Surviving Social Distancing with Depression & Anxiety
I long for the days before “Coronavirus” or “COVID19” was in my vocabulary. However, now that we live in the reality of a Coronavirus pandemic, it is important that we engage in practices that help keep not only our physical, but our mental health intact. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, this may be an especially triggering time for you. The constant onslaught of information coming at us from all angles can be overwhelming.
This nonstop news cycle coupled with the economic strain that this has brought on can make it difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, by taking control of what we can, through the following proactive steps it is possible to make it through this time while maintaining mental wellness.
You are not alone. It is okay to have moments of fear and confusion with everything going on. However, you deserve to have some level of peace throughout this situation. Let’s explore ways to combat those feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
According to Joi K. Madison MFT, “Boundary setting can be a key part of maintaining some sense of normalcy while engaging in social distancing.” Madison specifically highlighted two overarching forms of boundaries: personal and digital boundaries.
Personal Boundaries: If you’re working from home and have other family members/friends there with you, you might find that with being together all day requires that you set some specific rules and boundaries for how to approach this new set up. ••• Time boundaries- Be clear about the time you need to work, relax and have time to yourself as opposed to time you have to chat or eat together. If you take medications, make sure to work that into your daily plan.
••• Spatial boundaries- Adjusting to spending 24 hours with your family/roommates, you may find that you need some personal space to be alone. Honor that. There is no need to feel guilty or think it means you don’t like your family. It simply means you can honor your personal needs while supporting others in the way they deserve. I personally take time every day to do a workout at home, and I ask not to be bothered during that time. If you need alone time, say that.
••• Material boundaries- If you’re sharing a TV, other devices and household items, create clarity around who is allowed to use what, how much, for how long and when. This may be especially true for food rationing and other items that are harder to come by these days (Toilet paper for some reason??). ••• Emotional boundaries- Many of us are experiencing heightened anxiety around these circumstances. It could be helpful to set aside time to share feelings collectively as well as make individual requests for comfort and security.
Digital Boundaries: We are receiving an unprecedented amount of updates from corporate emails, social media posts, and news flashes. Be mindful of what that does to your mood when you open your devices and are flooded with (sensationalized, and oftentimes irrelevant) information. Here are 5 ways to set digital boundaries in order to make peace with technology during these times according to Joi K. Madison MFT.
Unsubscribe from email lists. It can be overwhelming to keep receiving email updates from companies you’ve forgotten you even subscribed to. Cut out the clutter and unsubscribe.
Minimize social media use. If information that triggers you is constantly being shared on your social media platforms, make a conscious effort to limit the time you spend checking your phone.
Turn off news notifications. If you want to stay up-to-date, check in after you’ve taken the time to ground yourself and mentally prepare for what you might learn.
Limit where you gather your information about COVID19. Stick to reputable sources like the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.
Be mindful of the content you consume from streaming services and other entertainment sources (high drama, horror/thriller films, lots of crime/violence can be triggering at a time like this even if you normally consume those things and are ok). Pay attention to the times you engage with this content, watching the news before bed may contribute to restless sleep.
Overall, Joi urges folks to be mindful of time spent scrolling. The amount of direct blue light into your eyes may be throwing off your sleep cycles and affecting your mood because you’re not getting enough rest. Consider purchasing Blue Light Blocking glasses like these Blue Light Glasses from Amazon.
Keeping the Faith
During times like this, it can be beneficial to maintain your spiritual practice if you have one. According to PsychCentral.com faith can be a source of hope in uncertain times. Maintaining virtual contact with members of your religious community can provide a sense of connection and communal support. If you do not have a religious practice, keeping in touch with a group of friends can have a similar impact. I personally have started using Netflix Party which allows you to watch Netflix movies and shows at the same time as your friends. It even provides a chat feature so it feels like you are in the room with your friends. Very fun!
Know yourself and others
According to CDC.gov, there are a few behaviors to look out for when spotting stress and anxiety related to the COVID19 situation. It is important to learn to recognize these behaviors in yourself and others. If you find yourself in the position of being a caregiver for an ill or at risk loved one, remember to check in with yourself about how all of this is affecting you emotionally.
Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:
Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
Changes in sleep or eating patterns
Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
Worsening of chronic health problems
Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
In closing, remember that Social Distancing does not equal Social Isolation. In fact, this practice should be re-framed as physical distancing. Physical distancing can be defined as keeping physically distant from others while maintaining social closeness through modern technology. Do what you can in order to keep in touch with friends and family.
In some cultures, family is a central part of daily life. If that is an area of need for you, be sure to communicate that with your loved ones. Give yourself a schedule, and try to get some exercise by taking a walk outside for a little sunshine in your day. With a lot of patience, we will all get through this time.
Follow the CDC’s guidelines for maintaining your physical health and pay attention to how you are feeling. Do not be afraid to reach out for support if you need it. As a crisis counselor for a service called Crisis Text Line, I can assure you that you are not alone in your concerns about the state of the world today. There is always someone who can listen and support you in your time of need.
If you, or someone you care about, is feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others call:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517)
Text Connect to 741741 for Crisis Text Line
Ayana Therapy looks forward to being a source of support through teletherapy at times like this. Though we are especially eager to provide services, we would be doing our subscribers a disservice if we are not totally prepared to meet the varied needs of our community. Revolutionizing the mental health care industry is an endeavor that takes time and meticulous planning. We appreciate your support and we look forward to meeting your needs in the future.