Already prone to depression? And the state of the world at the moment is triggering your low moods? What can you do to manage your depression when Covid-19 means there are very real and sad things to be concerned about?
We’re talking media intake. This is a peculiar time in the world where we actually do need to keep on top of some news, such as new regulations and safety procedures. So a media detox and hiding under the duvet isn’t possible.
But we still have control over what media we take in and how. You can avoid sites you know focus more on inflammatory rumours than facts. You can check in twice a day instead of constantly.
Or you can ask a friend who knows you are depressed to keep you updated with essentials and emergencies if you need to have a few days away for the sake of your moods.
Difficult times can see all sorts of people suddenly reach out, but often out of boredom over goodwill. If you know someone makes you feel bad, do not respond.
See this as a kind of war. Your mental health affects your immune system; depression can leave us rundown, and not eating or sleeping properly. So see saying no to contact with the wrong type of people as saying yes to your good health.
Depression will send your thoughts ruminating over past actions. "If only I had of not dated so and so and wasted time I might have met someone and not be alone during this pandemic…". But we can’t change the past.
And yes, unfortunately many things in the present are also really out of our control, including where we can and can’t go, or things like if we keep our jobs, or even potentially lose loved ones.
But we are not helpless. We have options still, that can determine how our life moves forward despite these challenges.
TRY THIS: Make a list of what is still under your control. You still, for example, choose if you are going to watch a mindless movie or meditate. Who you are going to connect with. What music you are going to listen to (hint: listening to sad songs doesn’t help anyone).
Depression thrives on what are known as ‘cognitive distortions’, thought patterns that deviate from facts and reality. These are things like black and white thinking (nobody likes me I am going through this pandemic alone) and doom and gloom thoughts (everyone is going to die).
What helps here is catching your thoughts and making effort to flip them into balanced thoughts. Because, yes, things are bad. But likely not as bad as your depressed and distorted thinking.
TRY THIS: an annotated version of a CBT therapy ‘thought chart’:
Yes, you are terrified it’s the end of the world. So maybe you want to just eat chocolate and drink whiskey even more than with your usual depression.
But sugar and alcohol can crash your moods, and they affect your immune system, which is crucial in these times. So try to eat well and exercise even if you are depressed. Ten minutes dancing around the living room counts.
Help people? Really? When you can hardly find the energy to help yourself? Yes, really. Studies show that volunteering elevates the mood, and even affects your physical health positively.
A four-year long study at Carnegie Mellon university found that adults who volunteered at least 200 hours a year not only enjoyed better moods and wellbeing, they were less likely to develop high blood pressure.
TRY THIS: Write friends supportive letters, help people on forums and facebook groups, arrange to help someone who is quarantined by walking their pet or getting their groceries.
Gratitude is great, but when we are depressed it can seem false or over cheery.
Instead, find five things that are going right each day, no matter how small. You made a good cup of tea. You were on time for your Skype meeting. You got a bit of sleep. You stayed calm when your kids were fighting with each other.
No, we’re not talking internet surfing. We are talking proper human connection. Yes, in these strange times this might be more challenging than ever.
It might take courage. We might need to reach out to friends we haven’t in awhile. It make take creativity, such as finding facebook groups or online support chats. It might mean smiling at strangers several meters away.
Sometimes a connection to something bigger than ourselves can be helpful in difficult times. If you had a now lapsed practise of connecting to God, the ‘universe’, or nature, now would be the time to resurrect it.
You might find more people wanting to reach out and support you than you realised would. If you are part of a social group, and have the courage, just ask if anyone has time to chat as you are feeling low.
Really low but stuck in quarantine? Or don't want to be out in public due to anxiety? Book one of our online counsellors now and find the support you need.