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covid-19 and depression

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COVID-19 turned out to be a silent and slow killer in many ways. In addition to being a terrible virus that has taken the lives of many, it’s also killed our economy, slayed our plans, slashed our dreams, and trampled on our spirits. We had no idea what sort of butterfly effect it would have, when we just started hearing whispers of something called the coronavirus. And we had no idea what a hideous butterfly it would be. Then, slowly but surely, your favorite coffee shop shut down. Then the restaurants. The concert you had tickets to, got canceled. Everything shut down and then, perhaps, you shut down.

 

I recently heard someone put what we’re going through so well: we’re trying to run an old operating system on new technology. And it just doesn’t work. Let’s just do a quick exercise and list the things we would typically do when we were feeling a bit down, or even the things we did to maintain mental health. We would make plans. We would see friends. We would experience new things and go to new places. We would make strides towards our career goals. Now…we can’t really do much of that. We have to social distance. The places we’d like to visit and experience are closed. We don’t know when any of that will be over, so we can’t even make plans for when this is done. There’s no such date yet! When your brain attempts all of its usual methods of cheering up and they all fail…it’s only normal you can feel down.

 

It is important to be aware if this pandemic has affected your mental health, so you can take steps to maintain it. As is the case with every sort of health, it’s much easier to keep it in good standing than to save it from a bad place. Here are signs the COVID-19 pandemic has affected your mental health.

 

covid-19 and depression

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You don’t want to talk to friends

Talking to friends has started to feel like a chore. They reach out, trying to schedule a FaceTime date, and it feels so inconvenient. You feel as if you won’t have time between sleeping, eating, and watching TV. Speaking to friends seems like something that takes energy out of you, rather than gives you energy.

covid-19 and depression

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Make the call

Even if it feels like a huge effort at first, make that phone call. Other people have a way of naturally energizing us. As soon as you see your friend’s face and hear her voice on FaceTime, you’ll feel a jolt of energy. And after, you will feel better. The call will feel easier than you thought, and you’ll be glad you did it. It’s what other people are there for.

covid-19 and depression

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You’re giving up on projects

You had big ambitions of things you’d accomplish during this quarantine—perhaps quarantine-specific projects just for this time, like knitting a bunch of scarves or writing a book, or long-term goals that would impact your life outside of quarantine, like building a website for your business. But you’ve given up on these, and really feel what’s the point?

covid-19 and depression

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Get back to it, one day at a time

Don’t think about the end goal. Don’t think about all of the things you have to do to get there. Break up your goals into daily and even hourly tasks. This gives you the chance to achieve something every day, and feel accomplished, which has a way of sending those, “What’s the point?” feelings away. And, just like you did when there was no quarantine, work on some of your projects not yet knowing for what they’re destined, but knowing they’re important to you, and you’ll get them somewhere. That was always true, quarantine or no quarantine.

covid-19 and depression

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You’re struggling to sleep

Maybe you were always a great sleeper, and now you’re struggling with insomnia for the first time. Maybe you’ve always been an iffy sleeper, but now it’s worse than ever. First off, know that that’s actually quite common right now as this pandemic is causing deep psychological stress. But second off, understand that that is likely a sign that your mental health is hanging in the balance.

covid-19 and depression

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Prioritize sleep

Don’t just say, “Well I can’t sleep and that happens and no need to be a baby about it.” It’s especially important right now to get your rest. Research has found a link between sleep deprivation and depression, so you aren’t being a baby about it if you take it seriously. It is serious. Identify things you can change. Do noises wake you? Get great earplugs and a white noise machine. Is it the rising sun? Get some blackout curtains. Do you get up to pee too much? Cut liquids at 7pm. Assess the issues and address them.

covid-19 and depression

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You’ve lost your appetite

A loss of appetite is often a sign of depression. It can also occur during this pandemic for many reasons, like the fact that we aren’t doing as much—we’re all sort of sloths right now—and the fact that we don’t want to eat our supplies too fast, so we tell ourselves we aren’t hungry.

covid-19 and depression

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Find the joy in food again

Maybe for a moment don’t focus on the appetite part of things. Rather, think of foods you love. Think of recipes you’d feel proud of yourself for making. Watch cooking shows. Learn tips. Make what they’re making. While re-building your appetite, find the joy in food again—it’s an art form. It brings people together. And cooking can help you feel accomplished and useful.

covid-19 and depression

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Or you’re emotionally eating

Perhaps your eating changes have trended in the opposite direction, and you are emotionally eating. Maybe all you can think about is the next time you get to eat. And the only time you don’t feel sad—or don’t feel anything at all—is when you are stuffing your face. You’ve even begun to eat in secret, waiting until your family is asleep to snack. It feels like your vice right now—like alcohol or some addictive substance.

covid-19 and depression

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Quarantine will end

Try to remember that quarantine will end. You will return to the world. You’ll want to get out of your sweatpants and into the wardrobe that you carefully curated and loved before this all went down. You know how they say, “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready?” If you continue healthy eating habits, then there won’t be a mad dash to shed the quarantine 15 when this is over. Of course, you’ll need to find a new outlet for your emotions. And it could be good to speak to a tele-therapist if you are struggling with emotional eating.

covid-19 and depression

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You fail to see the positive

You’ve become a negative Nancy and didn’t even realize it. Your partner or friend had to say, “You’ve been very negative lately.” Someone will try to say something positive, like, “Wow, it’s a beautiful day,” and you’ll say, “Yeah but it’s useless because we can’t even really enjoy it.” You notice your brain searching for the downside of things.

covid-19 and depression

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Force a better perspective

Our mouths and our minds have an interesting relationship. We can actually fake it ‘til we make it, to ourselves. If you force yourself to find/say the upside of every situation, even if you don’t believe the words you say at first, your mind will eventually get in line with your words, and it will believe them. You just have to make a practice of forcing yourself to say the positive thing.

covid-19 and depression

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You can’t look forward to things

You feel incapable of looking forward to things. It could be a way of protecting yourself. It can be hard to think of things you look forward to doing when the quarantine is over, when you just don’t know when that will be. So you’ve put up this mental block, and refuse to see anything beyond this hour—and that can really harm mental health.

covid-19 and depression

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It will be over

Hey, hi, excuse me, I think we all need to remember something: people got through the Polio era and went on to go on cruises again, go to the movie theaters, go to concerts, go to restaurants, go to crowded beaches, and live their lives. There have been illnesses with a much higher mortality rate—so much higher they can’t even be compared—than this, and the world go back to full speed. So, we will, too.

covid-19 and depression

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Monitor your emotions

When life is normal, and you have your friends and your goals and your routines, maybe you don’t need to keep such a close eye on your mental health. But you do right now. Don’t take for granted that it will stay strong, since we are facing unprecedented challenges. Touch base with yourself every day, and if things are trending in the wrong direction, do something about it. Call a friend. Tell the people you’re quarantined with. Watch something funny. Don’t expect it to fix itself.

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