During the Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine said it best, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Surviving a “trying time” such as the COVID-19 pandemic can bring fear, stress and sometimes, depression. Whether it is your physical health, your employment, or your loneliness during the stay-at-home order, here are seven tips to avoid falling into depression.
Tip #1 Use Technology to Your Advantage
Yes, we are required to stay at home, keep 6’ between people when we’re out and encouraged to wear a mask, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be social. Take advantage of the many fantastic tech options. Whether you choose to connect through Zoom, a simple phone call or social media, stay in touch! Your family and friends are dealing with the same issues, and by talking, you can support one another.
Tip #2 Stick to a Schedule
It’s essential to maintain a routine not only for your mental health but for your physical health too. Stick to a schedule for daily activities like eating, working, and sleeping. Often, structuring your time can help you get through the day. If necessary, make a list of the activities and their times, so at the end of the day, you can check them off. It’s amazing what a sense of accomplishment you get by just drawing lines through a list.
Tip #3 Exercise and Get Outdoors
Regular exercise increases the production of endorphins, which are known to produce positive feelings and help avoid depression. Studies show that physical activity can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication. Exercise also creates a great distraction. You can’t focus on the negative when you’re out biking or hiking. Although we’re limited to where we can go outside, getting natural sunlight helps relieve stress.
Tip #4 Help Others
It truly is “better to give than to receive.” Why? It takes our minds off our circumstances. We feel better about ourselves. Simple acts of service during COVID-19 are possible. Do you have an elderly neighbor who can’t get out to get groceries or medications? Perhaps a neighbor or friend who is out of work could use some monetary help or a dinner. Give food to the local food bank, blood to the Red Cross, and extra smiles to those who are working in grocery stores or delivering food. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel.
Tip #5 Take Care of Yourself
In addition to getting out and exercising, consider the other aspects of your day. It’s crucial to eat healthy at this time. Proper nutrition is vital to brain health and affects how you think and feel. Get enough sleep. Anyone who struggles with insomnia will tell you how important a good night’s sleep is for fighting depression. Sleep is restorative and essential for your mind and body. Moderation is also necessary during this time. Moderate your intake of alcohol, which in itself is a depressant. Concentrate on your health and well-being so that when life returns to the new “normal,” you’re ready to move forward.
Tip #6 Don’t Binge-Watch the News
Now that we have 24-hour news cycles, it is easy to get caught up in the details. You need to be informed, but too much news can add to your anxiety and make it difficult to avoid depression. Often, news stories repeat from one newscaster to the next. Get the updates you need, particularly for your local community, and then move to something else. Read a book. Find a good movie on TV or a subscription service like Netflix or Hulu. Use that free time to begin learning that new hobby.
Tip #7 Find Hope
It may look like an overly simplified statement, but it is true. How you choose to look at a situation makes all the difference. Focus on the good in your life. If you haven’t gotten the virus, be thankful. If you have been ill, remember those around you who have worked to care for you. If you’ve lost your job, use this time to improve your skills. Once we no longer have the stay-at-home order, there will be demand for workers again. The COVID-19 pandemic won’t be our life forever. The future is bright when you are thankful.