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Depression in the Time of Corona
The last several months have thrown our country and our world into unprecedented times. Seemingly everyone, everywhere, has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our lives have been disrupted and the new normal is far from normal. In times of social crisis, human instinct is to come together and lean on friends and family for mutual support. However, Covid-19 has forced us apart and with social distancing mandates serving as our best way to beat the virus, isolation has become the norm for people around the world.
Social distancing and self-isolation are indeed necessities for staying healthy and preventing the spread of the virus, but if you are one of the nearly 17 million American adults who suffer from depression, you know that Covid-19 is not the only illness to worry about during quarantine.
Cost of Social Isolation
Experiencing an infectious disease outbreak is unique in that it often creates feelings of stress and fear, especially when people are forced to quarantine or isolate themselves. When these feelings are sustained for long periods of time, they can seriously affect the state of your mental health.
This is due largely to the fact that social distancing during a time of crisis goes against human nature. In times of large-scale disaster, humans instinctively seek out support in large groups of friends, family, or even coworkers. With all aspects of social and work life disrupted, we lose out on many of those human moments and connections which allow us to process and overcome the feelings of stress
and fear brought on by a pandemic. Being separated from our social network directly impacts our ability to cope with stressful, saddening, or fear-inducing situations.
On top of that, the constantly changing rules and regulations in every community are having a major impact on people’s ability to get the resources they need. For those who rely on therapy to help manage their depression, not being able to leave the house or attend in-person therapy has a real impact on their ability to handle their depression.
As a result, social distancing is presenting a major challenge for mental health professionals and patients alike. If you find yourself struggling to cope during these stressful times, know that it’s possible to maintain your mental health while also protecting your physical health.
Managing Feelings of Depression during Social-Distancing
The first thing to keep in mind when navigating this new world of social distancing is that your isolation is not unique and you're not doing anything wrong by staying home. The Covid-19 pandemic is a serious matter and practicing social distancing is the most effective way to protect yourself and others. However, if you're finding your depression worsening or are experiencing the onset of depressive feelings, you’re not alone. The current situation can seem overwhelming to even the most well-adjusted of us, but there are ways to mitigate the effects and take care of our mental health despite all the uncertainty.
1. Safely Maintain Social Connections
Staying in contact with your support network is an essential part of lessening the feelings of loneliness you are sure to experience while practicing self-isolation. Work to maintain your personal connections by scheduling times throughout the week to call and catch up with your friends and family. Even if you keep it as simple as catching up with one friend or family member a day, talking with another person is a simple way to reduce feelings of loneliness.
If you're missing your social life, try organizing virtual hangouts or Netflix parties with your friend group. If the idea of organizing or initiating virtual hangouts or scheduled chats stresses you out, try to remember that everyone is in the same boat. You're not the only one who is feeling disconnected from your social life so don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to reach out to your support network when you're feeling particularly lonely or isolated.
Facetime, Zoom, and Skype certainly don’t replace in-person socializing, but they allow you to see others and hear their voices. Not everyone is a fan of communicating via technology, but in times like these, keeping in touch is one of the most important things we can do.
2. Create a Schedule
Perhaps one of the biggest impacts of social-distancing regulations is the one it has had on our routines. With in-person socializing on hold and work gone remote, it's easy to fall out of our normal routines which often revolve around our work schedule and social obligations. An excess of free time isn't always a good thing and creating a routine can help mitigate many of the feelings of depression brought on by the situation. Scheduled meals can help regulate your weight and appetite. Scheduled exercise will provide you with a daily dose of serotonin that can be invaluable when dealing with depression. All in all, scheduling your day can have a huge impact on your mental health, even if you are just scheduling meals, exercise, or sleep. Creating a routine can reduce the feelings of uncertainty that come with being cooped up and isolated, and knowing what your day is going to look like can greatly reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.
3. Get outside (Safely!)
Much of the outside world may be shut down, but that doesn't mean you can't go outside. Taking a walk, run, or bike ride are all perfectly within social-distancing guidelines, and they can provide a great deal of relief to the monotony of endless hours inside. On top of that, getting some sun and fresh air have been shown to directly improve mood, so a walk around the neighborhood could help you mitigate some of those negative feelings. Incorporating some sort of outside time into your day is proven to help manage feelings of depression, so making safe outside excursions a part of your routine is a must.
4. Consider Online Resources
Though your access to in-person therapy and other in-person mental health resources may be limited during the pandemic, that doesn't mean your therapy journey has to go on hold. There is a growing number of quality online therapy platforms that can help you get the therapy you need without even having to leave the house. Online therapy, whether you opt for one-on-one sessions or join a therapy group, can greatly help in managing your depression during times of isolation. Talking one-on-one with a counselor can greatly help you in developing the routines and practices you need to manage your mental health. Joining a therapy group can allow you to connect with others who have similar struggles, gain perspective on your own experiences, and to learn valuable practices and insights from counselors and peers. Online therapy cannot always replace in-person counseling, but it can be a valuable resource if you are struggling to manage your depression during self-isolation.