It’s not an easy time for people with depression right now. Not like it’s ever easy, but living through a pandemic where there are so many uncertainties, coupled with the isolation orders, makes everything a whole lot harder.
Whatever a person’s circumstances are during quarantine — accessibility to a person’s typical routines, interactions and social opportunities have decreased. There is a lot of research that supports that isolation and lack of activity promotes feeling fatigued, disengaged and withdrawn from the environment. When people do less, they often feel worse, which leads to them doing less. It’s a vicious cycle of avoidance.
8 Ways to Manage Depression During COVID-19
So, what’s a depressed person to do? How are we supposed to keep our mental health in check and get back to feeling more like ourselves? Maybe, we can come out even stronger than before quarantine. Try these eight tips:
1. Continue treatment or services from mental health professionals
If you were in therapy, taking medications, or both before this all began, make sure you keep up with your treatment regimen. Pretty much all mental health professionals have moved their practices online to video calls. If you take meds, ensure that you get refills on time. You may even see if your pharmacy can ship the meds so you don’t have to risk going out.
2. Give yourself permission to feel and grieve
In a sense, many people are grieving right now. Maybe it’s a job, social event or an active lifestyle, or inability to do your favourite things. Allow yourself to feel this sadness. Give yourself space to process it. Remember: you don’t need to minimize what you’re feeling.
3. Don’t give in to social isolation
Yes, you’re physically isolated from people because of stay-at-home orders, but that doesn’t mean you can’t speak to anybody from the outside world. It’s crucial to have some kind of human connection. It can be difficult at times for depression sufferers to instigate or commit to plans. Many feel like a burden to friends and family, or have a distorted view of how others perceive them. But this time can be a great opportunity to challenge those negative thoughts. When a person gets the positive response of somebody continuing the conversation or saying yes to a FaceTime or Zoom plan, it’s a piece of data that shows just maybe the negative thoughts are not accurate. While phone calls and FaceTime are certainly not the same as in-person interaction, it’s still important to hear others’ voices and see them and their body language.
4. Identify your support network
Amongst your friends, family, and partner (if you have one) identify a few who are extra trustworthy and understanding. Choose people who make you feel safe. Make sure to reach out and maintain contact with them, especially in moments of vulnerability when support is most needed. Ensure those who you choose to rely on should be non-judgemental, non-demanding and people who won’t immediately try to jump in and problem-solve.
5. Limit social media usage
With a lot more free time on our hands, it can be extremely tempting to spend hours aimlessly scrolling through social media. However, using social media in excess can be bad for our mental health and self-esteem. Not to mention, social media these days is flooded with a lot of negativity and stressful news headlines.
Being constantly force-fed fearmongering, guilt-provoking political propaganda isn’t going to help anyone feel better, and when someone is already in a vulnerable state, it can really pour gasoline on the fire.
6. Have some sort of routine or structure
People who are newly working from home or freshly unemployed might be struggling with loss of routine. Structure can often be beneficial to those with depression, and spending all of your time at home doesn’t mean you can’t have some structure. It can be very tempting to sleep in much later and wear the same cloths day in and day out but allowing for some healthy balance with at least some structure.
She advises making the effort to make your bed, have breakfast and do some mediation or movement. “These actions can go a long way and make the difference between feeling dishevelled and overwhelmed, versus feeling some semblance of a sense of agency and calm. Other ways you can add structure is by sticking to normal work hours and keeping work-life balance, having standing weekly FaceTime calls or scheduling workouts.
7. Practice ‘behavioural activation’
Behavioral activation (BA) is a therapeutic approach that can be very helpful for depressed people. This approach says that by doing things (even when you don’t want to, because you are operating on a low reservoir of energy and motivation) that are positively reinforcing (i.e. setting your alarm and getting your day started, showering, walking the dog, preparing a nutritious meal, calling a friend, etc.) you will experience a change in mood. This can go hand in hand with the tip about creating some structure.
Start small and work your way up. For example, if you’re struggling to get yourself motivated to do your laundry, start with washing and putting away just your socks. If you’re looking to get more active, start with the simple goal of a short walk. When we have more experiences that are positively reinforcing, even just a little bit, we will have a sense of accomplishment, more motivation, and hopefully, a boost in mood.
In case you forgot, physical activity is great for mental health. Exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, can be beneficial for depression and anxiety. Exercise releases feel good hormones and lowers your stress hormones. Plus, it can act as a great way to blow off steam if you’re feeling some pent up aggression. It can also be part of your behavioural activation plan! Again, start small and work your way up. Since you can’t go to the gym or fitness studios, try YouTube workouts, or use equipment you have at home. Going for a run or cycle are options too, as long as you stay a safe distance away from others passing by outside.