How the Coronavirus Pandemic Could Exacerbate Anxiety and Depression. Keeping Yourself Healthy Through It.

This pandemic with its rules for social distancing, staying quarantined in our homes, having to isolate from family and friends. Not being able to work and do the things people naturally do or activities that you enjoy like attending church, exercise socializing etc. Can cause all kinds of feeling and emotions to the surface. Two common problems they we see emerging are anxiety and depression, and if you are prone to either one of these you may already be on edge.

Let us look at what Anxiety and Depression are and what we can do to alleviate these problems or at least keep them from getting worst and making life more difficult for you.

Anxiety is a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks. It is usually accompanied by feelings of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. While Depression and Anxiety are two different medical conditions, their symptoms, causes, and treatments can often overlap.

Anxious feelings and stress are a common response to a situation where we may feel under pressure, they usually pass once the stressful situation has passed, or ‘stressor’ is removed.

Anxiety is when these anxious feelings do not naturally go away, when they are ongoing and happen without any reason or cause. It is a serious condition that makes it hard to cope with daily life. Everyone feels anxious from time to time, but for someone experiencing anxiety, these feelings are not easily controlled.

Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense.
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom.
  • Having an increased heart rate.
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Feeling weak or tired.
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry.

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Depression is also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression and it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel a sense of hopelessness and/or life is not worth living.

Depression is more than an occasional feeling of the blues. Feeling depressed or having been diagnosed with depression does not mean you are weak, and you cannot simply turn depression off or snap out of it. Once a person with depression begins to get some counseling or medication or both they begin feeling better.

Symptoms of Depression:

Although some people may only experience depression once during their life, some people can have multiple episodes. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports.
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much.
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort.
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain.
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness.
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame.
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things.
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide.

Physical Problems of Depression:

There are physical problems people may experience when depressed such as: back and joint pain, muscle aches and chest pain. Headaches are quite common, and if you already have had migraines, they may seem worse. It may slow your digestive system down; you may become queasy or nauseated. You may have diarrhea or become constipated. Depression can exacerbate on-going health problems you already have. For many people with depression, symptoms usually are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships with others. Some people may feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.

How This Pandemic could be bringing out some these symptoms of anxiety or depression 

We are a people of habits or shall I say routines. Most of us rather we admit it or not you have certain routines we do every day. Waking up at a set time, making your bed, showring, dressing eating breakfast etc., maybe driving in on the way to work to pick up coffee. Dropping Children off at school or making sure they get safely on their bus. You may even have a certain route you take driving your kids to school or to your job these are all routines. Routines that the pandemic has brought to a screeching halt in your life. Loss of routine can help exacerbate anxiety and depression.

Routines are healthy and have great health benefits. Routines can help you prepare to make better decisions especially when you need to make bigger decisions of life. Routines help you sleep better at night. A regular bedtime routine is essential to good sleep hygiene. Turn off your electronic devices an hour before bed and avoid stressful conversations in the evenings. Instead, pick up a light read or practice a few minutes of meditation. Brush your teeth and wash your face well before your set bedtime so you get to sleep. Set an alarm and wake up at the same time each day can help you feel refreshed and ready to tackle your day. Make your bed in the morning is one of the easiest tasks we can do after first waking up. This simple task can help prepare you mentally and physically throughout your day to completing other, larger task. Besides, you will sleep better by pulling your covers down at night and getting into a neat bed.

Routines help you more quality time with love ones. Even if your family’s schedule is busy, creating a weeknight family dinner routine is a great way to ensure you and your loved ones have time with each other at the end of the day. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be able to enjoy more regular mealtimes with family members and friends who share your home. Keeping to your routine is an important aspect of trying to stay healthy and be positive during this pandemic. IF you have children its important to keep them on a routine as this can help eliminate behavior problems they may be having since their routines are off.  Children like adults fair better having a set consistent schedule and routine. Keep doing the things you been doing just within your own environment. If you are working from home carve out time for lunch and breaks as much as possible during your day.

  1.  Maintain principles of self-care 
  • It is important to maintain principles of self-care, which in general means to continue doing the things that keep you healthy. You should eat well, get enough rest and exercise.
  • Avoid sitting all day long. It is important to keep busy and active within the framework of your house. Sitting is not a good way to lay off physical tension and emotional distress. Listen to your own needs.
  • Keep to your routine as much as possible. Keep up with your personal hygiene, bathing, brushing your teeth, brushing your hair. Staying in your pajamas all day and then wearing them to bed is not healthy. Dress up a little but you can still be comfortable.
  1. Reach out to people, talk, express how you feel

  • Despite of being forced to remain at home, you should try to limit your isolation as much as possible.
  • Use your social networks to talk to people. When you feel stressed you should call someone and chat or talk to those living with you and express what is making you feel stressed.
  • Anxiety is exacerbated in conditions of uncertainty. Talking about what you can do within the constraints of the situation will help you feel you have some control.
  • This is especially crucial for those who are living alone. Others should check in with them regularly. For example, if you are worried about your parents you need to be in touch with them on a daily basis to see how they are doing, just to chat, to connect and not leave them feeling isolated and this will also help you not feel isolated.
  1. Do what helps you relax

  • You should try to implement what has helped you in the past to cope with a situation of stress and to find new techniques within the framework of the home.
  • It might be reading a book, doing crafts or handiwork around the house, having a cup of tea or a special comfort food, getting up and moving around.
  • It is important that you try to do something to contrast your anxieties, to relax and stop the worrying cycle, Continual worry about something without action increases the level of distress.
  • If you struggle with depression you should keep doing what you know you are supposed to do: Talking to people, taking medications, do online therapy.  Do the things that have helped you in the past, keep active physically, write a journal, draw pictures and so on.
  1. Limit the time looking at Screens

     

  • Whether watching one movie after another or constantly checking the latest news, the temptation to spend time forced at home looking at screens is strong for everyone, but those activities should be limited.
  • There is a tendency for adults, and sometimes also for children, to be always connected to their phones, Research has shown this does not help lowering your distress level.
  • While watching TV can be a good way to pass time, you should find the right balance between doing something that you enjoy and activities that will benefit you physically and emotionally.
  • Do not spend too much time sitting. Parents please realize that keeping children in front of a TV or video games does not help with their level of stress.
  • Checking the news compulsively should be avoided, It is okay to want to be informed, but not all the time, because this keeps you in a state of alertness and anxiety, not only causing you stress but also can stress children.
  1. Be playful with your children

 

  • For those who are home alone with children, it is especially important to recognize that they pick up on our moods, so we might see more irritability and problems with sleeping or eating, also depending on the age of the child. To cope with the situation, more hugs and holding can help, as well as being playful and silly together.
  • Parents be playful with your children and do things with them, even silly things, drawing, putting hats on, dressing up, moving, dancing. With weather permitting spend time outdoors with your children. This helps them and will help you.
  • Changes in routines can sometimes make children might act moody or clingier, there may not be anything wrong with them, they may be picking up on your distress. If you see children reflecting your own distress, try to lower it and then do it with your child. Talking with them about their feelings and perceptions they may have created in trying to understand this situation everyone is going through.
  • Working out can be a great activity to share with children, A baby can become the perfect weight to hold during a squat series, while older children are easily be inspired to follow along the movements. Remembering that you do not need to do an hourlong workout. You can do get a great, effective workout in 20 minutes.

If you feel like you need counseling during this time to help you with persistent feelings of anxiety or depression most counselors are providing on-line counseling it is safe and confidential and it can beat trying to get through your problems without any help.

 

Jim Katsoudas