Monday, March 30, 2020

How To Stay Calm When You're Anxious About Coronavirus (or anything else!)

These are uncertain and anxious times. It's no surprise that lots of folks are stress eating, binge eating, or using bulimia or restricting as a way to manage the anxiety of living through a global pandemic.

This is a scary time and we're all vulnerable. That's why I'm so pleased to share this guest post by Dr. Bob Rich, psychologist and author of 18 books. This excerpt from his latest book helps us feel calmer during a time of global anxiety.

Using his guided imagery techniques, you'll soon be feeling more relaxed and less anxious...

The following is an excerpt from Dr. Bob's book, From Depression to Contentment: A self-therapy guide:

Guided Imagery

One way of putting peace into your heart is by going on a little inner journey. Tell yourself a story, and live it within your imagination, as vividly as possible. 

Actually, this is the technique of hypnosis, so, good guided imagery is self-hypnosis. This technique takes you into a trance state, which is nothing mysterious. 

If you’ve ever felt as if no time had passed, but you’ve done something like reading a good book, driving from A to B, or doing the ironing, then you’ve been in a trance state.

Guided imagery can have up to six components, but it isn’t necessary to use all six.


Here is a relaxation script. Close your eyes, and imagine a source of Healing Light out in space. This can be almost anything: 

God, an angel, your long-dead, beloved grandmother, a glowing planet, or an entire galaxy. 

One client imagined it as the dog of her childhood, whose name had been Angel.

Invite this healing light to shine on top of your head. Feel it gently tingling its way in; relaxing, soothing.

Extend the area of healing light down so it’s like a cap over forehead, ears, back of the head.

Now it’s over your closed eyes, soothing, healing. Down your cheeks, over your mouth and jaw. Down to your neck, relaxing the strong muscles that carry the head.

Feel the beautiful healing light trickle into your shoulders, relaxing, soothing, smoothing, so your arms get heavy. Now into your upper arms on both sides... lower arms... all the way to your fingertips.

Next the upper body: chest, back, heart, lungs. Feel them glow.

The lower body: stomach muscles, lower back, all those wonderful organs within, glowing.

Then your buttocks... upper legs... lower legs... all the way to the tips of your toes.

Top to toe, glowing, healing, beautiful within.


This is a scene, vividly described using all the sense modalities, in which there is movement and progression. 

The script may invite you to walk in a valley between forested mountains, with a creek chattering on your left and grazing animals on your right, along a path to a waterfall. 

The path leads you behind the falling water, onto a stone ledge. Stone above your head, stone below your feet, stone at your back, the curtain of falling water in front. 

Water is the universal cleanser: it cleans away all hurt and pain. It is the universal solvent: dissolves all stress and trouble.

Or go down an elevator from the fiftieth floor, watching the numbers above the door going from 50 to 1 to ‘ground.’ 

A gentle downhill walk along a forest path is great.

People who have physical handicaps do best with a script in which they can stay still. A great one is to sit comfortably in the back of a rowboat. The person you trust most in all the world is behind you, out of sight but felt. This person is gently, slowly rowing. All your pain, suffering, worries are on the shore.

You can devise your own scripts, or check out my Healing Scripts CD at

Safe place

This is somewhere you can feel absolutely the best. It can be a real place you love, or something made up in your imagination. 

Typical choices are a tropical beach, a mountain top, a comfortable seat by a waterfall, looking at a flower-covered cottage, being inside your childhood bedroom. You can remember, or construct, any environment you like.

But you don’t have to stick with realism. Especially if your body is not a nice place to be in because of pain, you can become someone or something else. Three of my favorites are:

*Being a trout in a rock pool, gently waving my fins so I stay motionless relative to the shore, my muscular, beautiful, shining body gently undulating, perfect for my world and my world perfect for me in the cool, crystal clear water, with the silver roof of the surface above me...

* Being an eagle.
My mighty wings are spread wide, motionless as I lazily circle in a thermal updraft, far above all the pain and worry down there on the ground. I can feel my clawed feet hidden within the feathers of my body, my spread tail steering me, the calm gaze of my powerful eyes scanning the ground far below. The wind is gently ruffling my feathers.

* Being a tree. This is similarly detailed. You can take perhaps ten minutes of creation, starting from the taproots and going up to the leaves. Once it’s complete, you can instantly return to it.

One middle-aged lady liked to sit on a fluff of a cloud. 

A man chose to look at a poster of a waterfall in Tasmania, then step through it so he could look at the falling water, hear the roar, feel the spray on his face. 

You can be in a rocking chair, with a toddler you love (who is perhaps an objectionable teenager now!) quietly playing at your feet.

Tie your safe place to feelings of serenity, safety, comfort, strength, power, self-control... whatever personal qualities will help you to cope with your current situation. 

I always make the suggestion that you will be able to access the safe place when out of the trance, at any time, while doing any other task. This is quite possible. 

You can be in the middle of a painful medical procedure, having an argument with someone, being cross-examined by a hostile barrister in court, or doing a complicated job, and at the same time feel yourself in the safe place, drawing strength and peace from it.


You enter trance for a reason. This could be pain control, healing some illness or injury, dealing with distressing memories, or merely stress reduction.


Take time when emerging from a trance, especially a deep one. If for any reason a trance is interrupted, you can develop a headache, be disoriented, and be affected by suggestions made but not cancelled. In that case, you need to return into the trance, and come out slowly.

When using guided imagery with a person, my invariable script is to slowly count backward from 5. At each count, I draw the subject’s attention to some aspect of the situation: the feel of the chair against the body, breathing, the sounds around, etc.

You can record your total script, then play it for yourself, or just go through the concepts in your mind. The exact words are irrelevnt.


Dr. Bob Rich

Bob Rich, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in psychology in 1972. He worked as an academic, researcher and applied scientist until "retiring" the first time at 36 years of age. Later, he returned to psychology and qualified as a Counseling Psychologist, running a private practice for over 20 years. During this time, he was on the national executive of the College of Counselling Psychologists of the Australian Psychological Society (APS), then spent three years as a Director of the APS. He was the therapist referrers sent their most difficult cases to. Bob retired in 2013, but still does pro bono counseling over the internet. This has given him hundreds of "children" and "grand-children" he has never met, because many of these people stay in touch for years. His major joy in life is to be of benefit to others, which is why he wrote a book that's in effect a course of therapy. You can find out lots about Dr. Bob Rich at his blog, Bobbing Around 

Monday, March 16, 2020

Rethink the coronavirus (a different take)

I want to quickly check in and give you a different take on the coronavirus…

(Something almost nobody is talking about)

By now, the virus is “getting worse” by the day and spreading throughout the globe.

I have no idea what’s going to happen next.  Almost nobody does.

But all this uncertainty can cause a lot of anxiety and panic…

And when you see empty grocery stores…

Schools shutting down…

People being advised to stay inside…

It’s hard not to feel like an epidemic is upon us.

So if you’re feeling worried about all this, here’s what you can do:

Stay with “What IS” (instead of “What IF”)

“What if” refers to fear about the future.

What if this gets worse?
What if I get the coronavirus?
What if I can’t pay my bills?

When you have here-and-now emotions about future events, you get anxious and fearful about something that may or may not happen.

And all this leads to binge eating or overeating…

We do it to soothe, find comfort, or distract us from what’s going on.

But it’s better to think about the “What is” instead.

It focuses on reality. 

What is known and real.

When you are grounded in what’s actually happening, or what you know to be true, you are less likely to feel anxious, worried, or upset. 

Ask yourself:

What do I know to be true in this moment?

And keep your mind focused on what is actually happening, not what might happen.

Now that we’ve shifted our thinking, what can we actually do in this situation?

1. Take necessary precautions: Self-quarantine as much as possible so you avoid spreading the virus to people who are vulnerable (some are more likely to catch the virus than others).

2. Be more hygienic than you’re normally are: Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your face (including your eyes, nose, and mouth). Use hand sanitizer if available, I’ve seen it sold out in many places.

3. Make a plan: It’s only helpful to think about what might happen in the future when you make a plan. Otherwise, you’re only causing unnecessary stress on yourself. If the world feels scary and unpredictable, having a specific plan gives a great sense of calmness and control.

4. Create a strategy for yourself and/or your family: Think about how you will get through the next few weeks. Which urgent care or hospital do you go to if somebody starts developing symptoms?

5. Stockpile: Fill up your fridge and pantry with enough food staples to last a few weeks. And make sure you have at least a 30-day supply of medications, pain relievers, cold medicines, and anything else you may need (soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, etc.).

Benjamin Franklin said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”Luckily the reverse is also true. By preparing ourselves, we will succeed.
6. Reach out to others: Nobody is immune from the impact of this virus. Both physically and mentally. If the current state of the world is making you worried, it’s never wrong to reach and for support and comfort. It’s an important part of dealing with anxiety in times of uncertainty. Don’t be afraid to call your loved ones and tell them you love them. It’ll make you feel better. I promise.

So those are a few steps you can take to better handle all the crazy stuff going on in the world right now.

I really hope this helps. Feel free to let me know by dropping a comment below.

Just remember – you’re never alone. 

If you’d like extra support, whether it’s about the coronavirus, binge eating, body image issues, or anything else – feel free to connect with me and all the other strong people in our private community.

Here’s the link to the free Facebook group:

We will get through these challenging times together.


Dr. Nina