Since the pandemic started, psychologists have seen an increase in complaints about depression symptoms. People feel down, demotivated, and unable to figure out how to deal with their days that seem endless. Add to that the need to socially distance, and people begin to feel lonely and distressed.
So how do you cope with that?
This blog post will outline five tips to help you cope with feelings of sadness, loneliness and hopelessness. These suggestions do not replace treatment for depression, but they are a good place to start getting a sense of purpose, motivation and joy in your days.
1. Stay connected with others
COVID is changing the way we connect with others. It's clear that in order to stay safe, we do things that make us feel feel disconnected from others. It is therefore helpful to consider other ways we can keep in touch. Even if it seems weird and unnatural to have a zoom coffee with a friend, or share dinner over the internet, it is still a form of connection. If you're feeling lonely, it would be beneficial to think of ways you can still "have a drink with friends" online. You don't have to be alone during this time, so remember to stay connected with others.
2. Focus on the present
During uncertain times, it is normal to worry about what the future holds. If you find yourself thinking "what's the point?" and losing motivation to continue your usual activities, changing your focus to the present moment can be helpful. No one really knows what the future holds, and sometimes even when we plan things, they may not work out how we planned, pandemic or not. Take the opportunity now to try taking the day one step at a time, focusing on what you can do and control right now.
Making a deliberate attempt at switching your focus to the present provides a sense of relief and gives you a sense of control over your life, which can help calm you and boost your confidence and motivation. So when you find your mind wandering to nostalgic thoughts of how things used to be before - or hopeless thoughts of how things will be from now on - gently bring your attention back to the task you were doing and immerse yourself in what you are doing right now.
If these thoughts come when you're sitting and not doing anything in particular, ask yourself, "What is one thing I can do right now that would make me feel in control?" And consider doing some of the things I will outline in the following section. While you are doing it, focus entirely on it and enjoy the moment as much as possible.
3. Take care of yourself (mentally and physically)
In order to maintain a sense of purpose and not feel like you aren't doing anything productive whatsoever, consider the things you do for your own health. Make sure you're sleeping enough, eating well and moving. This is a concept I come back to often, and that is because it is very important to provide the body what it needs for the mind to be healthy. Mind and body are not separate, but interconnected and very influential upon each other. That is why if you're struggling mentally and emotionally, doing something with your body provides relief.
Take a moment to check in with your body throughout the day, because doing something for yourself is an important act that can help you feel productive and more in control (see above point). You might be hungry but not realizing it. You might be feeling restless and bored, which is a sign you need to move around. You might be tired, which could be a sign of sleep issues. Do what you can to keep yourself physically healthy, and so counter the emotional slump with self-compassion.
4. Take a break from the news
It is important to know the biggest headlines of what is happening in your area, but it is just as important to give yourself a break from depressing news as well. Do yourself the kindness of not having to see upsetting news on a daily basis or several times a day. Set a time to update yourself on what is going on in the news, then don't look at it again throughout the day or maybe even the week. You do not need to be updated on everything at all times, and you can take solace in the fact that the most important and urgent news will reach you through friends and family.
Reducing news consumption can help you feel more positive about your life and your surroundings, and that is a big necessity during these uncertain times. Remember: doing what can help you see yourself and your situation in a positive light is more helpful than doing the opposite, so look out for yourself by reducing exposure to things that make you feel uncertain and hopeless.
5. Do activities you enjoy
As we attempt to navigate current situation, fun activities sometimes fall through the cracks in favor of other duties and work. The things we may have been used to doing for fun may have involved actions we can no longer do, like meeting with friends for coffee. However, constraints force us to rethink how we enjoy our time. Now is a good time to remember what indoor and solitary activities you used to enjoy and that you didn't get to do because of your busy social life, for example. This is, in a way, focusing on what you can do, with the added benefit of the activity being pure joy. Once you've thought of a few things you can do that you enjoy, make sure you take the time to do them. Remember that you can still have fun, so take the time to do that.
The bottom line is, when we're living a difficult situation, it is often the case that we have a hard time getting ourselves to see the good as well as the bad. The brain is primed to make you focus on what is going wrong to help you survive. This isn't a threat you can fight or run away from, however. It is something we all have to live with. That is why it's a good idea to remember to be kind to ourselves and do what will help us get through our days.
For more tips and reads about mental health for expats, visit my Facebook page. I hope this article helps you, and remember to stay safe, mentally and physically.