Are you feeling down, unmotivated, listless, or in a rut? Is feeling like this abnormal for you? Perhaps you are experiencing what I like to call “pandemic depression”. For those of you not already prone to depressive thinking or sad emotions, all of the changes and restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in an assault on your emotional wellbeing. As you are entering the fourth month of isolation and social distancing from COVID-19, it is possible, likely even, that your mental health is being affected. Everyone has a different reaction to overwhelming stress and change, but I am noticing a common result with many clients, friends, and family members: depression.
What is Pandemic Depression?
Pandemic depression is a phrase that I created to conceptualize what is going on with how you are feeling right now. It encompasses all the symptoms and emotions we are feeling, that are akin to depression. You may be feeling sad, depressed even, with a lack of energy and motivation to do things despite having the time. Perhaps you are sleeping more or taking long naps that you don’t need, because you’re bored or have nothing to get you out of bed for. Or maybe your eating habits have declined, and you’re eating more unhealthy food even though you have time to cook. And every time that you think things are going to get better and you’ll be able to return to your normal life, something else happens that changes your thinking.
Where does Pandemic Depression come from?
The very nature of your life right now may be causing your depression. You are mostly, if not 100%, at home with just yourself or whoever else that you are living with. The lack of personal connection and interpersonal interactions have a significant impact on your mood. Think about it; when you have a great conversation in person with your good friend, or figure out an answer to a challenging work issue with a few colleagues together, remember how good you felt afterwards? While using video conferencing and chats are a nice option during social distancing, they cannot take the place of the exchange of energy that you get when you’re interacting with someone face to face.
Another factor in your depression may be lack of things to do. Usually your schedule is quite booked up, with perhaps going to the gym, taking kids to practices or lessons, going clothes or equipment shopping, etc. You made the huge change of being out and about much of the time to being at home and not leaving other than to pick up essential items. Shopping therapy is a real thing! You now have more time and less things to do in your day. Work may provide you with a bit of structure to your day, but sometimes working from home it’s hard to motivate yourself to give 110% to work. Lack of motivation to do things (over a consistent time, not just every once in awhile) is a true symptom of depression.
How can I treat my Pandemic Depression?
Pandemic depression may be here to stay, at least until the safety threat of the coronavirus is gone. Because we cannot predict when our lives will return to “normal” again, just riding out your depression is not a great plan. There is the very real risk that your depression may become worse, and then it will be even harder to dig yourself out of how you’re feeling. The good news is, depression is very treatable. You can feel better and you do have some power and control over how you’re feeling. There are several at-home treatments for depression you can try, or you can seek professional help from a trained depression counselor or get an evaluation for depression medication from your doctor.
Here are a few things you can do to impact your mood during COVID-19:
Structure your day: put everything you want to do or get done that day in an hourly calendar or planner, then you know when you need to do what
Connect with others: plan a socially distanced, mask-wearing get together with a friend or five, a colleague, or a family member
Be truthful about how you’re doing: tell your partner, family, or other members of your support system that you’re struggling right now. Just opening up may be helpful for your mood.
Join an online support group or read a self-help book about depression
Finally, Realize You’re Not Alone
You are not the only one experiencing pandemic depression. I’ve seen this trend emerging the past month or so and while it won’t treat your depression fully, realizing that you are not the only one experiencing this may help you understand some of the core factors that are causing your depression. Pandemic Depression is a real result of the coronavirus pandemic and it is affecting many people in many different ways. Pandemic Depression is also treatable, and you can get help and feel better again.
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