How to Cope with Anxiety and Depression During the COVID-19 Pandemic
We are living in a time of unprecedented upheaval in which the lives of people across the world are severely affected. As a result, the global pandemic has clearly been a catalyst for negative emotions, most notably that of fear. The fear of infection, illness, and death for ourselves and our loved ones, the fear of economic security from the closure of businesses and loss of jobs, and the fear that normalcy will never return are prominent in our minds. And for those who are working in essential roles, the stress of such factors as heightened workloads and exposure to the physical and emotional casualties of the pandemic has a significant impact.
Wherever you are on this journey and whatever you are experiencing in your life, you have likely experienced a measure of negative emotions. And many of us in recovery suffer from co-occurring mental health disorders that can further aggravate our heightened anxiety, depression, and stress that have been induced by COVID-19.
Heartland House has provided, in a previous blog, recommendations on how to stay sober during the pandemic. These include maintaining a daily routine, developing healthy habits, staying connected, and attending virtual 12-step meetings. While these actions are positive means of maintaining one’s physical and emotional sobriety, the person in recovery may need to do more to quell anxiety, depression, stress, and other symptoms of mental illness. The following are some suggestions.
Any type of anxiety disorder can be difficult to manage, and the impacts may be felt more acutely during a quarantine. Dread, fear, panic, muscle tension, digestive difficulties, and sleeping issues are among the many indicators of the onset of heightened anxiety.
As is the case with any diagnosed disorder, you should first and foremost follow the directions of your physician and ensure that you discuss with them any changes in your emotional levels and thought patterns. And to that end, be assertive and resourceful in reaching out to your mental health professional, connecting by phone, text, email, or video chats as needed, and available.
It is also important to note that one does not have to be clinically diagnosed with an anxiety disorder to experience the symptoms of anxiety. If this applies to you, there are many tools you can try to alleviate anxiety symptoms; these include breathing exercises, physical activity, meditation, healthy eating, and getting an adequate amount of sleep.
There is considerable value in assessing one’s routine for potential triggers to anxiety. If you watch a great deal of news programming, spend substantial time on social media, or continually surf the internet, you might find some anxiety relief in scaling back on the volume of these stimuli. If you are able to safely do so, go outdoors and get low-impact exercises such as walking. The change of scenery, the fresh air, and the exertion, at whatever level, are therapeutic aspects of venturing outside.
Everyone reacts differently in stressful situations. Seek stress-reducing tools that work for you.
Major Depressive Disorder is also a common co-occurring mental illness in those with substance use disorder, and its symptoms are very likely to arise during COVID-19. Key events like school graduations, weddings, and festivals have been canceled, leaving one feeling isolated and grieving the loss of these opportunities to celebrate and commune with loved ones and fellow citizens. With additional restrictions and mandatory precautions in place, many in society are feeling a loss of control in their lives. Such major disruptions to our existence can make it very easy to lose interest in once-enjoyed activities or have overwhelming feelings of sadness and grief.
Similarly to anxiety disorders, if you have been clinically diagnosed with depression, continue to use all prescribed medication and therapeutic treatments. Additionally, manage your sadness and grief using suggested tools like these:
- Allow yourself to express your feelings. Cry, be sad for a day, scream into a pillow, and, when you’re feeling like it, dance, sing, and do cartwheels!
- Rest when you feel the need to do so, even if it means taking frequent naps.
- Practice healthy eating habits.
- Take self-care breaks that include baths or showers, stretching, self-massage, manicures, and other emotionally soothing acts.
As is the case with feelings of anxiety, persons who have not been clinically diagnosed with a depressive disorder are also likely to encounter temporary feelings of sadness or grief. The above-mentioned suggestions are for those persons as well.
And for all of us, it is essential that we be honest with ourselves about our feelings and needs and that we reach out for help in meeting them. We urge everyone to stay connected with those who support you in your recovery and to be of service to those in need of the social and emotional help that comes from one person in recovery interacting with another.
Remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Heartland House remains open and available if you have any questions or have a loved one struggling with substance use disorder. Please feel free to give us a call!