We sat down (virtually!) with Alison Swisher, LMFT to discuss human connection during the time of coronavirus and beyond. Here is what she had to say.
Quiltlove: Hi Alison! We’re so glad to be able to chat with you today. Let’s get into it! What are you seeing in your practice these days, after folks have now endured months of physical separation from loved ones?
Alison: Thank you! I am seeing tremendous demand for therapy. I’m hearing from individuals, couples, and families who are struggling to keep their heads above water. Parents are reaching out with serious concerns around children’s needs. People have experienced loss on so many different levels right now. There has been job loss, loss of loved ones, loss of connection, and the loss of normalcy and a sense of safety.
The pandemic has shined a light on the need for taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually in a way that we have never seen before.
The silver lining is that that this is something that we, as a society, are experiencing together. There is a communal sense of grief. We are interconnected in our grief and it has been inspiring to see some of the beautiful ways that people are coping and reaching out to one another.
Quiltlove: Those are great points. So what would you recommend for people looking to stay connected with friends and families during these times?
Alison: I see people making photo albums, scrapbooking, and sending video greetings and montages to loved ones. Other people are getting back to the basics and handwriting letters. In addition, I think it is beneficial to do an activity at the same time as someone else, even if you aren’t in the same place. For example, maybe you agree to take a walk at the same time as your friend while talking on the phone or watch a movie on the same night so you can talk about it the next day. There are tons of games, trivia, and remote “house parties” that you can have with friends to connect, despite being physically separated. And if possible, taking a distanced walk or spending time distanced outside with a close friend can truly be soul food during this time.
Quiltlove: That is so true. Taking it step further, what strategies do you recommend for people who are missing their loved ones’ life events, whether it be the birth of a grandchild, a wedding, a death, etc.?
Alison: It seems to be very helpful to find little ways to honor and celebrate all of the occasions that you would otherwise acknowledge or take part in, had it not been for the pandemic. It is important to feel that you’re still able to participate somehow in these life events and to find creative ways to “show up” by still giving your love and energy to honor these occasions.
Quiltlove: Our last question for you. Thinking towards the future, what do you think we take can away from the pandemic once we’re safely back to the (new) normal?
Alison: We will be stronger for having endured this pandemic. The takeaways will vary from person to person. Some of the bigger themes that I’m seeing is the acknowledgement of how busy our lives were prior to the pandemic with commuting and the hustle of daily activities. We have gone through a collective prioritization process and what we are left with is very meaningful.
I also think we now have different perspectives on work-life balance, and I think that this is progress in our society. Also, I believe there is the recognition of mental health having its place in the overall picture of health; you can’t separate physical and mental health. And finally, we have seen people become so resourceful and resilient; it’s inspiring!
Alison Swisher is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who runs her own practice, SF Peninsula Therapy, in San Mateo, California. She works with teens, couples, people facing pregnancy issues, new mothers and other groups. She is fully bilingual (English and Spanish) and the mother of two young boys.