'Emotions are meant to be shared': California therapists gives advice on coping amid crises

"It's really easy to catastrophize in this situation and think of all the things that can go wrong and all the what ifs," said Dr. Sabrina Gabel.

ByKris Reyes KGO logo
Thursday, September 10, 2020
SF therapist encourages routine, self-care to manage mental health amid crises
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Orange skies, wildfire and COVID-19, it can be a lot to handle. Dr. Sabrina Gabel says it's important to temper all the information you're digesting with normal routine and self-care

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Waking up to orange skies was enough to give Dr. Sabrina Gabel heart palpitations.

Her 4-year-old son, on the other hand, was happy to get on with his day and go to school.

No doubt, many families are going through the same thing as they wake up to yet another, unprecedented day in the Bay Area.

Dr. Gabel, at least knows what to do.

She is a child psychologist and clinical director at Seesaw, a well-being studio for families.

"It's really easy to catastrophize in this situation and think of all the things that can go wrong and all the what ifs," she said.

RELATED: Doctors explain why younger generations are struggling with mental health during COVID-19 pandemic

When this happens, Dr. Gabel said it's important to temper all the information you are digesting with normal routine and self-care. "Breathing, stretching, making sure we're talking to and getting support from someone, a friend, a partner."

At San Francisco-based online therapy startup Reflect, more and more people are reaching out for help.

According to psychiatrist and head of clinical, Dr. Carl Fleisher, their client based expanded by 80 percent in 2020.

He said, it's important to remember that a day like Wednesday's ominous orange skies is a shared experience.

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"Our emotions are meant to be shared with other people, so that we don't feel alone and so that things feel a little less burdensome." he said.

RELATED: Why does smoke turn the sky orange? Meteorologist explains science behind it

Another piece of advice, unplug if you have to, adds Dr. Fleisher.

"We know what our ability to cope is and we don't want to give ourselves more to bite off than we can really chew," said Dr. Fleisher. "On days when things are at their worst, my hope is that people can regroup and kind of put blinders on and take things one step at a time."

Dr. Gabel also gave some age-specific advice, starting with the youngest ones. "Just saying it's because of the fires and keeping it simple," she said, adding that it's not necessary to go into deep details when they're not asking about it. But for those kids and teens withmore questions, her advice is carefully answer questions while modeling good coping mechanisms.

WATCH: ABC7 News cameras show apocalyptic orange skies across San Francisco Bay Area due to wildfire smoke

"You want to be answering them but not in a way that's causing more escalation or anxiety," she added, "It's important that parents stay level headed and validate their teenager's feelings and not sort of dismiss them."

Whether it's a friend, online therapy or just connecting with an activity, Dr. Fleisher adds that you must reach for the kind of support that will get you to say this:

"If I can make it through today, then I can make it to tomorrow."

WATCH: 'Your Mental health: A Bay Area Conversation' virtual town hall addressing COVID-19 impact on mental health

Watch ABC7's one-hour virtual town hall, "Your Mental Health: A Bay Area Conversation," with mental health experts, providing real solutions to help you make each day better.