Much has changed in our lives so quickly. Jobs have been lost or reduced. Many graduation ceremonies have been cancelled or changed into unfulfilling virtual versions, weddings postponed and other celebrations interrupted. Even in daily life, the inability to gather with a group of friends is disappointing and requires discipline to stay away.
Coronavirus has roared into our lives like a tornado, leaving a trail of uncertainty. While we’re all trying to adjust to the new normal, many are struggling to figure out what to do next. We’ve never experienced anything like this in our lifetime. It’s the unknown that concerns many Americans, causing us to question our mental health during COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stress during an outbreak, such as COVID-19, brings on a number of health and behavioral changes. You may experience:
- Fear and worry about your health and that of your family members
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in eating habits
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of mental health problems
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs
The CDC recommends that you try these techniques to reduce stress about COVID-19:
- Take a break from taking in too much information about COVID-19
- Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate
- Eat well-balanced, healthy meals
- Get a good night’s rest
- Avoid alcohol and drugs
- Plan time in your schedule to unwind
- Talk with others about what you’re experiencing
Many people don’t realize that depression is common. According to the World Health Organization, it’s the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting some 264 million people. And the unexpected and unwanted changes brought on by COVID-19 may affect some people more profoundly than others.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America indicates that a major depressive episode may include a persistent sad, anxious or empty mood. Some people experience feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. You may notice you have lost interest in your normal hobbies or activities. Other symptoms to watch for:
- Decreased energy, fatigue or feeling slowed down
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Thoughts of death, suicide or suicide attempts
- Restlessness or irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment such as headaches, digestive
disorders and pain for which there is no cause
Well-intentioned loved ones often think someone suffering depression should just snap out of it or that they can somehow talk themselves out of how they’re feeling. The reality is that to someone who is depressed, participating in everday activities can be overwhelming. Often, they need care to get out of a depressive episode.
If you know someone who is depressed, try these tips to help support them:
- Be empathetic, understanding and listen carefully.
- If this is a first-time event, help find resources for them.
- Encourage them to call their primary care physician or therapist.
- Let them know it’s OK to seek help.