Have you found that your mood has taken a dip recently, or that you haven’t been feeling like yourself? You’re not alone. Dealing with the effects of COVID – not just physical, but social and emotional as well – can be exhausting and draining. We are in unchartered territory, now approaching 6 months into a global pandemic and quarantine. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) signaled alarming rates of depression symptoms in the US. Overall, 24 percent of respondents reported marked symptoms of depression on a health questionnaire—four times as many as a year ago, when the world was vastly different (1).
So, what can we do about it? Research has found there are three main approaches to battling depression:
Think (cognitive therapy)
Act (behavioral activation)
The following behaviors and techniques fall into those three approaches:
Increase awareness of your thoughts. Start to notice the thoughts you’re having, especially when your mood takes a nosedive. What went through your mind just before? What did you tell yourself? And then write it down (that part is important). When we can capture these negative stories our mind is telling us, we’re in a better position to start to question them, and to drain them of their power.
Get moving. Even if you feel completely drained and unmotivated, forcing yourself to move can jumpstart your mood. Plan one small goal to increase your movement today. Make it as small as necessary so that you know it’s doable. Maybe that means a five-minute walk around the block, or walking up and down your stairs two times. It doesn’t take much to make a big difference.
Make sleep a priority. There is a significant connection between sleep and depression. We often sleep worse when we’re depressed, and poor sleep can contribute to depression. Consider your current sleep hygiene. Are you watching YouTube videos late into the night? Do you keep your TV on in the bedroom? Are you unable to turn your mind off? Set aside a time for winding down at the end of the day as a buffer before bedtime. Stop working, and put screens away. Take 30 to 60 minutes to read, meditate, or do anything else you find calming.
Find ways to connect. Social interaction is crucial to maintaining a positive mood and reducing anxiety. During this time, it is more important than ever to avoid feeling isolated. Get creative – go on socially distanced walks with a friend, play games over Zoom, watch movies over Facetime. Text and/or call friends and family for no reason at all.
Be present. Depression tends to get worse when we are focused on the past, and anxiety increases when we are overly focused on the future. Being mindful and present in the current moment is incredibly important. When you wake up in the morning, take five calm, deliberate breaths, slowing down the exhale. Notice how things are for you—thoughts, feelings, physical sensations. Begin your day from a grounded place of connection with yourself (1). Engaging in this practice, both in the morning and at bedtime, can improve your mood and help you get in the right headspace to take on your day.
Bonus tip! Talk to a therapist. Sometimes we can get stuck in our heads and ruminate on the things that bother us. This pattern often does more harm than good, and no amount of ruminating by ourselves has ever solved anything. It’s helpful to have a safe space to talk about your thoughts and have them be reframed and challenged by someone else. Talking to a therapist, especially during these times, can be incredibly influential in guiding you down the path to a better mood and positive outlook.
Source: Gillihan, Seth. 5 Proven Ways to Relieve COVID-Related Depression. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/think-act-be/202008/5-proven-ways-relieve-covid-related-depression21