By Grace Kim, Resident in Counseling in Northern Virginia
Depression saps a person’s energy to do just about anything. As a result, people tend to become less active, which causes the depression to worsen. This has been the case for many of us during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some behavioral activation may be beneficial to help stop this cycle.
Here are some ways to cope in order to combat the blues:
- Exercise: Walk, go for a bike ride, follow an exercise video, practice yoga
- Socialize: Call or text a friend, organize a virtual group dinner, join a club/group
- Responsibilities: Cleaning/housework, pay bills, professional development, homework
- Hobbies: Sports, gardening, drawing, playing music, hiking, playing with a pet, cooking
- Personal care: Dress up, get a haircut, prepare a healthy meal, tend to spiritual needs
Practice your chosen activities! Here are some tips to improve consistency:
- Start small: Break activities into smaller pieces. Some activity is better than none.
- Make a plan: Set an alarm as a reminder or tie an activity to something you already do.
- Bring a friend: Including a friend will increase your commitment and make things more fun. Video chat a friend and complete an activity while being virtually connected.
Social isolation has been a common struggle during this pandemic and is also a common symptom of depression. Other related issues—such as fatigue, lowered self-esteem and anxiety—worsen this problem. Leaning on social support can improve resilience to stress and depression.
Lean on your existing relationships—make it a priority to socialize with friends or family every day. Try cooking together on a video call, playing a game together or sharing a coffee over the phone.
Say “yes” to socializing—depression makes it tempting to stay at home, isolated from friends and family. Make a habit of saying “yes” to social opportunities, even if you’re tempted to stay in.
Join a support group—support groups let you connect with others who are dealing with issues similar to yours. You might benefit from sharing and receiving advice and support.
Negative thinking is a defining feature of depression. Positive experiences are often forgotten or minimized, while negative experiences are more emphasized or magnified. Practicing gratitude helps combat this tendency and shifts the focus toward positive experiences rather than negative ones.
- Write about 3 positive experiences from your day. These experiences can be small or big.
- Choose one of the following questions to answer about each of the 3 good things:
- Why did this happen?
- Why was this good thing meaningful?
- How can I experience more of this good thing?
- Repeat this exercise every day for one week.
Mindfulness means bringing focus and attention to the present moment. It means taking a step back and noticing the world and your surroundings, one’s thoughts and feelings, without judgment. The goal of mindfulness is to observe. This can help decrease rumination and worry that often accompany depression.
- Time and place: Find a quiet, comfortable place where you can sit and practice mindfulness for 15 to 30 minutes daily.
- Posture: Sit in a chair or lie down in a comfortable situation. Close your eyes or let your gaze soften. Let your body relax. Adjust your body whenever you feel uncomfortable.
- Awareness of breath: Focus on your breathing. Notice the sensation of your body as you inhale and exhale.
- Wandering mind: It’s normal for your mind to wander. When this happens, gently turn your attention back to your breathing. You may need to do this frequently throughout the activity and that’s okay!
We hope you find the above helpful as ways to cope during the pandemic. We are in this together! If you need extra support, please reach out to us.