Samy Harbert ’13 works as a psychotherapist and was the speaker for the 6th Annual Alumni Chapel on March 1, 2021 during which she shared some coping mechanisms and strategies for dealing with the ongoing pandemic.
“This past year has been very challenging socially and emotionally for all of us,” Samy said. “Although this is a collective global trauma, there are so many silver linings. One of these is the resilience that is being cultivated within each of you. Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity.”
Samy went on to give some concrete tools and resources for those times in which students may find it especially difficult to manage. She broke down two concrete ways to handle stress and anxiety.
Self-care - paying attention to your body’s needs both mentally and physically. “Physical self-care can involve eating right, getting enough sleep, and going to the doctor,” noted Samy. “Mental health can sometimes be more challenging to address.” Samy suggested writing a list of coping strategies on a sticky note when you’re having a good day. The list will be personal and unique to each individual and can include taking a walk, lighting a candle, calling a friend or relative, whatever makes you feel good. Then place the sticky note on a mirror or laptop or anywhere it will be easy to find. “Turning to this list in a moment of crisis can really help because you won’t have to think about it. Just pick one thing to do from the list and go for it,” Samy advised.
Grounding - evidence-based therapeutic technique that involves bringing into focus whatever is happening in the moment. ‘When our brains perceive a threat,” Samy explained, “it prepares our bodies for a flight or fight response. This is why when we’re anxious or stressed, we’ll feel physical sensations such as increased heart rate or rapid breathing. When that happens, it’s really important to connect our body and mind.” She had the attendees practice the “5-4-3-2-1 technique” that implements each of the five senses. The idea is to engage each of your senses with deep breaths between each step, first noting five things you see, then four things you can feel, then three things you can hear, then two things you can smell, and finally one thing you can taste.This simple technique, Samy said, “brings your body to the present. It helps our brains disconnect from the perceived threat and gives us the opportunity to reconnect with our physical body.”
Samy holds a B.A. in Communication from USC and a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy from USC’s Rossier School of Education. She is currently a Marriage and Family Therapist Associate at Santa Monica Therapy. Samy also serves as a mentor and mental health liaison for the Campbell Scholars Program. If you would like to connect with Samy, visit therapywithsamy.com.
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