Sheltering in place for months is taking a toll on mental health. We’re not engaging in many of the things that create stability and happiness. We don’t have clear facts about when it will end or what life will look like a month from now so we can’t plan. It can feel like an endless Groundhog Day where nothing changes.
So how can we cope with pandemic induced depression? Here are some tips.
Maintain a Routine
By far the most common thing I am encountering among clients is a lack of routine. There’s no reason to get up at a certain time and no reason to go to bed. So why bother?
Unfortunately, our bodies need routine. When we start sleeping when we want to, eating when we want to, forgetting to eat, not exercising, not taking care of hygiene, and not getting dressed, our self care goes right down the drain.
Even if you have no consequences for staying in pajamas all day, get showered and dressed. Eat meals at the same time. Go to bed at the same time. Move your body. You will feel better.
Get Some Nature Time
Although we want to continue to maintain our distance from people and avoid unnecessary outings, I consider time in the sunshine and in Nature a necessity. Outdoor air is healthier than indoor air. People need sunshine.
Humans are a part of nature. So get natural. A change of scenery can work wonders!
Keep Your Space Tidy
Some respond to being inside by cleaning. Some respond by not cleaning. If you are the latter, remember that “as within, so without.” A tidy space = peace of mind. Cleaning gives you something to do, and it benefits your mental health by making your mind less cluttered.
Remember all the times that you said you’d do X if only you had the time? Now you do! Do you want to read more? Take an online class? Write that book? Create an outdoor garden space? Explore a new spiritual idea? Indulge in your favorite solo hobby?
We all need our lives to have meaning. Doing what we enjoy gives us a reason to wake up, engage, and feel fulfilled at the end of the day. So give yourself this time now. Many of these things require no money and no travel. Why would you not do them?
Social distancing doesn’t mean no social time at all. Humans are social creatures. Even introverts need other people. Lack of human contact, or loneliness, is linked to inflammation, accelerated aging and cardiovascular health risk, suicide, and all-cause mortality. If you’re feeling low, it’s no wonder!
So connect safely. Participate in video calls with family or friends. Engage in virtual groups like meetup.com or AA. Go to face to face events that allow you to spread out, like hiking with a friend or having a party where chairs are spread six feet apart. Life has to be modified at this time, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up everything of joy.
If the isolation gets to be too much, get help. Most mental health professionals are offering telehealth services now, so you don’t even have to leave your house. Many insurance companies are even waiving the co-pay for virtual visits, so it’s easier than ever to get help.
Don’t Forget. Everything Ends
While dealing with pandemic induced depression may be trying, don’t forget. Everything ends. This will too. Take the blessings that this moment offers. Roll with the punches. And hang on for the ride. It will end. When it does, if we’re skillful, we can get to the other side better than we were when we went in.