Counselor offers reassurance: “What you’re feeling is normal”

Beth Naughton

Maybe it’s happened to you since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It’s late at night, your mind is racing, and you just want someone to talk to.

In these moments you can pick up the phone and call for help. Some people may have access to an employee assistance program (EAP) line through their employer.

For others, Optum is providing a free Emotional Support Line for anyone who might be struggling. These programs are there to help when we’re feeling overwhelmed.

The need for support is clear. Research shows most people’s mental and social well-being began dropping when the COVID-19 outbreak began. It’s therefore no surprise that more people are calling the Emotional Support Line.

More than 5,000 people called in March — that’s more than double the total number of calls received last year. April’s call numbers are even higher — close to three times the 2019 total.

Calls to Emotional Support Line have increased dramatically

One of the many people fielding those calls is EAP counselor Beth Naughton, who has a master’s degree in counseling psychology.

During the stay-at-home order, she’s taking calls from her bedroom while her kids do distance learning in other parts of their home.

Many of the COVID-19 calls come from people who’ve lost loved ones or are worried about their own health. Naughton says it feels good to be there for people in need.

She encourages people to practice mindfulness and self-care, and she follows her own advice by taking breaks, going outdoors, doing deep breathing and practicing yoga.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation with Naughton:

Question: A lot of the calls you’ve been receiving are from stressed-out parents. They’re struggling to work from home while managing their kids’ distance learning. What do you tell those parents?

Read the transcript.

Question: Some of us have small children. How should we talk to them about COVID-19 without scaring them?

Read the transcript.

Question: We know you’ve talked to callers who have COVID-19 or have family members fighting the disease. Others have lost loved ones during this challenging time. How do you see different people dealing with grief?

Read the transcript.

“This is a huge change for all of us and we don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring,” says Naughton. “To cope, we can try to focus on today. We can work on being resilient — able to roll with the waves as they come in.”

If you’re feeling sad, anxious or overwhelmed by issues related to COVID-19, please consider calling the 24/7 Optum Emotional Support Help Line at 1-866-342-6892.

The Employee Assistance Program also offers a website full of great advice.

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