A guest blog by Shannon Heers, LPC, CACIII
Owner and therapist at Catalyss Counseling in Denver, CO
COVID-19 has now affected your life for around half of the current year. Even if you or your loved ones have not contracted the virus, your life has been changed in very significant ways. The loss of freedom to do what you want to do and go where you want to go can have a definite impact on your emotional state. Add in the social isolation that most of you have been experiencing, the lack of in-person connection with others, and the result has a major effect on one of our basic human needs: a sense of connection. A lack of consistent connection with others can cause feelings and symptoms of depression.
What is Pandemic Depression?
Pandemic Depression is a term that describes your emotional state and mood that has occurred as a result of this pandemic. If you take away COVID-19, you would (most likely) be feeling fine. However, you are not fine. You are unmotivated to do much of anything, you aren’t taking care of yourself and your home the way you normally do, and you feel like you have no energy to do things anymore. Perhaps your eating habits have changed, and despite having extra time to prepare and cook healthy meals you’re just eating junk or snacking throughout the day. Or maybe your sleeping habits are different, you’re now sleeping much more than normal but you still feel tired during the day. All of these symptoms combined may be pandemic depression.
The Link Between Isolation and Depression
Right now, and for the past several months, you’re likely being surrounded by a very small circle of other people. Perhaps you are stricter about self-isolating and are only connecting with those that you live with. Or maybe you live alone, and see friends or family every so often but in general much of your time is spent alone. In the past, you got your social interaction from going to work, socializing with friends, or engaging in events or activities around others. This drastic change of lifestyle, going from being socially active or at least social connected with others to being mostly alone, most of the time, can cause changes in your mood and how you view your life. The most socially isolated you are for longer times, the more at-risk you are of becoming depressed.
What to Do About Pandemic Depression
If you are worried that you may have pandemic depression, there are some things that you can do at home to get started on feeling better. Here is a short list of some interventions you can put into place to change how you’re feeling and get back to your normal self:
- Structure Your Time
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day
- Schedule in your work time, meals, and exercise/activity time
- Plan for some relaxation time
- Increase Connections with Others
- Plan at least 2 social interactions per week with others
- Create a socially-distanced get together
- Contact an old friend or family member via phone
- Schedule a virtual/online game or meeting with someone
- Build a Self-Care Routine
- Write a list of several things you can do daily to nurture your mind or body
- Set aside 30-60 minutes per day to do 1 thing from this list
- Get an accountability partner/buddy to share this with
Just getting started with one of the above interventions will help improve your mood and make you feel more productive and your life more meaningful.
Other Treatment Options for Pandemic Depression
I know, when you’re feeling so unmotivated to do anything, it’s so hard to put some of these interventions into place! If you do feel that you are struggling to make some of these changes, you can absolutely reach out to a professional therapist or counselor to learn more individualized coping skills to manage your depression and discuss how to start feeling better again. The good thing about depression, and pandemic depression too, is that it is treatable. You do not have to feel like this forever. Despite the restrictions of the pandemic, you can take positive steps to get out of your depression and move forward with your life.
In our counseling practices, we are continuing to see more and more clients come in feeling like they are in a rut, unmotivated to make any changes, and just down and depressed. Pandemic depression is real. But you can overcome it by understanding what it is, how it is caused, and what to do about it. There are treatment options out there for you to get through this and feel better again. The time is now to make a change, and we’re here to help you.