I am prone to depression and I was wondering if this coronavirus could create more depression and anxiety? Will we all become less attached to each other after staying away from each other (at least six feet away) on a regular basis? What can I do to keep a better outlook? This seclusion is making me depressed!
Dear Depressed Again,
The troubling ripple effects of the corona virus (COVID-19) has worsened the mental health of many individuals who are already struggling with general anxiety, OCD, and depression.
Mental health issues can be exacerbated by the kind of uncertainty happening across the world right now. Many who are struggling with depression may view the directives to stay inside and avoid socialization as a “blessing in disguise.” Counselors typically encourage social activity as a way to combat depression, but now we are to stay inside, so those dealing with depression are developing anxiety related to the fear of being isolated.
But social interaction, maintaining some sort of routine and staying connected with friends and family can makes a huge improvement in someone’s mood when they are prone to depression.
The good news is that even in these extraordinary times it is possible to cultivate a different set of tools to support your mental health and to manage your depression symptoms.
Here are a few tips I can suggest:
- Continue to meet with your therapist on video. If you’re not already seeing a therapist, now might be a great time to start via video, of course.
- Nurture your relationships via face-to-face technology. Whether it is via FaceTime or Skype, it should be intentional, deliberate and regular with your loved ones. Seeing their faces can actually make a mental difference.
- Be mindful of how much media you consume. It is important to stay informed in these trying times, but please be mindful of the impact media consumption can have on your depression symptoms. Only seek reputable, trusted sources (WHO, CDC).
- Build projects and future events into your thoughts and calendar that you can reasonably count on. Life on the outside may be on a pause mode, but that doesn’t mean it will always be that way. If it helps to daydream or sketch out trips you may take in Spring 2021, do it! It’s okay to daydream, research and loosely plan activities for next year. It’s a great time to plan and execute little projects around your home or apartment to keep you engaged, active and feel like you’re accomplishing something, making progress and a sense of control.
- Continue to eat and move in healthy, self-supporting ways. Grocery supplies may look a little strained for a while, gyms and community pools shut down, but if there were ever a time to eat healthy, now is the time to do it as much as possible. Avoid addictive substances (which includes sugar), bad habits or over indulging in anything that you know does not support your mental health or your physical health. Be creative about home-based workouts and new creative recipes.
- Get out into nature! Social distancing does not mean that you have to stay inside 100% of the time (unless, perhaps, you’re infected right now). Nature is a huge support for our mental health, so make getting outside a priority in your backyard or head out to your local state park trails, lakes or woods. If possibl,e avoid buses to get there.
Remember that touch is being replaced by talk. Our communication skills will be challenged without body language.
The more we train our brain to not obsess about the situations and adapt to changes we are facing and look for the positive, the more we will lessen the depression symptoms that need support in these times.
And don’t forget to make your face smile at least three times a day on purpose. Studies show that simply smiling actually shoots dopamine to your brain causing a feel good chemical reaction, so smile!
Barb Rock is a mental health counselor and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at BarbRockrocks@yahoo.com.