How to Cope with Depression While Social Distancing

As the world faces a pandemic with the novel coronavirus COVID-19, municipalities everywhere are implementing social distancing guidelines and laws. In order to stop the spread of this virus, people are staying away from anyone who doesn’t live in the same home. While this is the socially responsible and safe thing to do, these social distancing measures can take a serious toll on your mental health.

For those already struggling with depression, social isolation can cause a re-emergence or worsening symptoms that are terrifying for anyone in recovery. Even those who have never struggled with depression before may start to see signs of the disorder as social distancing continues.

If you’re struggling with depression during this difficult time, you are not alone and you do not have to feel so low. While nobody can erase the uncertainty that we all face, the following steps can help you manage depression and its symptoms.

Acknowledge Your Feelings About the Situation

First and foremost, it is vital to take a moment to acknowledge all of your feelings about COVID-19, social distancing, and anything else going on in your life. You cannot properly address your emotions and cope with the symptoms of depression without first giving name to them.

Remember that depression is not just a deep sadness. You may feel other strong emotions such as:

  • Anger

  • Worry or anxiety

  • Frustration

  • Loneliness

  • Emotional numbness

  • Overwhelmed

  • Tired

If it helps, talk about your feelings out loud, whether to someone or alone. You can also try writing things down.

Find Safe, Responsible Ways to Connect with People

Complete isolation can make depression symptoms worse. However, social distancing does not have to mean that you completely isolate yourself from the people you love. There are many ways you can still connect with loved ones, even if they aren’t the same ways you would have before. A few ideas include:

  • Video chats

  • Write letters

  • Play online games together

  • Have daily check-in times with someone

  • Leave baked goods or gifts on someone’s porch (sanitized, of course)

  • Watch the same movie or television show at the same time and text about it

Many companies are providing services for free or reduced costs in order to help people through this. Think about the things you and your loved ones did before the pandemic and find ways to recreate those events in socially responsible ways.

Establish Healthy Behavioral Patterns

One of the most popular and effective types of therapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In CBT, counselors and patients identify unhealthy behavioral and thought patterns, then find ways to reverse those patterns. It works because our behavioral patterns affect how we feel. You can change your behavioral patterns during the pandemic with changes such as:

  • Turn off the news most of the time and set just a few minutes per day aside to look at facts coming from reliable sources.

  • Take time each day to get outside, even if it’s just in your backyard or going for a drive.

  • Exercise and eat healthfully when possible. Some comfort eating is completely normal, but taking care of your nutritional needs can help with depression symptoms.

  • Drink plenty of water.

  • Have a reliable routine. Working from home can throw anyone off. But getting ready for the day like you normally would can get you into a better mindset. You don’t need a rigid schedule, just a general routine.

  • Look for something good in every day. This can train your brain to look for silver linings.

Perhaps the most important new behavioral pattern you can establish is to be easy on yourself. You may not be able to implement all of these patterns, and that’s OK. You may not have the energy or time to do things that others talk about, like cleaning out closets and working on projects. That’s perfectly fine.

It’s healthy to take baby steps toward happiness. Depending on your current mental state, just surviving another day, taking a shower, or eating a full meal can be a huge win.

Reach Out for Professional Support

Although offices are closed for in-person appointments, counselors and psychiatrists are still available to help you. In this unprecedented time, more people may need behavioral health professionals than ever before. Telemedicine appointments are just as effective as in-person appointments for mental health services.

There’s no shame in needing behavioral health services at any time, especially now. PCPA offers therapy and medication management services for people of all ages. You can find a telepsych provider today and start coping with this situation in a healthier way.

Disclaimer: The posts on this blog are for informational purposes only and do not replace direct care from your mental health care provider. Contact your mental health care provider for specific questions or concerns about your own mental health. All posts are copyrighted, and the views expressed on this blog are representative of the opinions of Pacific Coast Psychiatric Associates (PCPA) as an organization.

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© 2019 by PCPA, Inc.