top of page
  • Writer's pictureMary Hughes

COVID 19, Social and Political Unrest: How to reset your fear and stress levels

How would you rate your FEAR and STRESS level? COVID 19, social unrest, political polarization – with the chaos that bombards us in the world today we are a hotbox for chronic stress. Chronic stress causes dis- “ease” or disease. We must learn to self-nurture through these difficult times of so many unknowns.

One modality of thinking that I have found helpful is that of Dr. Richard Swartz, founder of Internal Family Systems (a model of psychotherapy). Dr. Swartz, in this short video,, introduces the concept of "Self" that exists within each of us. When anger, shame, or fear is triggered, calling on the Self can shift what is happening. Using this tool, we can access gentle water beneath a choppy surface, a place of calm within that feels like home – even amid the chaos that surrounds us today.


Dr. Swartz encourages us to tap into the “8 Qualities of Self” (as outlined in Internal Family Systems) that we all embody…calmness, curiosity, clarity, compassion, confidence, courage, creativity, and connectedness.

No matter how triggered, take pause to give yourself enough space to access at least a few of them. In doing so, it may give you the added space for a wider, bigger perspective, a new way of seeing and approaching - instead of hyper focusing on what challenge or aspect is causing your stress, worry or fear. I’ve been practicing this technique myself and feel it just might be the shift so many of us need to be with fear instead of in it. In other words, to acknowledge it is there – but for it not to consume us or our experience.

One example…when the pandemic arrived, I was unable to safely meet with clients in-office (and yet knew my counseling services were desperately needed due to so much unknown and upheaval in our lives). I dove into the foreign world (to me) of telehealth, grappling to find a secure site, new billing procedures, a different marketing approach and most importantly, learn to be present virtually with each of my clients. It’s been stressful and yes, at times, I have experienced FEAR.

To address the shift, I have specifically drawn upon curiosity, connectedness, courage, and compassion.

Curiosity and connectedness: Reaching out to colleagues to share learnings, asking my client’s preferences, joining an on-line telehealth group, investigating various secure telehealth sites, billing procedures, and marketing tools. Do you see how focusing on “curiosity and connectedness” allowed me to approach this new way of delivering counseling more effectively and with less apprehension?

Let’s look at another example.

Courage – It’s been a scary process - embracing courage has helped me to forge ahead into the unknown. Today, several months in, telehealth, is not so foreign and feels more comfortable. I continue to learn and improve.

Compassion – or should I say self-compassion has been important in my growth. When I sit with my feelings of discomfort and inadequacy, allowing the feelings and not being critical of myself, I am more at peace. Knowing that I am not alone in experiencing so much new all at once and that so many of these “firsts” shall pass has also helped me move through this season of change from in-office counseling to telehealth.

Life seems to be spinning, evolving and ever-changing for all of us today. Pick one change, unknown, stressor or area of Fear in your life currently. Look at the 8 Qualities of Self that you possess:









Can you address the Fear with one or two of them? How does that change the way you feel? How you are experiencing this moment?

Be Well in this time.

262 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page