Increased Precautions We're Taking in Response to COVID-19

LAST UPDATED ON 03/15/2021

As updates on the impact of the coronavirus continue to be released, we want to take a moment to inform you of the heightened preventative measures we have put in place at SUWS of the Carolinas to keep our patients, their families, and our employees safe. All efforts are guided by and in adherence to the recommendations distributed by the CDC.

Please note that for the safety of our patients, their families, and our staff, there are certain restrictions in place regarding on-site visitation at SUWS of the Carolinas.

  • These restrictions have been implemented in compliance with updated corporate and state regulations to further reduce the risks associated with COVID-19.
  • Options for telehealth visitation are continuously evaluated so that our patients can remain connected to their loved ones.
  • Alternate methods of communication for other services may be offered when deemed clinically appropriate.

For specific information regarding these changes and limitations, please contact us directly.

CDC updates are consistently monitored to ensure that all guidance followed is based on the latest information released.

  • All staff receives ongoing infection prevention and control training.
  • Thorough disinfection and hygiene guidance is provided.
  • Patient care supplies such as masks and hand sanitizer are monitored and utilized.
  • Temperature and symptom screening protocols are in place for all patients and staff.
  • Social distancing strategies have been implemented to ensure that patients and staff maintain proper distance from one another at all times.
  • Cleaning service contracts have been reviewed for additional support.
  • Personal protective equipment items are routinely checked to ensure proper and secure storage.
  • CDC informational posters are on display to provide important reminders on proper infection prevention procedures.

The safety of our patients, their families, and our employees is our top priority, and we will remain steadfast in our efforts to reduce any risk associated with COVID-19.

The CDC has provided a list of easy tips that can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then immediately dispose of the tissue.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are frequently touched.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.

For detailed information on COVID-19, please visit


We remain open and are continuing to accept new admissions.

SUWS of the Carolinas remains committed to providing clinically superior services within a safe and supportive environment while taking all appropriate precautions to protect the well-being of our students and staff.

For admissions information, or to learn more about the heightened preventive measures we have put in place, please click the link at the top of this page or call us at (828) 489-3198.

Highlighting Moments of Okayness during times of Chronic Overwhelm

Whether you are experiencing chronic overwhelm right now related to the pandemic or have experienced it previously (work, family, relationship, school, financial stressors), it can be a difficult place to shift out of. We are in a unique situation, as we reach the year mark of this pandemic, where most people have reached a point of feeling chronically overwhelmed, exhausted, depleted, disconnected, fatigued, and uncertain. We are more prone to experiences of chronic overwhelm when there is an uncertain and unpredictable end of what we identify as the cause of stress and activation. The unknown of how long we need to cope with the activation just adds to the overwhelm of our nervous system. Our bodies’ nervous systems are set up to activate in response to stress and then return to settling when it passes. When the threat is not acute, but rather it persists, our bodies have a much harder time responding appropriately.

Chronic overwhelm does not only exist inside the pandemic we are currently experiencing; it can happen to anyone when their nervous system has been in high state of activation for a long period of time. For the kids we work with in the woods, this can come from inundation of social media, societal and cultural pressures for how to be, family conflict, belonging to an underrepresented group, exploring one’s identity, social stressors, school stressors, experiences of trauma and/or other mental health challenges. Chronic Overwhelm is not going to go away when the pandemic ends, and there are skills we can start practicing now to help support our nervous systems’ ability to recover and rest even in times of chronic stress.

Ideally, we would like to remove ourselves from sources of stress, triggers, and activation to allow ourselves to rest and recover. Unfortunately, that is unrealistic reality, even pre pandemic. The intention is to not work towards avoiding anything activating or stressful; rather it is to work towards accepting that we are going to continue experiencing stressors and triggers, and we are able to support our nervous system’s response to those threats to help it come back to rest and recovery. So rather than looking for an end date of whatever we have identified as the main cause of our chronic overwhelm, we can come back to what we are able to do in the present moment to support settling and okayness in our nervous system.

What this looks like is noticing the okay moments, the mildly enjoyable moments and spending time in the okayness of those moments. I say mildly enjoyable moments because higher levels of positive emotions or feelings are still activating to our nervous system and can take the same amount of energy as stress inducing feelings.  This task is simple yet challenging, as our brains and nervous systems have gotten used to looking for the next shoe to drop.

Some examples of how I invite kids to sit with their okayness is inviting them to pause when they share feeling calm, settled, relaxed, okay, content, etc. and asking them to get curious about what in their body is telling them they are feeling that way. Then I invite them to sit in the feelings and sensations for a little while. For weekly outcomes, I will task them with pausing a few times a day when they feel okay, safe, or something mildly pleasant and getting curious about their internal and external cues of that feeling, and then sitting in it intentionally for a minute or two. I like to describe this activity as if they are using a mental highlighter to emphasize the okayness and pleasantness of their day.

The intentional attention and curiosity gives more time to their nervous system to stay in this place. We tend to skip by the nice feeling emotions and sensations and focus on the not so nice feeling ones. By highlighting the okayness, the pleasantness, it balances the higher stress and activation out and injects rest and resiliency into our nervous systems. In practicing this skill, it can help us show up in relationship with ourselves and our loved ones more regulated, present, and often less reactive.

Some examples of highlightable moments or reminders of micro moments of okayness in macro level threat:

  • Enjoying your first cup of coffee or tea in the morning…even pausing to enjoy the smell of the ground coffee.
  • Honestly, anything a small child does-watch them interact with their world and notice the presence they bring and how they live in the presence. They are great reminders of presence and finding okayness in the smallest things
  • Noticing the smell of food cooking, notice the feeling after you take a first bite of food after being hungry.
  • Noticing the satisfaction of completing a task on your to-do list such as folding and putting laundry away, pausing to notice how it feels to complete a work outcome, noticing how it feels to look at an empty sink after washing all the dishes, noticing what comes up when you get into a bed with fresh sheets.
    • Taking a different perspective you can find okayness in the pile of dishes or pile of laundry to fold as it signals that these small tasks continue regardless of the current pandemic and in the moments of doing these tasks the pandemic does not need to have impact on these activities. It can be a signal for our systems to rest in the “normalness” of these tasks.
      • This perspective does not work for everyone-especially if you are in a place where those tasks just add to your already chronic overwhelm. And this perspective can help shift our relationships with what is ”okay,” “normal” and how we can find rest and settling.
    • Noticing the feeling that comes up when you see your favorite show has a new season on Netflix
    • The feeling when you get to sit or lie down on the couch after a long day
    • Pausing for more intentional time petting or cuddling with a pet
    • Your child giving you a hug, smile, or even an acknowledgment of your existence if they’re an adolescent)…or even your teen acting like a teen and rolling their eyes at you when you ask them to do something
    • Watching the sunrise or sunset
    • Sitting outside or walking outside and noticing the sounds around you
    • I, personally, love looking for the misbehaving kid in the grocery store—as grocery stores have transformed in to a different experience, I enjoy looking for kids who are driving their parents nuts asking for candy or sugary cereal because it helps remind my brain that kids are still doing what kids do best
    • Looking for smiling eyes when around masked people

I do want to normalize that our nervous system is meant to become activated when we face stressors, so this activity is not appropriate to use when faced with an actual threat or stressor.

Even these short moments of rest can help build resiliency in our mind and bodies and encourages our nervous system to continue through its normal cycles of activation and settling, rather than staying stuck in hyper-activation or getting stuck in disconnect and hypo-activation.  These moments help remind our brain and body that in this present moment, we are okay and there is not a threat to our survival.

About Lexi Gross, LCMHC, LCAS, Luna and Bravo Groups (adolescent girls and boys)

Lexi Gross MA, LCMHC, LCASA, began working with adolescents at an outdoor adventure guiding company before coming to SUWS of the Carolinas in 2014. After two years as a wilderness therapy field guide, she completed a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Appalachian State University.

Lexi works with adolescent males and females struggling with depression, anxiety, family conflict, defiance, identity development, adoption, grief, self-harm, trauma, problematic social media and gaming use, and co-occurring disorders. She has a passion for working with teens and holds a strong belief in the role wilderness can play in empowerment, connection, and authentic self-discovery. Lexi takes a holistic perspective, recognizing the necessity of involving the whole family in her work with clients.

She uses a person-centered and strengths-based approach while incorporating Motivational Interviewing and Somatic Experiencing (SE) all through a trauma informed lens. She is currently in training to become a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner. SE is a body-oriented approach to healing trauma and dysregulation within the nervous system. SE focuses on relieving physical, emotional, and physiological effects of trauma through helping clients befriend their nervous system and tap into the natural ways their nervous system already knows to regulate. This approach does not focus on talking about the trauma, but rather focuses on supporting the nervous system and the body’s memory of the event. Lexi values this approach as it encourages her clients to listen to their bodies and touch into their own worth, values, and needs. While this is a trauma focused approach, SE skills are helpful in working with anxiety, depression, and most mental illnesses and behavioral issues.

Lexi’s experience as a field guide at SUWS helps her understand the challenges her clients experience during their time in wilderness as well as provide appropriate training to staff while in the field. She readily connects her work with clients to their experience in wilderness, as well as to their relationships and life outside of SUWS.

Prior to working in wilderness, she worked at a young adult women’s recovery treatment center that specializes in dual-diagnosis and trauma work. She worked at Appalachian State University’s Wellness and Prevention Services. While there she provided counseling to college students and provided outreach to special populations on campus such as racial and ethnic minorities, the LGBTQIA+ population, and first-generation college students. Lexi also worked for a community mental health agency providing counseling to children, adolescents, and their families struggling with various mental health challenges.

Outside of work, Lexi enjoys spending time trail running and hiking with her therapy certified dog, Willow, engaging in creative projects, baking, and cooking for friends and family.

View all posts by Lexi Gross, LCMHC, LCAS

Take a virtual tour of our campus!

View Here