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We deserve to protect our physical health without sacrificing our sanity in the process.
The seasons change. The sun is coming out. And for many of us, this is the time of year when the seasonal depression begins to subside and we finally feel like venturing out into the world again.
Except this year, most of us are staying at home, following shelter-in-place orders to slow the spread of COVID-19, the new coronavirus disease.
It’s unfortunate timing – and not just because COVID-19 is ruining our social lives. It’s also a challenge because social isolation can actually make your depression worse.
What a disappointment for a time of year that would normally cheer you up.
Personally, this is not my first rodeo to hide and avoid social interactions.
For me, like many people, self-isolation can be both a result and a cause of my depression.
When I feel weak I dread socializing, I convince myself that no one wants me, and I withdraw into myself so that I don’t have to risk the vulnerability of telling anyone how I feel.
But then I end up feeling lonely, disconnected from the people I love, and scared to ask for the support I need after avoiding people for so long.
I wish I could say I’ve learned my lesson and avoid the temptation to self-isolate – but even if that were true, I now have no choice but to stay home to avoid develop or spread COVID-19.
But I refuse to believe that it is my civic duty to let myself be overcome by depression.
I deserve to protect my physical health without sacrificing my sanity in the process. And you too.
You do the right thing by practicing physical distancing. But whether you are at home with your family, roommates, a partner or alone, being at home day in and day out can have an impact on your well-being.
Here are some ideas to make sure your CDC-recommended period of social isolation doesn’t turn into a debilitating episode of depression.
The only way to solve a problem is to recognize that it exists.
When I am not examining Why I feel what I feel, it seems to me that I just have to feel this.
But if I can recognize a reason behind my feelings, then it doesn’t seem so inevitable, and I can try to do something about it.
So here is some evidence to consider:
Search foundthat social isolation and loneliness are linked to worsening mental health, as well as physical health problems, including cardiovascular problems and a higher risk of premature death.
2018 studyof older people have shown that loneliness and social isolation can affect the quality of sleep.
studiesto have found links betweensocial disconnection, depression and anxiety.
In other words, if you feel all the more depressed the longer you stay at home, you are not alone and there is nothing to be ashamed of.
These days it’s far too easy to let my days blend together until I have no idea what day or what time it is.
As far as I know, it might be 11:30 on Twiday, May 42 – and we might as well call it depression time.
When I lose track of time, I also lose track of how to prioritize personal care.
Building a routine can help in several ways, including:
- Mark the passage of time, so that I can recognize each morning as the start of a new day, rather than having emotionally difficult days that seem endless.
- Support healthy habits like getting a full night’s sleep and stretching my body regularly.
- Give me something to look forward to, like listening to energizing music while I take a shower.
Physical distancing guidelines recommend staying home and keeping at least 6 feet away from other people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out near your home.
This is good news, as natural light from outside is a great source of vitamin D, which can help.
Even a few minutes outside each day can break the monotony of staring at the same interior walls in your home day in and day out.
You can even incorporate time outdoors into your routine by setting an alarm for a lunchtime walk or evening outdoor meditation.
Be sure to follow local laws and health advisories on on-site shelters, and don’t venture too far from home. But be aware that it is possible to keep your distance without staying indoors 24/7.
It’s also possible to get a healthy dose of vitamin D when you can’t go out – light boxes or SAD lamps and foods like egg yolks are also good sources.
Being stuck at home doesn’t have to be so bad. In fact, it can be an opportunity to delve into household projects, new or long forgotten hobbies, and other activities that enlighten you.
Gardening, crafts, and creating art can all have potential mental health benefits, like relieving stress.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
You don’t have to go to brunch and bars to stay social.
Now is the time to exploit the many digital communication options, including video hangouts, Netflix parties, and a good old-fashioned phone call.
Scheduling regular hours to get together with friends virtually can help you avoid becoming too isolated.
Are you anxious to take the first step towards socialization? Think of it this way: for once, everyone is in exactly the same boat as you.
Your friends and acquaintances are also stuck at home, and hearing from you might be just what they need to feel better about the situation.
It is also a great opportunity to spend time with our furry, feathered and scale friends, as pets can provide great companionship and stress relief when you can’t get the human connection you have. need.
Look around you right now. Is the appearance of your home chaotic or calming? Does it make you feel trapped or at ease?
Now more than ever, the state of your space can make a difference to your sanity.
You don’t necessarily need to keep your home spotless, but even a few small steps towards decluttering can help make your space warm and inviting, rather than a place you’d like to escape.
Try to do one thing at a time, like removing the pile of clothes from your bed one day and putting away the clean dishes the next.
Be sure to note how different you feel with each step – a little gratitude can help you feel good about yourself and take pride in your grooming habits.
No matter how hard you try, it can always be difficult to prevent and cope with depressive episodes on your own.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with needing the extra help.
It is always possible to get professional help without going through a therapist’s office. Many therapists offer support through SMS, online chat, video, and phone services.
Check out these options:
- Discussion space connect you with a licensed therapist who you can access directly through your phone or computer.
- Chatbots like Woebot use a mix of human and AI components to meet your needs.
- Mental health apps like Headspace and Calm don’t include direct contact with a therapist, but they can help you develop healthy coping mechanisms like mindfulness.
- If you are addressing your local mental health services, you may find that they adapt to the world of distancing by offering their services over the phone or the Internet.
It’s quite possible that all of this social isolation is fueling your depression. But it doesn’t have to be inevitable.
It’s a strange new world we live in, and we’re all trying to figure out how to navigate the new rules while maintaining our sanity.
Whether you’re looking for virtual connections or making the most of your time alone, take a moment to be proud of the efforts you’ve put in so far.
You know yourself best, so even if you are on your own, you have a true expert by your side.
Maisha Z. Johnson is a writer and advocate for survivors of violence, people of color and LGBTQ + communities. She lives with a chronic illness and believes in honoring each person’s unique path to recovery. Find Maisha on his website, Facebook, and Twitter.