Anger Management” that is pointed toward this very dilemma—how to use mindfulness techniques and mindfulness as a way of life to healthily channel strong emotions.

What’s your advice for people who were already dealing with depression and anxiety before the COVID-19 pandemic?

If you were going to therapy, go ahead and reach out to your therapist over Telehealth. Telehealth already has a good research base showing that it is safe and effective. I train a lot of therapists, and they are reporting back that their clients are doing very well over Telehealth once all the extra measures toward safety are in place. Don’t stop therapy if you are able, and definitely don’t stop medication.

For people who are feeling overwhelmed by the current crisis, what are some online resources to help them feel supported?

Any of the mindfulness apps. I also recommend using Spotify to create calming (or energizing) playlists for yourself and your friends.

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Melinda Gross

Melinda writes about health, wellness, and food for the Thrive Market blog. She started her career as a financial journalist in NYC and has written for Where Magazine, Worth, Forbes, and When she's not reading or writing, she enjoys working out, sketching, and playing with her daughter and mini-dachshund, Goliath.

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