“It’s so difficult to describe [depression] to someone who’s never been there because it’s not sadness. I know sadness. Sadness is to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling—that really hollowed-out feeling.” – J.K. Rowling
Have you ever felt that way? Under normal circumstances, those who are struggling with depression might face this frustrating reality every day for long periods of time.
But our current circumstances are anything but normal.
Is there any hope of managing or preventing depression while facing a global pandemic, the resulting economic challenges, and political unrest? The short answer is YES. There are many tools to help you manage your depression. We’ve included a few strategies that you can do on your own.
Quick Tip: Finding the right tools for you might involve some trial and error, so don’t forget to be patient with yourself.
Depression – What is it?
When fighting a relentless enemy like depression, it’s important to know what it looks like. Though each person is different, there are some common signs of depression that might help you recognize it when it’s happening to you or a loved one.
• Persistent feelings of emptiness, anxiousness, or sadness
• Difficulty making decisions, concentrating or remembering details
• Feelings of helplessness, guilt, or worthlessness
• Disrupted or irregular sleeping patterns
• Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
• Appetite loss or overeating
• Suicidal thoughts
How do we fight an invisible enemy? The best thing we can do is plan ahead. You probably have a first aid kit in your home or car to deal with possible physical injuries. For those suffering from depression, strategies to help you cope with unexpected mental health emergencies should be on hand at all times.
According to the CDC, 1 out of every 6 adults will experience depression at some point in their lives. This means that you probably know several other people who are experiencing depression. So, you are not alone!
Even though many are facing this challenge, depression is a unique experience for each person. Your mental health strategies should be customized to your needs and what works for you.
Here are some ideas of what you might include:
• Phone numbers of people to call when you feel down (like a compassionate friend, your therapist, or a depression hotline)
• Encouraging articles to read that will help shift your thinking
• Any prescribed medications for your depression
• Positive and upbuilding songs that you love
• Pictures of people you love
• A note from someone who loves you
• A journal to vent into or express gratitude
“I like to use gratitude journals and affirmation journals with my clients. It’s like retraining your brain.” – Charlynn Ruan, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Therapist.
For many who are fighting depression, there are particular situations, people, or places that act as triggers. If you know what triggers your depression, WebMD recommends you ask your physician or therapist to help you brainstorm effective strategies that will specifically address those triggers.
For those with moderate to severe depression, following the treatment plan provided by your physician is vital.
But what happens when the game changes and we’re suddenly faced with a whole new set of anxieties?
Depression During High-Stress Times
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we face even more stressors than before. Some have gotten sick, lost their jobs, or are simply dealing with the stress of living in a more isolated world.
What can help us manage our depression in these circumstances?
• Limit your exposure to the news. It’s important to stay informed, but too much pandemic-related news can feed your anxiety instead of calming it.
• Focus on what you can control. Take all the precautions recommended by health authorities to decrease your personal risk.
• Connect with loved ones. Even though we may have to remain physically distant, we can still spend time with those we love by calling them, video-chatting, texting, or writing thoughtful letters. Instead of allowing your conversations to be consumed by the virus, make a concentrated effort to focus on the positive.
When Depression Knocks on Your Door
If we take the time to prepare now, we’ll be ready when depression knocks on our door. Though there’s no magical cure, we’re well equipped with strategies to weaken its hold on our lives. And we have the support of our loved ones, doctors, and other medical professionals. We are not alone.