A conversation with psychologist Kristin Wurster
May. 24, 2021 15:38
Kristin Wurster, integrated psychologist at the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business
It’s a unique time to work in the field of mental health, to put it mildly.
“It’s rare for therapists to have similar experiences at the same time as many of their clients,” said Kristin Wurster, an integrated psychologist at Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa.
The need to change gears suddenly, for example, was something Wurster experienced in real time with the students she advises. In her case, changing gears meant offering virtual counseling sessions from home, often while juggling the responsibilities of caring for children. The difficult situation led her to use some of the same tools to deal with stress and with the uncertainty she teaches students. “Therapy is a field where you have to practice what you preach,” he said.
Much of the country is entering a new phase of the pandemic, perhaps best described as a socially less distant existence. At a recent webinar on Tippie Women Summit, she gave an example of pandemic-related anxiety. Wurster showed participants an image of a crowded conference room and asked them to notice how it made them feel. For many, the answer was fear. “In such a short time, we have learned to code crowded interior spaces as uncomfortable and insecure,” he said.
This was a useful adaptation for a while, but Wurster said some fears need to be re-examined as situations change, and explained one way to do it. “Write down the things you’re afraid of and ask, ‘Is it adaptable? Does it help me?’
She recommends creating some space between the intestinal reflex and the reaction to it. Calling persistent fears can help determine what level of exposure we are comfortable with and create a plan as things open up and many return to the office.
And practicing good mental health habits will be no less important in the future than when many people worked from home. Wurster was very careful to point out that the advice he shared is not intended for someone in a situation of acute distress, but for many of us, habits such as staying connected to caring people and getting proper rest can stabilize us during changes. .
“Sleep is incredibly behavioral. No matter how many coping strategies we talk about, it will be difficult to make changes if you don’t get enough rest, ”said Wurster.
She recommends practicing mindfulness, which is the idea of being in the present moment. “A lot of anxiety is related to past or future events, so basing it on present events can be helpful,” he said. He also stressed that practicing these things consistently is what is crucial. Just as a runner would not go out for a 5 mile race and then feel ready for a half marathon, mental health practices should be done regularly for people to benefit from. “Small acts add up over time,” he said.
Most importantly, Wurster said we should be compassionate with ourselves in acknowledging last year’s chronic stress. It will still be important to recognize when we need support or feel uncomfortable. In a sense, we will need to shift our focus from health precautions to mental health precautions, as we allow ourselves to visit indoor spaces and become more social again.
“That phrase may sound cliché, but we need to‘ feel our feelings ’and notice and name what appears,” Wurster said.
Mental health quotes:
“There is no health without mental health; mental health is too important to leave in the hands of professionals and mental health is everyone’s business ”. – Vikram Patel
“A mental health problem cannot be solved. You can’t wake up and say, “I’m not depressed today!” It is a process to recover, but there is recovery. – Margaret Trudeau
“Women, in particular, need to monitor their physical and mental health, because if we rush to appointments and assignments, we don’t have much time to take care of ourselves. We need to do a better job by putting ourselves more on our “to do” list. “——Michelle Obama
Mental Health Books:
“Get Out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts” by Jennie Allen
“Anxiety … I’m So Finished With You: A Guide for Teens to Quit Toxic Stress and Connect Your Brain to Happiness,” by Jodi Aman
“Your brain is always listening: tame the hidden dragons that control your happiness, habits and hangings” by Dr. Daniel G. Amen