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Working away from home and away from loved ones is challenging at the best of times. In the “times of corona” – with restrictions on travel, quarantines, tests, vaccines etc. – it must be even more so. Many of us are finding it hard to deal with the times we live in, and I often hear the phrase “If corona does not kill me, the stress will!” Are we exaggerating or are these concerns real? I am talking with the psychotherapist Charlene Jimenez Robles to find out what changes she has seen in the types of clients that seek her help and to learn some coping techniques for these trying times.

Hi Charlene, tell me a bit about you, who are you and how did you become a psychotherapist?

Charlene: I´ve always been interested in how the mind works. Coming from a big family, it was fascinating to me how we all interact differently with each other and how we react differently to the situations around us. I got a Degree in Criminology and Forensics and a Masters Degree in Criminal Psychology. As a graduate I worked in prisons, dealing with criminals with narcissistic behaviour, as well as those with anxiety and bipolar disorders, which can also play a part in criminal behaviours. I further specialised in treating people with anxiety, individual and couples therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy and a few other fields you can see on my website. I volunteered with Samaritans while getting qualified to practice psychology, so I also have experience in treating self/harm and suicidal behaviours.

I believe that there is no universal approach to therapy. I build tailored, high quality sessions specifically for each client, to reflect his or her individual personality and needs.

I am passionate about my work and strongly believe that therapy can bring positive change and improvement to people’s lives. We are all vulnerable in today’s stressful world; it is not uncommon to feel lost or confused from time to time, or to experience symptoms, unhelpful behaviours or a lack of confidence. These are things that we all go through.

These days you have your own practice in Placa España, right in the centre of Palma?

Charlene: Yes. I have been there for the past two years. Prior to that, I worked online with Psychology Today, with patients in Spain, England and several other countries.

Great! For the past year and a half it has been hard to have any conversation without mentioning COVID. Have you noticed different kinds of patients reaching out to you or your regular patients now coming with different issues?

In the lockdown I had a lot of new online patients, especially younger people, university or college students, getting depressed because their social lives disappeared with the COVID restrictions. As they couldn’t go to classes the anxiety built up and then, when they could go back to school, they didn’t feel comfortable doing that anymore.

How can we spot the signs of anxiety in people around us?

Charlene: First of all, there is the problem that some people don’t recognise that they are anxious; they might just perceive themselves or be perceived as shy and quiet. Other people will make themselves too busy, so they “don´t have time” to answer messages or meet up, they will avoid big groups etc.

How can anxious people help themselves? How can people around them help? I am also thinking about people working on yachts, in confined spaces, for long periods of time, often with people they don’t know very well…

 Charlene: Many of my patients are in yachting. It is very important to talk about anxiety and depression. Captains and chief stews should be aware if their staff is struggling. There should be regular “check ins”, maybe weekly, to see how everyone is doing, how they are coping with the daily stresses of their work. Then, there are a lot of techniques to combat anxiety, for example breathing techniques or body scans (mindfulness exercises encouraging present-moment awareness, with the sensations of the body being used as an anchor for mindful attention). You can see these on my website, they are easy to do and don’t take too much time. When people are about to have an anxiety attack, they might feel tension in their jaw, their shoulders or their hands. Recognising these signs is a first step to relaxing, feeling better and preventing a full blown anxiety attack.

If an anxiety attack happens, say on a boat in the middle of the sea, what can the captain or a crew do to help their colleagues?

 Charlene: Talk to your colleague calmly, reassure them, and try to get them to focus on something other than their anxiety, say, ask them to list: five objects around them, five colours they can see, five smells they can identify and so on. Focusing on these things will quieten the mind and avert a full blown attack.

OK, great. Thanks for these tips. So, as we said, you work online as well as face to face and people can seek your help, book a session, wherever in the world they are?

Charlene: Yes, people can book a session through my website or through Psychology Today. I offer one free 15 minutes consultation where we assess the patient’s needs and the ways I think I can help, before committing to a block of treatment sessions. It is very important that the patient and the therapist are the right match. If I ever think that I can´t help the patient in the way I think they need – I will say so and refer them elsewhere.

Many thanks for chatting to The Islander.

Charlene: Thank you.

Some symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD):

  • Excessive feelings of worry or anxiety
  • Feelings of apprehension and tension about daily events
  • Restlessness and an inability to relax
  • Difficulty concentrating because of worry or anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling irritable
  • Feeling easily fatigued
  • Muscle tension or aches and pains
  • Worry or anxiety that is difficult to control

Things that you can do for yourself that will help you to overcome GAD:

  • understanding more about how worry is an attempt to cope with uncertainty
  • examining your rules and assumptions concerning uncertainty
  • increasing your tolerance of uncertainty
  • worry awareness training
  • worry postponement
  • effective problem solving

By Mia Naprta
Photos: Charlene´s personal archived

Original source: The islander