Eleven Tips To Help With Depression and Mental Health during COVID-19
Mental health officials are saying that depression and anxiety are hitting all-time high rates as we continue to navigate our lives with the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are feeling lost, confused, trapped, and as though you don’t know where you fit in the world anymore – you are not alone. But we can get through this. Below are eleven tips to help with depression and mental health as we go through quarantines, self-isolation, and social distancing.
My COVID Induced Hypochondria
The other day I woke up coughing and with a headache that started the day before. As I sat up, I began to think, “What if this is COVID-19?” “What happens if I get sick and can’t take care of my kids?” “What happens if my kids get sick?” “I can’t quarantine myself from my family. It just isn’t possible.”
My thoughts began spiraling into a frenzy of worst-case, what-if scenarios as I googled the latest on coronavirus symptoms. My head spinning now because of anxiety more than any headache I have.
I found the thermometer and took my temperature. Then I realized the coughing stopped right after it started, and other than the headache and waking myself up in a frenzy, I felt fine. No temperature, no cough. Did waking up with a headache – really - just damn near give me a panic attack?!
That crazy experience is on top of last week when I became depressed and cried for an hour. I was upset because my book sales, blog views, and income for the previous two months have gone down to almost nothing. I’ve tried to hold it together and stay positive, but the threat of losing the thing I love to do and have worked so hard to accomplish got to be more than I could handle at the time. So I let myself cry it out.
I Am Not Alone.
There are times when I feel depressed, times when I am anxious and worried, and times when I feel normal and hopeful. The problem is, I never seem to know what it is I am going to feel at any given moment.
And I am not alone! The feelings I have been experiencing are predominant for a lot of us right now. Probably most of us. Everyone having a range of emotions we have never quite experienced before. The state our world is in right now is making life feel out of control and downright terrifying at times.
The World is Experiencing an Increase in Depression, Anxiety, and Identity Crises
Research is showing an increase in depression and anxiety as the coronavirus goes on. There is so much loss, concern, fear, and worry that both depression and anxiety are becoming more and more common. On top of all this worrying, the loss of people around the world and our jobs dwindling is making a lot of people feel scared, directionless, and trapped.
We have lost our jobs, lost our usual social connections, and are stuck at home. We are uncertain when and if things will ever go back to normal - or even some semblance of normal.
These circumstances are creating so much change and uncertainty that many people are not sure how to identify themselves or their place in the world anymore. "Who am I?", "What is my purpose?", "What is in my future?", "Will I be able to afford to eat next week and provide for my family?" And this uncertainty is causing a lot of us to go into crisis mode.
Not to mention, all those points above don’t even take into consideration any sickness or the need to care for sick loved ones. Or that so many who do still have a job and continue to work must put themselves at risk nearly every day.
Or the nagging daily struggle of wondering if this virus will find you or a loved one. And will we recover if it does?
These are challenging times that none of us ever learned how to manage or deal with. We were not prepared for any of this. And the sense of being lost and uncertain is escaping no one.
We Have to Learn New Ways to Cope
Most of us know that a strong and healthy support system is one of the most important aspects of dealing with and managing depression. Yet, right now - through the worst of times many of us have ever seen - we are required and mandated to stay at home and isolate ourselves from others.
Yet, self-isolation, social distancing, staying at home, and trying to be alone as much as possible are the very things that we are told to avoid doing when feeling depressed.
Such contradictions surrounding us makes it feel like we just can’t win. So what can we do to keep from sinking into a pit of negativity and depression? What can we do not to become so hyper-focused on fear and worry that we spiral into an anxiety attack? It is possible. We just need to make a few adjustments and learn how to cope with this new kind of stress we have never experienced before.
Eleven Tips to Help with Depression and Mental Health During COVID-19
Now more than ever, it is essential to try to stay positive and focus on the good aspects of life. Here are a few things you can do to keep your lips above the waterline as we manage through quarantines, social distancing, and facing an uncertain world. So you can come out of this in control of your depression rather than your depression taking hold of you.
1) Create goals and focus on them.
Rather than feeling stuck in a cycle of uncertainty and negative thinking, set some goals for yourself and use your time to focus on accomplishing them. Setting goals and working toward them will shift your focus from what you can’t do, what “might” happen, and all the things you have no control over to what you can control.
Here are some ideas:
- Try creating and working toward a goal of clearing out all the closets and corners of your house. Go through all your stuff. Get rid of anything that does not bring you a sense of joy or happiness.
- Create some spiritual and self-growth goals. Try implementing a new yoga and meditation schedule every day with the intention to improve your health and well-being.
- Consider starting a side hustle. Write a book, start an online business, anything you can do at home that will bring in a little extra income and give your life more meaning and direction. A side hustle may be especially beneficial if life does not go back to the way it was before the virus started.
2) Be sure to implement A LOT of self-care.
Implement physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual self-care. Eat well, get some exercise, and make your physical body a priority even if you are stuck at home. Additionally, it is important to do things that make you happy and feel good. Take a bath, read a funny book, or binge-watch some good Netflix shows. When you wake up in the morning each day, ask yourself, what do I need to feel good today? Then make it your goal for the day to accomplish whatever you come up with.
3) Don’t judge, ridicule, or put yourself down.
Times of uncertainty create feelings of anger and helplessness. And those of us who experience depression can easily get caught up in those feelings and turn them inward. Meaning, you begin to blame yourself for everything that is going wrong. No matter what happens, give yourself a break, and remind yourself that things are hard right now. It is okay to feel bad, to feel lonely, depressed, and angry. You are not alone. What is happening in the world right now, and how it is affecting you is not your fault. Keep doing the best you can with the cards that are dealt to you and follow up any negative thoughts about yourself with positive and uplifting self-talk.
4) Don’t resist your feelings.
Even if you do find yourself in a negative state and feeling bad – don’t try to ignore or push those feelings away. Doing so will only give them power over you. Let yourself cry and be sad at times. Punch a pillow or find another healthy way to vent your anger. Recognize feelings of loneliness and any of those uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings that come up. Once you have given yourself permission to feel your feelings and face them, you can shift your focus to more positive and productive thoughts. Such as the goals you set from the first suggestion.
5) Go outside.
Try to get out of the house every day. Go for a walk, ride your bike, or even just sit on your porch. Being outside and getting in touch with nature will help lift your mood and give you an increased sense of freedom.
6) Avoid too much news.
We know it’s gonna be bad for a while, so it doesn’t help to continually expose yourself to all the news and events going on right now. Limit the amount of time you listen, watch, or read the news. For example, watch the morning news and read the paper for an hour then stop for the rest of the day. Make sure you are in the know but don’t drown in all the negativity the news is putting out there.
7) Make a gratitude list.
Sit down with a pen and paper and write down everything you are grateful for right now. Refer to this list anytime you are feeling overwhelmed by the events going on in your life. Add to it as much as possible and keep it close to you. Additionally, you can easily make a gratitude rock. Go outside and find a stone you like. Then paint it, write on it, or whatever you want and keep in your pocket. Then every time you touch it or see it, it will remind you of what you are grateful for.
8) Pick up a new hobby or resume an old one.
Most of the time we are so focused on the go, go, go of everyday life we end up forgetting about hobbies and the little things in life that are just enjoyable. Now is a time to catch up on your scrapbooking, knit a couple of scarves, revisit that coin collection, or dig that old sewing machine out and just create something because it’s fun. You will benefit from any hobby, old or new, so take advantage of some of your downtime and enjoy yourself.
9) Keep your distance, but stay in touch with friends and loved ones.
Even though social distancing is a thing doesn’t mean you can’t keep in touch with the people you know and love. And now it is more important than ever. Call, text, email, or use a video chat service to keep updated and just talk with the people you care about.
Clear your mind of everything clouding it up and give yourself a much-needed break from it all. Sit someplace quiet, play some relaxing music and light a few candles if you want. Then simply close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Take deep full breaths in and out. And when your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath. Do this as often and for as long as you want.
11) Have faith.
Perhaps most importantly, have faith. When things feel the darkest and most dire is the best time to practice having faith. Let the negativity and fear fade away and switch your focus to knowing there is something greater than you and me working behind the scenes. Let yourself believe that things will soon turn around and everything will be just fine. Keeping in mind, it is often darkest before the dawn.
How has COVID-19 impacted your life? Do you have any coping skills or ideas that have helped you through quarantine and self-isolation? Let us know in comments or forum.
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