Dear Dr. Yael,
We are all living through difficult times now, but this isolation and fear is much worse for me as I suffer from depression. Many of my go-to activities to help me manage my depression have been put on pause because of this awful pandemic and on top of that we hear about deaths of people we care about often. I am trying hard to keep my head above water and not succumb to feeling depressed, but my underlying issues are being exacerbated by what is going on around me and by my inability to socialize and resume my normal exercise classes. Please help me with some ideas as to how to manage my depression during these trying times.
You are correct that what we are living through is very difficult. Many people who don’t suffer from depression are feeling down and isolated, so I can’t even imagine how you must feel. In stressful times like these, it is important to try to take control over spiraling negative thoughts as they will make you feel more depressed and will not help you in any way. One thing that many people find helpful is to start their day by thinking of one thing that they are grateful for. The heaviness of our current situation can easily weigh us down, but focusing on gratitude can help start your day in a positive way. Another very helpful technique is to make sure you have a schedule and a routine. This does not have to be strict as flexibility is important, but you must have structure to your day.
Furthermore, it is imperative that you build in some type of exercise such as walking, running, a virtual gym class, biking, or anything else that you find enjoyable as exercise will increase your endorphins and help you stay calm and happy. Establishing a healthy routine will also help you get through the rough times as people tend to rely on schedules and routine when they are stressed out. Additionally, make sure to stick to a bedtime as getting enough sleep also helps with managing depression. Too much sleep and too little sleep can both be detrimental, so try to stick to a bedtime routine as well to ensure you are getting the correct amount of sleep.
Make sure you get outside daily. Yes it is hard to get out and there are a lot of restrictions, but getting fresh air daily can help keep depressing thoughts at bay. Lastly, try to eat healthy as eating healthy can also help you feel better. Studies show that a healthy diet can impact mood in a positive manner and reduce depression. Being home all day can lead to unhealthy eating, but if you try to maintain a healthy diet, this will also help you maintain a more positive mood.
Utilize technology to help you keep up with some of your go-to activities to help you keep your depression at bay. If you used to have lunch dates with friends, try to FaceTime your friends or at least keep in contact. If you used to go to the gym, try to keep up with your classes virtually if available or join others that are available. You can even make a Zoom exercise class with friends to help make it more fun for you. Try to think out of the box to keep up with the things that help you so that your mood improves and you feel connected to others.
Lastly, please seek professional help if needed at this time. There is nothing wrong with needing to reach out for help when needed and this is a very difficult time period. Many therapists are doing teletherapy and can see help you battle this depression! Hatzlocha!