A blog by Marjorie Pierce, LICSW and the Director of Operations for Achieve TMS East. She has her MBA with a concentration in Healthcare Administration from the Isenberg School at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is also a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and received her Masters of Social Work from Boston University. She has 20+ years of experience in Behavioral Health.
We are living through unprecedented times. This comes with uncertainty and often fear. Whether you are suffering from depression currently, have in the past, or have never experienced depression in your lifetime, the times we are in currently can exacerbate depressive symptoms or lead to them. Here are some things you can do to prevent or alleviate some of these feelings.
Stay Connected: It is so important during these times to stay connected to other people. Our brains are wired for human connection. Spending time with family or roommates talking or doing an activity together can be so helpful. Also, connections with friends and family over the phone, social media, or through Video conferencing like Zoom, Facetime, or Skype are other venues for social connection. When you connect with others, it helps you to disconnect from the news media constantly bombarding your world.
Keep a Routine: It is easy during this social distancing time to change our routine and habits. It is important that you keep your routine as close too usual as possible. Big changes in your routine can make you feel out of balance, anxious, and impact your mood in a negative way. This includes your eating habits. It is easy to eat less or more when you are stressed. Try to keep a balance in nourishing yourself.
Physical Activity: As many of you may already know, exercise and physical activity are good for your mood and overall health. Now, it is even more important as many of us are isolated in our homes. Some things you can do include: going for a walk, doing yoga or an exercise video, lift weights (or cans of soup), run in place, etc.
See your Providers: Make sure if you see a therapist and/or a psychiatric provider that you continue with your appointments, even if they are by phone or video conference. Now is not the time to slack off on engaging in treatment, in fact, right now it is more important than ever.
Self-care: This can be taken for granted and seen as not as important when we are social distancing and not leaving our house as often. However, it should continue to be part of your daily routine. Take care of your ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) each and every day. This means you should continue daily to shower or bathe, comb and style your hair, brush your teeth, change into clean clothes, take medications and vitamins, etc.
Good Sleep Hygiene is Key: During this stressful time, some of you may have trouble sleeping ad others may want to sleep more. It is important to have good sleep hygiene. Try to keep with your normal routine of sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping, consider utilizing stress-reduction activities like yoga, exercise, meditation, reading etc. Keep those phones and televisions off when you are trying to fall asleep. If you feel like you want to sleep more than usual, find activities that keep you engaged and move your body!
Connect with Nature: There is something about being in nature (even if you are not the outdoorsy type) that is good for your soul. Some things you can do – go for a walk outside or a hike in the woods, sit outside in the sun, sit under a tree and read a book, sit by a river near-by, and /or watch or listen to things related to nature on your television, computer, radio, or phone app.
Dance or Listen to Music: Like nature, music is good for your heart and soul. It is a universal language that connects us. Find ways of integrating it into your daily life. Listen to music that makes you feel good. You want to stay away from music that can lower your mood. Try dancing – you can do by yourself or with a family member. It feels good and also gets you moving.
Laugh: It is important during tough times, to engage in things that make you smile and even laugh. Sometimes people feel guilty for this but guilt is not a helpful feeling. Smiling and laughter are what get us through difficult times and provide relief. Watch a comical movie or television show, read a funny book, or do something silly that makes you laugh at yourself.
Do Something Nice for Someone Else: Right now, we have little control over what is going on around us, however, you can still control what you do for yourself and what you do for others. Doing something for someone else makes us feel good. This does not have to be a huge or extraordinary task. Some thoughts:
• Write a note to a friend, call a friend, or send an email letting them know you
are thinking of them.
• Donate to a local food pantry.
• Give an older neighbor your phone number in case they need something.
• Facetime or Zoom with a group of people (friends and family).
• Make a sign thanking healthcare workers and hang it on your front door.
Complete a Task or Project you have been Wanting to Do: Many of us have projects around the house or tasks we want to do but never feel like there is enough time to get around to them. Now is the time to put some energy and focus on these things. It can be putting together a photo album, going through clothes, knitting a blanket, reading a book, completing a puzzle, building something, painting a room, etc. It can be a small or big thing. It can be something for pure enjoyment or something that you have wanted to get done around your house or apartment. Either way, when it is complete, you will have a sense of satisfaction and possibly even enjoyed the process along the way!!
During tough and unprecedented times like we are in currently, it is important to have some guidelines to keep us all focused and to lessen the anxiety and fear as much as possible. It is important to keep the perspective that this too shall pass. In spite of the fear and uncertainty, we are witnessing courageous, connecting, and kind acts all over the world. Be good to yourself during this time and most importantly exercise self-compassion. We will get through this my friends.