Without a doubt, we have seen an increase in the prevalence of depression since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some studies suggest that the rate of depression in the United States has tripled. With no definite end to the pandemic in sight, it is understandable that many Americans are experiencing feelings of hopelessness. So, what is the connection between COVID-19 and depression? How has depression been brought on by the pandemic? And how can you cope with these feelings, even as COVID-19 continues to affect us?
How has COVID-19 impacted our Depression Levels?
We have been facing extended periods of isolation: We are social creatures with a desire for human interaction! Not being able to spend time with friends or family members can leave us feeling isolated and lonely. These feelings can trigger depression.
Anxiety and Uncertainty is a daily experience: With so much uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, worry is a natural response. However, when we allow our worries to spiral, they can turn into anxiety. Anxiety can lead to depression when we feel like we’ve lost control of our thoughts, leaving us helpless.
Change in routine creates stress: When we experience major life changes, such as job loss, death of a loved one, financial difficulty, cancellation of big events, or even a shift in environment, we become stressed. Experiencing several of these major stressors at once can feel overwhelming, leaving us more susceptible to depression.
Unhealthy habits form in survival struggles: The ways in which we respond to major stressors can worsen depression. Some unhealthy strategies include substance abuse, overeating, self-medicating, and lack of sleep or physical activity.
The experience of being COVID-19 Positive: Having COVID-19 sometimes leads to feelings of guilt, shame, failure, or disappointment. The stigma of contracting the virus is isolating, as it can lead to self-blame and negative-self talk. These feelings and reactions can turn into depression. For those who experience a longer recovery period, or prolonged symptoms, such as loss of taste or smell, ongoing feelings of sadness or hopelessness are more likely to occur.
How Can You Cope as the Pandemic Continues On?
Maintain a routine & establish healthy daily habits: It can be hard to stay on a schedule after spending so much time at home for so long. Try to find some purpose in each day and create structure for yourself. This will help stabilize your depression by keeping your internal clock running smoothly. Avoid sleeping too much or too little and skipping meals or exercise. Regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medications and foods with omega-3 fatty acids can boost your mood! Keep up with your personal care routine, just as you would have before the pandemic, by showering and getting dressed each day.
Make time for things that bring you joy: Keep engaging in activities that enhance your mood daily, such as spending time with pets or outside, reading, cooking, crafting, or listening to music. These are your personal coping skills!
Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Mindfulness will help you acknowledge your ongoing, pandemic-related feelings without judgement and respond to them with positive self-talk. Other relaxation techniques that will help you break away from your negative thoughts and relieve tension or anxiety include meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and breathing exercises.
Stay connected with others: Over the past year, we have had to adapt and find new ways to engage with one another. It is important to stay in contact with those close to you in a manner that feels comfortable and safe, even when those depressive symptoms make it seem easier to stay isolated.
Limit news consumption: While it is important to stay informed about progressions with the pandemic, overconsuming news may be contributing to your feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or exhaustion, which will worsen your depression. Especially avoid news updates around bedtime.
Practice gratitude: As the pandemic continues to bring about feelings of hopelessness, try to find at least one thing you are grateful for each day, such as a beautiful sunset or a text from a friend. Consider writing these things down in a gratitude journal. Practicing gratitude may seem small, but it can provide relief from depressive symptoms and negative thoughts.
Help others or volunteer: Taking our minds off ourselves and our depression by offering to help others is a great way to decrease stress levels and increase feelings of happiness! The weight of our own issues becomes less heavy and we feel good inside.
See a therapist: There is no shame in seeking help! We have a wonderful team of licensed therapists who understand the impact of COVID-19 on depression and are here to help you develop coping skills and use your inner strengths to manage it. We are still offering both virtual and in-person appointments to meet your level of comfort with the pandemic.