“Calm down.” Two words that I am NEVER to say to my wife when she is stressed or in a crisis. Saying them could get me into a lot of trouble. I might think them, but I don’t dare say them out loud.

You may be thinking, “What does this have to do with someone experiencing symptoms of psychosis?” Quite a lot, actually. There has been a great deal of stress and anxiety occurring in our society and the world since at least late February. People have been more isolated and worried to leave their homes to go to the store, interact with friends and family, or even step outside for a breath of fresh air. The fear and anxiety that has occurred has at times increased the negative symptoms and reactions of those struggling with mental health symptoms and especially psychosis.

If anything, the past few months have reminded me that how I react to the stressors around me can impact my family, colleagues, and the clients with whom I work. This has been especially true for those coping with anxiety and symptoms of psychosis. Essentially, I have had to tell myself to calm down.

As family, friends, and/or caretakers for someone who has a diagnosis or symptoms of psychosis, it is vital that we remember to manage our own emotions and reactions first before trying to help them with their symptoms. Providing appropriate support and structure in a time of stress will better aid the individual with psychosis to more appropriately work through their symptoms and reactions. Our behavior can serve as a model for those learning to cope with their symptoms of psychosis.

Telling someone to calm down or to just get over it can only serve to increase their stress having the opposite effect. It may be that they really do have a reason to be anxious or upset. Providing a safe outlet for the individual to talk about what they are experiencing and feeling when stressed can help them immeasurably in learning triggers for symptoms and how to utilize their coping skills more readily.

So the next time that your family member, friend, or client is struggling with stress and it is affecting their symptoms of psychosis, remember to take a moment and tell yourself to “Calm down.” It just may be the most important way that you can help.

Jay Gentry, LPC-S
FEP Coordinator for Counseling Associates & Professional Counseling Associates
Arisa Health/Central Region