More people today are in lockdown than were alive during World War Two. Yes, you read that last line correctly. In 1940, the world’s population was 2.3 billion, and today, 2.6 billion of the world’s population (which is only one third of our total population) are in lockdown due to COVID-19. There’s no argument, then, that mental health will be impacted.
Countries like the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and, more recently, India (whose 1.3 billion people are now in mandatory lockdown) have contributed heavily to this statistic. Many people are now isolated from loved ones, unable to work, and spending more time with themselves than ever before, and as a result, mental health concerns will rise exponentially.
Here are a few things you can do to help you manage your mental health during the COVID-19 lockdown.
1. Maintain a healthy diet
The food we put in our bodies has a massive effect on our ability to stay mentally healthy, and eating well is one of the easiest and most effective ways to maintain good mental health. This is especially the case when other factors like human connection might be lacking.
In fact, diets like the Mediterranean diet – which consists of lots of olive oil, vegetables, grains and nuts – have been proven to shield the mind against ailments like anxiety and depression and make people happier.
It can be easy to turn to comfort food as a means of escaping the everyday hardships presented in life, but by resisting and feeding your body nutrient-rich foods, you can feel well within yourself, which influences your mind.
2. Exercise, exercise, exercise
Like food, it’s also important to stay limber during this time of lockdown. The right amount of daily exercise will release endorphins throughout your body and help relieve tension and stress. In fact, 15 minutes a day of exercise, or walking for an hour, reduces the risk of major depression by 26 percent.
Exercise is especially important during lock down because, without your commute to work or the coffee shop, you’re likely moving as little as possible right now, and isn’t only negative on your mental health, but it can lead to disastrous physical health concerns, too.
3. Reduce your alcohol and caffeine intake
Let’s face it, when you’re not going out to face the world each day, you likely don’t require three cups of coffee. What’s more, without the social aspect that comes with alcohol, you probably don’t need three beers a day, either.
Don’t get us wrong, there’s a right place and a right time for alcohol and caffeine, but while stuck in lockdown, these ‘chemical imbalances’ won’t do your mindset much good. Too much caffeine will likely cause you more stress and tension throughout your body, and too much alcohol will lead to lethargy and depression.
4. Take regular breaks
If you’re working from home, you now have the luxury of (almost) complete freedom. You also have the luxury of spending time at home with your loved ones (if you’re quarantining with them, that is).
This level of freedom may not come around again in life, so be sure not to squander it. Take regular screen breaks and go and enjoy a lengthier walk with your partner on a Wednesday afternoon. When COVID-19 dies down, life will likely resume as normal, so cherish these freeing moments you have.
5. Quiet your mind
With so much time on your hands, it’s easy to let your thoughts get away from you. This can cause overwhelming feelings to arise, which may put your body in a constant state of ‘fight’ mode.
It’s vital, then, to try and quiet your mind and remain as present-minded as possible while you’re in lock down. Practice some simple mindfulness techniques (like this one-minute daily mindfulness exercise), rationalise those unrealistic thoughts you have about the future, and try to accept that the future is uncertain, regardless of COVID-19. All you can control is the here and now. Focus on that.
What to do if your mental health is still suffering
While these at-home techniques are great for those experiencing the knock-on effects of lock down and isolation, many of them are easier said than done. Consequently, it can be difficult to challenge your current perspective and try to maintain a healthy mindset when you’re doing this alone, and when the world seems to be falling apart.
If you feel like you need further help with your mental health, it might be time to begin opening up to those around you to let them in on your troubles. It also might be time to begin seeking professional help, where you can rebuild your mental health with assured guidance and expertise.
Chances are, your mental health has taken a toll in the last month or so. COVID-19 has seen the world come to an economic standstill, and many people have been forced into both unemployment and isolation, and they feel depressed. What’s worse is that we’re uncertain about our timeline back to normality.
As a consequence of such drastic change, maladies like severe anxiety, depression and stress are rife. In fact, Healthline report that the number of people showing symptoms related to these mental health conditions are well above historical norms.
With all that’s expected of you in today’s modern and connected society, in today’s ‘fake news’ society, it can be difficult to let yourself accept things the way they are and be sad for a time.
We’re here to tell you that it’s okay to let yourself off the hook. Here’s why it’s okay to feel depressed during COVID-19.
It’s important to accept these times for what they are
There’s no doubt about it: times are hard. It’s hard to lose your civil liberties and stay locked indoors. It’s hard to remain inspired and creative when you’re stuck in a repetitive routine. It’s hard to feel energetic and excited when you can’t visit friends or spend time outside.
It is hard.
While we’re all aware of this hardship, some of us might be failing to accept these times for what they are. Many of us might be resisting or fighting against this unprecedented challenge and growing frustrated, arguing that ‘life isn’t fair’ and that ‘I deserve more’. This, unfortunately, is cause for concern.
Mental health issues arise from skewed perspective. When we feel out of control and victimised by our surroundings, we begin to feel apathetic about our ability to try, and we grow sorry for ourselves. This is no unusual feeling. This is a natural human instinct.
To help counter these negative thoughts and remain grounded during this difficult time, we encourage you to let yourself off the hook with this one. We encourage you to embrace your ability to relax a little and spend time doing the things that are important to you, but that perhaps you neglect during everyday life. Make time to speak with your loved ones, learn that recipe you’ve been meaning to cook, or read that book you’ve had on your shelf.
Truth is, life isn’t fair. The sooner you can accept this and realise that this way of life if not forever, but in fact it’s just a passing phase, the less pressure you’ll put on your shoulders and the happier you’ll be.
Talk it out
In a rehab environment, much of our work revolves around talking. Through talking to one another, we can begin to understand the reasons we feel and act in certain ways. What’s more, we can begin to process these overwhelming thoughts and feelings together and begin to implement the techniques that work for us in terms of ‘mindset management’.
Right now, you’re most likely spending a large portion of your time at home, alone. That’s okay. It’s okay because, in truth, you’re not alone. Your friends and family are still out there and going through exactly what you are, and they need to hear your voice as much as you need to hear theirs.
To help you through this time, pick up the phone and have a conversation. Express that you’re struggling or that you’re feeling lonely. Listen to what others have to say and offer a shoulder if need be.
No person is an island and we are undoubtedly better together. Voice your concerns with your loved ones. After all, they might be going through the exact same thing, and they might be able to offer a little advice that helps you push on.
Remain responsive to change
Many mental health concerns like depression can arise in response to drastic and unforeseen change. Case in point is COVID-19. Divorce and death cause similar mental health concerns, too. While change is never easy, it’s important to remember that it’s one of life’s greatest certainties.
You cannot fight or avoid change as a human being. After COVID-19 disappears and life returns to some semblance of normality, something else will come along that will cause a new uproar. We’ve seen this in our history, whether it be two World Wars, the Cold War, Ebola, Smallpox or, more recently, climate change.
Your goal as a human being, then, is to remain open to the changes that come our way. While understanding the boundaries of your comfort zone is important, nothing lasts for ever. Every addict that walks out of rehab, for example, is ‘in recovery’ for the rest of their days. A ‘one-stop-fix cure’ does not exist, and there’s no such thing as ‘the way it once was’.
How you choose to react to changes like COVID-19, then, is what’s important. The event has happened, and we must accept this. Now is the time to rationalise our thought processes, work with the information we have, and decide to make positive change for ourselves that helps us storm this weather.
What to do if you’re spiralling
Unfortunately, mental health concerns like depression and stress are self-perpetuating – we have negative thoughts, which lead to negative behaviors, which lead to more negative thoughts and so on.
While it’s important to cut yourself some slack and accept your low mood for what it is, it’s also important to know when it’s time to seek professional help. At Tikvah Lake, we work with many clients to help them through times of mental hardship, and our treatment options are designed to be personalized to each individual and their specific needs.
It’s estimated that 16.2 million adults in the United States, or 6.7 percent of American adults, have had severe depression in a given year. Depression is no uncommon feat today. It’s a prominent, growing mental health concern, especially during this unprecedented time of self-isolation and social distancing.
Despite how common depression is, many people still suffer in silence, unsure of how to get the help they need to feel more positive and fulfilled in life.
In this blog post, we shed some light on the different treatment options available for severe depression, and how you or a loved one can go about starting your journey towards a happier and healthier life.
There lots of depression medications worth considering, only on the advice of your doctor or physician, of course. Self-medication for severe depression is strongly advised against, as many medications come with a selection of unique side effects that may cause more harm than good.
But, if you’ve visited your doctor and wish to medicate, there are some options available to you, including:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
SSRI is the most common group of anti-depressant drugs, prescribed by doctors. This category of medication often causes fewer side effects, as well as working to reduce the re-absorption of serotonin, which helps to stabilize its effect on the body. This helps a person pull themselves ‘out of a slump’, so to speak.
SNRIs are like SSRIs, except they stop the reuptake of not only serotonin, but also of norepinephrine, the naturally occurring chemical associated with stress.
These medications don’t fit into any of the other antidepressant categories. Atypical antidepressants ease depression by affecting neurotransmitters used to communicate between brain cells. Ultimately, they work by forcing neurochemistry changes in brain nerve cell activity, which helps regulate mood and relieve depression.
Tricyclic antidepressants are more potent than other antidepressant medications, and they typically vary in side effects. These types of drugs aren’t often prescribed unless more standard SSRIs aren’t working.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
Finally, there’s MAOIs. These drugs are arguably the most potent antidepressants available, and often have serious side effects. Using MAOIs requires a strict diet, as they often cause people to have dangerous interactions with food (such as cheeses, wines and pickles).
2. Lifestyle changes
Another effective way to treat severe depression might be to re-examine your lifestyle and consider making positive changes that will help shift your mood from apathetic to energetic.
Many people find that coming off substances like alcohol, tobacco and caffeine can have a positive effect a person’s overall mindset. Recreational drugs can also impact a person’s depressive tendencies, and mixed together, this can lead to addiction and dependency.
Other lifestyle changes might include:
Regular exercise and outdoor time
A healthy diet filled with nutritious food
Getting enough uninterrupted sleep at night
Slowing down and reducing the pressure on yourself to ‘succeed’ in life
Getting in enough social contact time with loved ones
Of course, during this time of pandemic, getting enough social contact can be difficult. After all, we’re all self-isolating and socially distancing. A hug has never had so much value. If you feel like this time of social isolation is affecting your depression more, be sure to speak with someone and consciously try to change your lifestyle to cater for this change.
Many rehab centers work to treat severe depression using a mix of the above, as well as therapy sessions. Through talk therapy and intimate one-to-one sessions, a person can begin to understand the backstory of why they are depressed, and why they feel low in confidence, mood and energy. Speaking to an experienced therapist can be invaluable when uncovering the context needed to understand the ‘why’ of depression, and this can help you develop the right coping mechanisms for when feelings of low mood strikes again.
Seeking the right treatment for depression
Sticking to an effective and personalized treatment plan is one of the most important things you can do to overcome depression. Although at times you may not want to continue, it is critical to the success of the treatment that you push past those feelings and continue to encourage positive, self-affirming behaviors.
Of course, finding the right treatment program that works for you is often a matter of trial and error. Severe depression affects people in a multitude of ways, and as a consequence, effective treatment is subjective, not objective.
You should also talk to your therapist about your feelings toward your therapy sessions and your overall treatment plan. This allows them to work with you and make changes if your treatment plan isn’t working. At Tikvah Lake Recovery, we work with each individual to ensure their treatment program is as personalized as possible. This allows for a greater success rate, and ultimately, it makes for happier and healthier patients.
These days, even those who formerly dreaded going to work are antsy to return, just to get out of their homes.
All of a sudden, a newfound appreciation is found for tasks that used to cause stress themselves. Running errands, going to work, and even waiting on long lines in airports for travel now seem not-so-bad, even intriguing.
The tasks that once brought on intense anxiety now seem like the cure for today’s home-bound depression.
But how can the dream of yesterday’s Uber rides to the curbside at the airport, to the excruciatingly long check-in lines at security (even in the TSA precheck line), to the slow boarding process, to the claustrophobic seating, the rough landings, the baggage claim, and then more Uber rides to final destinations and repeat- be the safe haven to today’s issues?
Seriously, every step of that process used to cause stress and anxiety!
Getting out of the house can’t be the simple solution to my current depression because prior to the quarantine, I still experienced depression, anxiety, and stress.
However, being stuck in this house and doing nothing is, in many ways, worse than the depression and stress I experienced before.
Simple daily tasks prior to COVID-19 were mundane, yet fulfilling. Even if your work was stressful and you checked the days off the calendar until your next vacation, you still slipped into bed at night feeling accomplished, knowing that a piece of the world was changed, perfected, or improved because of you.
Each day you were productive, and even on days where you accomplished less than what your to-do list said, you knew that even these days would lead to long term successes.
If only we could have appreciated our healthy, fully-scheduled lives. These busy days used to feel like the antithesis to serenity. Our former perspective regarding life’s chaotic bustle was that the lawn was greener on the other side. If only the world was quiet and we nothing we had to do, then, and only then would we be happy.
Although now we see, sometimes the other side doesn’t even have a lawn. It just has four walls that can’t be breached. We now see how bored and useless we feel when there is only free time.
Of course, there are still underlying issues that need explored. How can we appreciate the stressors that we now crave, the ones that used to push us down into depression? In the midst of a long airport line traveling for business, how can we rejoice in every moment of the experience? How can that experience cause peace and not anxiety?
The answer is achieved in steps. When the COVID-19 pandemic ends (hopefully very, very soon), and everyone is back to their usual lives, this art needs to be practiced and improved with each experience.
The only way to accomplish this feat is through the necessary tools to work through other underlying core issues. Now that our regular lives are halted for some time, we see clearly that escaping for a month (or more) to work on combating anxiety and depression is not only doable, but beneficial.
At Tikvah Lake Recovery we have a dedicated team that assists our guests in developing the skills to reenter society, so they can wait in those airport lines, sit in traffic, deal with work and family issues, and still remain calm and appreciate that the lawn they have is just fine as it is.