This is especially true if you’ve got a lot of responsibilities, such as kids being at home, taking care of errands, and worrying about contracting COVID-19. These are valid concerns and it is natural to feel down, blue, anxious or nervous.
There are number of signs of feeling anxious or depressed. A few key signs include feeling down or blue for consecutive days for two weeks or more, lack of interest or pleasure in things you usually enjoy, increased frustration or irritability, increased negative thoughts, increased nervousness, or some combination of these. There are other signs, but these are some of the main ones to look out for.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and you feel they are highly distressing or interfering with your life, it can be helpful to contact a mental health provider. A lot of people are still giving mental health services in the form of telehealth. It can just be a couple sessions to get some support, or it can be more long-term if that is helpful.
In the meantime, you could try a few strategies to help improve mood and decrease anxiety or stress. These strategies are not meant to constitute mental health treatment, but could be helpful things to try on your own to see their effects on mood.
One helpful action is to stay connected with things that give you a sense of enjoyment or purpose. This many require being creative, especially if there are stay-at-home orders or closures that make it so you cannot do all the activities you want to do. For example, for those who like skiing, watching ski videos, learning about ski technique online, or looking up information about ski destinations can help stay connected and provide a sense of enjoyment. Another good example is gardening. Reading up on plants you want or what soil is good to use or other ways of keeping engaged with gardening can provide a similar feeling. Activities that meaning and enjoyment can be different for different people, but the same principles apply for all sorts of activities.
A common helpful strategy is to seek out social support from individuals we trust over phone or video chat or socially distanced outside. This can help to give you a different perspective on what you’re anxious or depressed about. Also, it can make you feel as though you can cope better because you have support. When seeking social support, it is best focus on what your feelings, concerns, or what makes you anxious. Focus less on information about the virus itself that you might have gotten from family, social media, or less on political issues about the virus (this can turn our focus toward frustration or other negative feelings). It helps most to keep your attention on what your own reaction is and the emotions you are feeling.
Another strategy is to do things on purpose to maximize your positive emotions. This means doing things like writing a thank you letter to someone who had a good impact in your life. Interestingly enough, you actually give yourself a good feeling from doing things that could bring others happiness. Something similar is using a gratitude journal to write things you are grateful a couple times a week.
A lot of difficult events like the pandemic can capture our focus and lead us to tend to focus on the negative, difficult, or stressful aspects of life a lot more. The strategies described here can help us shift our focus on to things that are positive and meaningful to us. Finding time to do these things can truly be challenging with everything going on and with many responsibilities. The good news is that finding ways to intentionally fit them in your life, even just couple days each week for 10, 15, or 20 minutes, can go a long way for mood and emotional health.
Dr. Matt Boland conducts assessments, research, and teaches in northern Nevada. He specializes in stress, emotion coping, and PTSD. Learn more at https://sapiencepractice.com/.