A: It should come as no surprise to learn that a sizeable number of people are experiencing increased events of depression since the advent of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus. The good news is you are not alone. It is not a weakness on your part. These are unnatural times and people are reacting in ways that are unnatural. And, odd as it sounds, this is a totally natural reaction.
The bad news is, of course, that you may be experiencing a depressive episode. What are the causes of this? As with any psychological illness, there can be many reasons. Here are just a few that are caused by this virus:
- Loneliness. Human-to-human contact is more limited than usual, and we are social creatures who yearn for contact.
- Emptiness. Many are experiencing a reduced capacity to participate in those activities which used to bring us joy.
- Boredom. There are just so many Netflix series to binge before ennui sets in.
- Fear. We know that Covid-19 is not just the flu. Frankly we do not know what it really is. If you catch it, will you recover? What are the long-term effects on the bodies of people who have recovered? We know so little, and ignorance generates fear.
- Lassitude. A big word meaning that we are spending too much couch time and are not getting enough exercise.
And here are some ways to modify these triggers:
- To counter the loneliness pervasive at this time, join an online group. Find an interest that stirs joy within you. Search a group, whether on one of your social media sites or through a google search. If they have a group chat message board, join it. If they have Zoom meetings, join them. Do your due diligence of course, but join other people virtually. Make new friends. This can help you alleviate your feelings of loneliness.
- This is a great opportunity to start a new project, return to one that you left half-finished for lack of time. Find a new hobby. Go to an online store and have them send supplies to you so you can start learning to knit, paint, play a guitar. Are your finances limited during these times? Read. There are numerous online sources for free literature. You can finally get caught up on all of those classics that you always meant to get around to. Write. Poetry, essays about things that have been rolling around in your head, short stories, a personal journal. Or a blog!
- Occupy yourself. Boredom can be alleviated in many ways, such as these ideas listed above. Alternate between several of them. Read for an hour every day. Then write for an hour. Then practice your new-found baking skills. Variety of experiences can help dissipate boredom.
- Fear can be fought with knowledge. Keep up with the news. Yes, yes, the news is part of what is making you depressed. Seek out the science and medical news and learn the latest on the virus. Knowledge is power, as the old saying goes. And personal power can fight fear.
- Use your television for good. There are countless videos on YouTube that take you through exercise, yoga, band stretches, dance, and other types of movement. Learn an ethnic dance. Work on mastering a dance form you studied as a child. Muscle memory will click on and you will surprise yourself at the rapid progress you can make.
Of course, if your depression is severe, please seek the help of a professional. All of the good advice listed above cannot alone break the back of a clinical depression. Sometimes we need help. There is no shame in seeking it out.
For more information, here are some videos you can watch:
David Salvage, MD, FAPM