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Caring for mental health in the time of Covid-19 with Juli Steinocher, Dr. Shameka Jones [video]

Megan Holmes

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The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce presents: Coronavirus Impact Insights

On this episode of Chamber Coronavirus Impact Insights, Juli Steinocher, founder of mindbodylab and Dr. Shameka Jones of Florida Blue join Chris Steinocher, CEO of the St. Petersburg Chamber and Joe Hamilton, Publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst to discuss what’s been top-of-mind – pervading every discussion we’ve had this week – mental health in a time of crisis.

Juli Steinocher, a licensed mental health counselor, licensed massage therapist, health coach and personal trainer discusses the connection between mental, emotional and physical health. First, she shares an update on her own business, mindbodylab, which just purchased a commercial space at the corner of 1st Avenue North and 66th Street. During the Covid-19 crisis, Juli Steinocher has transitioned fully online. She is seeing patients through Zoom meetings and phone calls, and is providing her stress first aid kit free on her website.

With the entire Covid-19 crisis playing out in real time, there is a lot of anxiety swirling around us. But it’s more than that, says Juli Steinocher. “Whether people realize it or not, they are in a state of shock,” she explains. “Shock about the news of what’s happening, shock of going to the grocery store and seeing the shelves empty, shock of not being able to hang out with friends and do things or have a sense of normalcy.”

When we are in shock, she explains, it’s much harder for our brains to think clearly. We as humans toggle between three unconscious behaviors: fight, flight or freeze.

“Most people right now in a state of freeze,” Juli Steinocher says. “In my opinion, from the research I’m seeing, that’s the most damaging of the three.” When we are under stress, she explains, up to 80 percent of our blood leaves the brain and instead goes to our arms and legs, preparing for fight or flight. The fight and flight responses release that natural build-up of adrenaline and norepinephrine, but in a state of isolation we may end up in a state of freeze with nowhere to put those hormones.

In the current state of affairs, business owners may be stuck in the freeze response. They’re likely thinking with their reptilian brain, making choices without thinking of long term consequences, rather than their prefrontal cortex, the area of executive function.

So how do we thaw out and get back into the higher parts of our brains? Juli Steinocher suggests a number of touch techniques. Touching your forehead, just above your eyebrows, rubbing the base of your neck, or holding the sides of your head.

She suggests thinking about one specific thing at a time while holding hands in those positions. For feelings of overwhelm, to get out of the emotional and overcritical areas of the brain, Juli Steinocher suggests crossing the midline of the body, crossing arms, ankles or both.

With a lack of face-to-face communication and connection, and an increase in screen time, Juli Steinocher says now is the best time to get back in touch with the sense of connection to oneself. She suggests various touch exercises, time outside and a barefoot connection with nature.

In particular, Juli Steinocher says now is a time to be on the lookout for signs of suicidal ideation. Pay particular attention to withdrawing and retreating behaviors in yourself and others.

Jones discusses Florida Blue’s easy transition online and a helpful initiative that Florida Blue has brought to all Floridians, regardless of their insurance plan. The company expanded their New Directions Behavioral Health Services to all Floridians due to Covid-19. Any Florida resident can call and speak to a specially trained mental health professional. Bilingual services are also available.

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