Learn how to manage your emotions with 2nd.MD specialist Dr. Klaybor.
As COVID-19 has impacted our country, the recommendations of social distancing and adjusting to a more isolated environment have left many people feeling depressed, anxious and stressed. To help our members cope during this difficult time, 2nd.MD hosted a live webinar with one of our elite mental health specialists, Dr. Mike Klaybor. Below are a few excerpts from our live webinar. To listen to the full webinar with Dr. Klaybor, click here.
What happens emotionally and physiologically during stress?
Dr. Klaybor –“I think what’s happening to us emotionally is an emotional tsunami. Just floods of feelings happening because of all the disruption that has happened in our lives.
The physiology of anxiety happens instantly. Our limbic system, when we have panic and fear, instantly releases cortisol, adrenaline, and more adrenaline and just pushes the fight or flight system into full go. So now our respiration changes. Blood pressure changes, goes up. Heart rate changes. The body gears up for battle.
When it does that, your immune system becomes compromised. Your sleep’s disturbed and your digestion. Understand that these forces are happening beyond your awareness. They’re happening very quickly and you are more at risk, not if they go up and down, but if they go up and maintain a high level of physiology of release of these stress hormones.”
What are some strategies for managing emotions?
Dr. Klaybor – “First and foremost, I would say the best thing you can do is refocus your life, your mind, your attention and efforts on what you can control.
Take this time to stop. Pay attention to really looking at what matters in your life. We have our rituals and routines, but those have all been erased. We have to create new ones.
So, if you think of work and how you’ve lived your life as distractions from self, well, in some ways they are. Why not think about reexamining yourself, what gives me purpose and meaning in my life? How do I rewire my life so that I am happier, more fulfilled, have more purpose and meaning? Start to go inward.
You’re going to have to take a look at that for yourself: which ones are working for you or not. Develop some new self-discipline and some new structures. Even discuss these ideas with people close to you.”
What are some ways to take control?
Dr. Klaybor – “Take control of what you can. Choose how you react to what’s happening around you and within you. Choose how much time you pay attention to social media and the news.”
“Turn to your faith. Turn to people you trust. Turn to meditation. Maybe start a journal and take a look at what’s really going on inside. Think about getting creative with your life, with your time. Start some new projects that you’ve been too tired or too busy to do.”
At the same time, be okay doing nothing. This may be the most difficult thing for most people that I see in my practice. Be okay just doing nothing, sitting, drifting, just being mindless. Much of our meaning and purpose comes from achievement and doing things. It’s important to learn how you can feel good about yourself, about your being, not just your doing.
If you can’t go outside, which most of us can’t, go inside. Go inside yourself with yoga, and find meditations that are like a mental rehearsal that you can do for just self-soothing activities. There are lots of apps for this. Go inside during this time to heal, to calm, and to regenerate.”
How do people who have trouble sleeping or suffer from insomnia get better sleep?
Dr. Klaybor – “Better sleep really has to do with sleep hygiene. There are some things to take a look at for your own process and rituals for sleep. One of the sleep hygiene main principles is to establish a regular bedtime, with regular rituals. If possible, decrease or eliminate looking at blue light screens in bed, such as televisions, iPads, or phones—because it activates the brain.
Deactivate the brain. Wind down by dimming the lights or doing some light reading. Go through your final preparation, getting into bed.
Try to be consistent with that. There are some pretty good hypnotic tapes out there for people or music that you can use. Some people like a white noise sound. I love Alexa, by the way—I only have five of them at home. We have them in different rooms, so we can play soft music and just try to get yourself in the right frame of mind.
Think about having good dreams. Close your eyes and think about having a good night’s sleep. Mentally rehearse programming to make that happen. Should you awaken or have trouble, don’t stay in bed tossing and turning. Get up, get busy for a little bit, but avoid television. Instead, do something that’s soothing like reading or listening to soft music. But don’t activate your brain too much, then try to go back to sleep.”
What are some tips for handling the stress between the spouses during a stay at home order and spending 24/7 with them?
Dr. Klaybor – “I’ve heard in my practice in the last two weeks, two very different camps on this. One is, “I love having this person home. We haven’t gotten along this well in ages. We spend time, we walk together, we talk more.” So, it’s been a real asset to kind of building intimacy and closeness.
The other camp are those that really don’t know how to communicate well and have maybe been estranged and distant for a while—forcing that to happen.
Here’s an exercise that I tend to prescribe. Remove distractions and turn off the television. You say, “Okay, let’s talk for five minutes.” One person is to listen. The other one looks in their eyes, actively listens, nodding their head, saying, “Uh-huh (affirmative).” One person talks for two and a half minutes. The other one is not allowed to interrupt.
Then the other one talks two and a half minutes about what’s on their mind. After that five minutes, you can discuss it as a way to open up channels about what you’re thinking and feeling.
But I think planning ahead for, “Okay, what’s getting in our way of getting along? What are the problems that we’ve been avoiding and not addressing?” Of course, they may have to do that with some couples’ therapy if it’s really problematic down the road.
But active listening and being empathetic really goes a long way with working on getting along.”
In your opinion, what is the single most important piece of mental health to manage at this time?
Dr. Klaybor – “Wow. These are some awesome questions by the way. The most important piece for mental health at this time is watching what you’re exposing yourself to that is toxic, negative or problematic, and minimizing it. Two, learning to pay attention to your inner dialogue so that you are building confidence, self-esteem, and affirming your life. Paying attention to what you’re grateful for, not what’s missing, and not what’s lost.
I think of consciousness in three parts. First, if you’re looking backward – people tend to look backward – that’s where depression lies. The front third of this line, looking forward is the future and not here yet, it’s mind-reading, it’s fortune-telling. It’s worry and anxiety about the future, which we can’t control.
So what you do is, you bring yourself to the center of being present day to day, looking at people in the eye—six feet apart of course. But take time to really calm yourself. Find ways to make yourself feel good about how you’re treating yourself, how you’re treating others.
I think bringing kindness, loving action, and attention to others will give you greater fulfillment. For self-soothing, make sure your nutritional needs are met, and that you’re pacing yourself. We tend to find ways to eat our feelings, so that rather than having the feelings, we’ll go stuff ourselves with something that is for short term comfort. But now you’ve caused a second problem. So remember to take time to heal, comfort yourself in positive ways, rest, and focus on self-recovery.”
To listen to the full webinar with Dr. Klaybor, click here.
How 2nd.MD Can Help
If you are dealing with emotions such as depression, anxiety, and stress, 2nd.MD is here to let you know, you’re not alone. From the moment you reach out, our Care Team will be by your side to offer the support you need. They’ll be there to discuss your diagnosis, answer any questions you have, and connect you with elite psychologists and psychiatrists such as Dr. Klaybor, who are leading experts in their fields, from top institutions across the country for a face-to-face consultation via video or phone from the safety and privacy of your home.
Common reasons to request a consult include:
- Emotional and mental support related to depression, anxiety, and stress
- Surgery canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 / Availability of alternative treatment options
- Concerned about the impact COVID-19 could have on your cancer treatments and recovery
- Seeking information about existing conditions that could put your health at risk
Whether COVID-19 has impacted you and your family directly or indirectly, we’re here to help.
Connect with our Care Team by calling: 1.866.841.2575
ABOUT DR. KLAYBOR
As one of 2nd.MD’s elite level experts, Dr. Klaybor has over 30 years of experience as a mental health specialist. He earned his masters and doctorate degrees in counseling and psychology from Indiana University and is a licensed professional counselor, supervisor, licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed chemical dependency counselor, and national certified counselor. He is also a certified employee assistance counselor and serves on the board for the Employee Assistance Professionals Association, as well as three other advisory boards. He is a practicing psychologist who works with both individuals and couples, with counseling, psychotherapy. His approach in cognitive behavioral therapy includes anxiety, depression, chronic pain and chronic illness management, stress management, substance abuse guidance, and management as well as employee assistance and executive coaching for workplace performance and leadership. In addition to his private practice in psychotherapy, he provides consulting, training, and supervision of psychologists and other mental health providers internationally.