It has been a while since my last post so I thought I would start off the new year by doing a post about ideas for managing covid19 related depression. Even though it is a new year, covid19 is still here and there does not seem to be an end date in sight. For many of us living with depression, such as myself, and I am currently going through one of my depressive cycles as I am writing this, we already have enough depression aggravators to deal with without the specter of a seemingly unending pandemic. A key hallmark of depression and its overly burdening effects is the idea that things cannot get better and there is no hope or end in sight. It certainly seems that way as we enter year three (I think) of the pandemic. I don't know about you, but my "New Year" has been quite difficult thinking about this and managing a naturally occurring bout of depression (because depression doesn't care when it hits) has not helped. The strain of unending covid19 has made it much more difficult for me to maintain my "mutual non-aggression pact" with my depression. By that, I mean that managing in a live and let live mind-set with a mental illness with no cure, is harder to find tools to manage it, especially when the unknown is time. So what to do? The following post has several suggestions for how we can gain some measure of perspective and possible comfort by taking the unknown, as in the number of days until the pandemic is done, and working with it instead of against it.
Please note that this post is not intended to serve as ideas to cure covid19 related depression, but as ideas to help manage it. As we know, there is no cure for depression...there is management for living. Even if none of these ideas work for you, if they inspire you to get creative and come up with your own ideas, then this will be a helpful post for you...hopefully!
As obvious as it might seem, the following is something many people, me included, do not do very well: REDIRECT MENTAL ENERGY. When we feel hopeless and out of control it's very easy to fall into the trap of "why won't this end" and "things will never get any better". We can't do anything about this sadly, and all the resulting frustration, angst, and emotional whatever does is fuel the depression. We can at least try to REDIRECT MENTAL ENERGY towards thinking about what can I do with this time instead? How to do this?
Keeping a covid19 calendar-Instead of focusing on the number of days until the pandemic ends, you can take charge by keeping track of the days you have already gotten through and survived. You ARE TOUGH and being able to have a visual reminder that you have already gotten through three years of crap and are still around can be quite empowering. Keep the record going...if you've gone this long, can you go further? Yes!
Have covid19-free conversations with people-How is this possible? It's everywhere and on everyone's mind! Yes, that's very true, but that doesn't mean that other life events and existence suddenly go away. You are not pretending covid19 away by not talking about it, you are choosing to focus on other parts of life that deserve to be heard. For example, talk about a positive event such as a good day at work or something positive going on in the world that has nothing to do with covid19.
Make yourself do something when you think about being depressed. This is called ACTIVE COPING. Active coping is a fancy term for redirecting your thinking and your actions by doing an activity to distract you from thinking about being depressed and doing nothing. This can be really hard to do, so what I try to do is when I have the thought about doing something (such as going for a walk), I make myself do it.
Give yourself credit for what you do! For many of us living with depression, getting out of bed or taking a shower can be a huge accomplishment. Note down your small, but critical successes on your covid19 claendar so you can see how you are persevering through the seemingly endless days of the pandemic. Small victories make all the difference!
Schedule a small reward every day. This does not mean buying something every day. We're talking about little things you enjoy when you are not depressed and that you can look forward to as a way of keeping up your spirits during seemingly endless days of nothing. For example, I really enjoy vegetable pasta that comes from the freezer section of the grocery store. It sounds silly, but I look forward to eating it and its something small that gives me pleasure without being a big deal. Schedule something small each day and put it on your covid19 calendar.
Make sure you force yourself to get some exercise or movement everyday. This is really hard with the weather being like it is, yet even if you cannot get outside due to weather, try to do some physical activity; I do laps up and down my staircase.
Spend time doing something for someone else. Thinking of others and doing something kind for them is a great way to get outside of your own mind and away from your own problems. Helping others can be empowering.