As we move closer to a year in Covid life, pandemic depression is affecting us all
If you haven’t experienced pandemic depression yet, you are one of the lucky ones. As far as I can tell, most of us are struggling or have struggled at some point. Being separated from family and friends is not natural. Losing work or jobs entirely is devastating. Experienceing fear around finances, child care, health, toilet paper… The list goes on and on. But, there are things you can do that will help you cope.
I have Situational Depression, which means I’m usually not depressed. For me, depression springs from stressful life events like the one we’re in right now. Many of us are separated from friends and family, unable to travel or see our loved ones safely. We can’t attend religious services for comfort and spirituality. We’re nervous about exercise classes that we need for community and endorphins. Many restaurants have closed, at least in my state right now. For those who attend AA or other 12 step meetings, our only option is on Zoom. And, this has been going on for seven months with no end in sight. The changes and stress is getting to us.
It is a strange and unexpected place we find ourselves. There are no clear answers and no timeline for when things will return to normal. But, that means now is time deal with depression around the pandemic.
How can you ease your pandemic depression
First and foremost, remember that you can’t control this, so it’s time to lean into reality and make a life that will work within this new reality. In the first few months, I felt like I was waiting this out. Now, I’m figuring out how to the things I need to do at home. I can’t wait another six months to a year to go to a Yoga class.
But, before I go on, I advise anyone to determine how severe the situation. If you are seriously struggling, talk to a professional. That’s the most crucial piece of advice I have to give. You can look here for mental health professionals in your area. Severe Depressive episodes may require medication and won’t be solved with a walk around the neighborhood or happy music. The good news about medication: it works for most people who need it, so don’t feel bad or ashamed if mediation is part of your depression treatment plan. Here are my top 6 tips to ease your pandemic depression.
Use positive psychology
Positive psychology is the study of the “good life,” or other positive aspects of the human experience that make life worth living. Eliminating bad thoughts and replacing them with good ones is life-changing once you start practicing. I’m the first to admit that some days I wake up and can’t tell if I’m homicidal or suicidal for a minutes. I’m kind of kidding. These days, it’s imperative to tap into positivity; however, works best for you. I immediately tune into a Zoom 12-step meeting, listen to affirmations, write a gratitude list, list the things I’m looking forward to, or find other positive ways to start the day. If you replace the bad thoughts with good ones, it will help your brain reset for the day. I use Youtube videos for morning affirmations. Even ten minutes makes a difference.
Find your glimmers instead of your triggers
Glimmers are the opposite of triggers. If you love puppies, find some puppies to play with for a couple of hours. There are animal therapy programs, as well as shelters that may need help. In Socal, we have something called the Gentle Barn. At the Gentle Barn, they have rescue animals of all kinds you can visit. Love movies? I do. I’ve been watching some of my old favorites (like any Eddie Murphy comedy out of the 80s). Pop up some corn and start laughing, or crying, whatever your pleasure. I’ve been driving to the beach every day to see the dolphins play in the surf. It’s very soothing and quiet time alone. Like food? This is the time for comfort food, so whether you like to cook, order or explore, look into food.
Nurture your soul, spiritual life
This looks different for everyone. Attending more 12-step meetings (even on Zoom) and making a more significant effort to meditate help. I’m also using the Calm app for quick meditations, hiking hills, and walking where there’s water. I’m also making strides in my personal life, which is uncomfortable, but for me also feels spiritual. In the most unexpected ways, I’ve found a new voice for myself in the pandemic. Can you speak your mind? I’ve had to speak up a few times, which usually makes me uncomfortable. In being forced to this, however, so I found confidence and faced some fears. Like most of my fears, they are never as bad as I thought.
Talk to someone every day
If it needs to be a professional, do that. If that’s not your style, talk to a friend or family member you trust. Don’t have any? Call a helpline, find a support group, join a Facebook group and share. There is power in sharing your feelings. It can take away their power. It can help you find comfort in other people in a way you never expected. The essential thing is that you find someone safe and like-minded. Someone who won’t judge or shame you and has been through what you’re going through and can provide helpful, useful support. Check out the depression resources
Exercise to cope with pandemic depression
Endorphins will make you feel better. It is a fact. Being outside will make you feel better. Get out there and start by taking a brisk walk – to music if that helps. Move to hiking, even around a neighborhood is good. Want more, explore running with Leslie Gold, a marathon coach who trains people in sober livings. Have dogs? They’ll love you even more for a good walk! Want yoga? There are more classes then you’ll know what to do with on youtube. Anything you can think to do that can be done from home, there is now video and live online classes to enjoy.
Find a hobby to get enthusiastic about something
Seriously. I started beading, improving my Buddhist practice, and cooking new things. Whatever it is that makes you happy, find a way to bring that into your daily life. It really matters that there is something to look forward to every day.