The world as we know it has changed. Yes. I am talking about the recent orders to stay at home for most of the world due to COVID-19. For many of us, this meant switching to seeing our doctors, therapists, bankers, etc online.
I wanted to write today to take a moment to acknowledge how this transition is going for many of us: challenging. Now, I was not new to telehealth when this whole thing started. In fact, I’ve been providing therapy over telehealth for a couple years now- to a handful of clients. This meant out of all of the clients I see in a week, only a couple of those sessions were telehealth. And now ALL of my sessions are telehealth- and from my home office. GULP. This was a change.
Immediately, I noticed how different it felt. It was a different kind of “energy” and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it felt so draining at first. So now that I have given it some thought, I think I can put it into words. I also recently alluded to this on my facebook page (@yourroyalhealness) for those of you who want to check that out for little snip-its and content you may not find on my blog. So here we go…some of the thoughts I have had to why telehealth or any televideo appointment feels so darn exhausting and what you can do about it.
- Welcome to my space…whether I wanted you here or not.
Now this is true from both sides- me as a therapist and for the clients. If you are anything like me, my house is chaos. Just pure loud happy beautiful chaos. I have four kiddos and two big dogs, clean and quiet aren’t a part of our regular household vocabulary. So with that said, usually I prefer guests tell me when they are coming over- give me a little warning so I can take the garbage out, light a candle (to cover up the stank) and put on pants. I like my home feeling…well…like home. And I don’t want to have to worry about whether or not someones coming over and are they going to see that I didn’t do the dishes today or that I need to repaint my living room. Ya know, I just don’t want to feel judged. None of us do. And switching over to telehealth felt a bit like an invitation to my own personal sacred pant-less space (for the record I ALWAYS wear pants doing telehealth or online meetings). This is true for those on the receiving end of therapy…you didn’t necessarily want to invite me into your bedroom, office, basement, etc either.
Sharing our sacred spaces together has opened up doors with clients for some beautiful work. So this transition has not been all bad. It’s allowed me to be humanized to my clients…i.e. when they see my dog pop up on the camera to say hello and be her nosy little self, or when they hear my dryer go off in the background. It helps them to understand that I am a real person who lives in a real house. And it has allowed them to share with me some of the things they have only talked about in therapy…like their pets or a painting they did. And that has been a beautiful experience.
2. Hold on, let me just go do this one thing.
Another thing that working from home and clients being at home has invited is distraction. When I’m at my office, I am on point. I am in the zone I tell ya. I’m there to work…to be therapist Jenn solely. When my clients come in, they know they are there for therapy. This line is a little cloudier when they’re at home and I’m at home.
It’s easy for me to say “I’m just going to go throw a load of clothes in the dryer in between clients” or “I can wash just this one pan”. What’s wrong with that you ask? Well for some people maybe nothing…for me though, everything is wrong with that. It’s the reason it takes me so much time in-between blog posts…at home, I get easily distracted and it’s hard for me to get into work mode or writing mode and then just STAY in that mode. This has been an ongoing struggle.
One thing that has helped is I have dedicated a space in my home to JUST work. That’s it…nothing else is allowed in that space. The difficulty with that for many is that many people do not have the luxury of having the space in their home to do just that. My advice? Even if it’s just a corner of a room, set that space up for your doctor appointments, therapy appointments, work, etc….dedicate it to just that. So that when those things are done, you can walk away from that corner of the room and move on about your day.
3. Can you repeat that? I didn’t hear you.
Overall, telehealth works pretty smoothly. But there are those occasions for one reason or another that the video feed gets wonky, there’s feedback, or someone’s voice is too quiet on one end. And in those circumstances it makes for a challenging session. During those sessions, I find myself struggling between wanting to “fix” whatever is going on with the technology and not wanting to spend too much time focusing on the technology and getting into the “work” of therapy. It’s a gut wrenching feeling for me when I can see a client pouring their heart out over the video session, but for some reason their audio is distorted and I can’t hear them…and then have to ask them to repeat what they said. Thankfully, this is very few and far between that it happens (in fact has only happened to me twice in the three weeks I’ve been strictly telehealth).
As therapists, we can do some work to prevent this by educating our clients ahead of the session. Letting them know what web browser works best with the video platform we use, telling them to log straight into their router instead of through wifi, limiting the number of devices using their wifi (or ours) during the session, etc.
So what do you do about any of the above?
What I am describing above is all making us mentally exhausted. And mental exhaustion isn’t the type of thing you can just take a nap and recover from. So what do we do then?
First, we call a duck a duck. By this I mean, we name it: I feel mentally exhausted. Ahhh. There…doesn’t that feel better already? Just to say it out loud. Acknowledging that this is what we are experiencing rather than just ignoring it and hoping it will go away, takes away it’s power. You know what you are dealing with, and you can start making moves towards getting better.
Then you start to identify what you need. Self-care is not just a bubble bath and foot massage. In fact, self-care has physical, mental, spiritual, social, and other components to it. Read more in my blog here: Self-Kindness.
Take a step back and evaluate your life and what is it you need. Maybe you haven’t connected with friends in awhile. Maybe you need to start paying attention to those physical ailments you’re experiencing. Start asking yourself “what is it that I really need right now?”. Maybe take a self-care assessment like this one. Mental exhaustion isn’t fixed by sleep, it is fixed by self care. Figure out what you need, and start taking the steps to getting there.
And be compassionate with yourself. We have never experienced anything like this before…your struggle is unique to you. So give yourself grace and compassion to struggle.
Until next time,