Maybe you’ve achieved the freedom to retire or perhaps you’re on your way and working from home. In either case, life has changed and will be different for some time. Under these circumstances, what are the best coping strategies for anxiety in uncertain times? And can spending time in nature help us? Can we do our own ecotherapy?
In this special podcast episode, two cooped up guys in New Jersey talk with two guests to get their advice.
Stay tuned for the final segment where we share our personal observations on the lockdown and moving forward.
First up is Nick Wignall. He is a licensed psychologist at The Cognitive Behavioral Institute of Albuquerque where he does psychotherapy with adults of all ages. Board-certified in behavioral and cognitive psychology, he specializes in empirically-supported treatments for anxiety and insomnia, including interoceptive exposure therapy for panic attacks, exposure and response prevention (ERP) for phobias and OCD, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) for sleep difficulties.
Nick is the author of a recent book on therapy and mental health: Find Your Therapy: A Practical Guide to Finding Quality Therapy. It’s a nuts and bolts style guide to learning about the most important factors in choosing a therapist and how to go about finding a good one, either for yourself or someone you love.
Nick did his doctoral training in clinical psychology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, including research in human genetics and psychopharmacology. Prior to that, Nick earned his Masters in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s in English Literature from the University of Dallas.
Nick lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife, his three young daughters, and German Shepherd, Charlie.
We ask Nick for his thoughts on:
- How people can maintain their mental health in the pandemic
- Coping strategies for anxiety in these times
- How to best cope with isolation
- How to get sleep patterns back on track
- His advice if people need to seek professional help
On Habits & Mental Health
“I really think habits are kind of the soul, the heart and soul of mental health.”
Habits vs Coping Skills
“And what I mean by that is coping skills are a bit like your emergency break in your car. They’re nice to have, but you really don’t want to rely on them. Instead, I think you want to work to cultivate habits that strengthen your mental health and keep you resilient even when things get tough. So, I think this is especially important – when it comes to something like our current situation with COVID- 19 and the lockdowns. Because a lot of us have lost a lot of our normal habits and routines, that whether we knew it or not, we’re actually kind of buffering and strengthening our mental health.”
On Building New Habits
“I think probably the most important thing people can do is to first start to think about what are the habits that support and strengthen my mental health. And then given the unique kind of challenges and constraints of our current situation, how can I get kind of creative about building new or sort of modified habits and routines that will support my mental health.”
For More on Nick Wignall
Nick’s Email: [email protected]
Spending Time in Nature
Next up is Verla Fortier. With a Master’s in Health Science, Verla Fortier is a former Director of Surgery at The Toronto Hospitals in Toronto, Ontario, and a retired Associate Professor of Nursing at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
At 63, after a long and high-powered career, she was looking forward to retiring back to her hometown in Manitoba, when a routine visit to her own Doctor shattered her plans. Instead of moving back to enjoy life in the country, she was confined to her bed and she felt like her life was over. That was when she had an epiphany and decided to take her life and future into her own hands. She is now an author and speaker, sharing the almost miraculous results she has experienced in her own life to help other people live longer, and reduce the effects of chronic illness. Verla is the author of Take Back Your Outside Mindset.
We talk with Verla about:
- What an Outside Mindset is
- The benefits of spending time in nature
- How we lose our Outside Mindsets – and how we can get them back
- Her advice for spending time in nature safely
“I was a professor of nursing and I went in for a routine doctor’s appointment. I was diagnosed with systemic lupus, which is a really serious immune disease. And I was told, ‘it’s a chronic disease.’ So, I was given a prescription and then my doctor said, ‘Avoid the sunlight because it could damage your DNA.’ So, I stayed inside wanting to be the perfect patient for a year. And I got sicker and sicker – and I could hardly walk. And I was just so depressed. Then I just finally decided to [do something]. I didn’t care anymore about what happened. So, I just went outside after a year of feeling like a prisoner in a cell. I went out there and I felt amazing. And I kept going out and I got better and better and better. And so that’s why I went into the Greenspace research because it helped me so much – and then I wanted to help others.”
For more on Verla Fortier
Check out my favorite video on ecotherapy from Dr. James Hamblin of The Atlantic on nature-deficit disorder:
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