(My guy friends too…I love you all! Some ideas will apply to everyone, others not so much. Hopefully, the ones that don’t will inspire something that will! 😉 )
The ripple effects of COVID-19 are impacting us all, and this is a difficult time for everyone right now. For those who suffer from depression, anxiety, or any mental illness, it is crucial to pay equal attention to staying healthy emotionally as much as it is physically.
Getting stuck in a rut is possible for all of us, here are some tips to stay well amidst the shutdown.
Tips to Combat Depression Right Now
1. Turn the downtime into a positive! It’s easy to get sucked into all of the negativity around us right now, especially for people who tend to be predisposed to it. Perspective is everything. If you look at this as inconvenient, frustrating, scary, and stressful, IT WILL BE! However, if you look at it as an opportunity to rest, regroup, catch up with the little things that you’ve been meaning to get to for weeks if not months, it can be a welcomed reprieve. Make a conscious decision to think and stay positive throughout the day, even if you have to “fake it until you make it” when you change the way you think, and you will change the way you feel.
2, Make a list of all of the things you wish you could get done but never seem to have the time to. Clean your closet? Organize your drawers? Paint a room? Detail your car? Weed the garden? Write letters/email? Give the dog a bath? Sure there will be things on that list you can’t do right now for any number of reasons. Don’t fixate on those; there’s circumstances you cannot control. However, I’ll bet money that you can come up with better than 5 things you can with what’s available to you right now.
If these tasks sound mundane, refer to #1 and turn them into a game. If you’re cleaning out the closet, why not put unwanted stuff up for sale on eBay, Postmark, or Facebook? You may not get rich, but the extra bucks may come in handy or justify a whimsical spend. Make it a game, see (example) how many weeds you can pull in one minute. Try to beat your record the next minute. Sort through old photos and have a “reunion party” with all the pics and other stuff you find. The nostalgia might just perk you up. Ultimately too much idle time can lead to depression funks. It’s not required to be busy every moment, but the key is to stay engaged in life and not check out.
How do you take care of yourself?
3. Bump up your self-care routine. One of the first things that go out the window for people with depression is self-care. Now is a time you need yourself the most, please do not abandon you. Everyone has their own definition of self-care. These below fall into the pampering/spa category, which may not be for everyone. They are positive ways to stay present with the “self” and really do leave a girl feeling nurtured and loved, by the one who needs to nurture and love her the most…HERSELF.
Give yourself a facial: fancy products are fun, but you don’t need to break the budget and go buy them. Simple ingredients like oatmeal, eggs, some dairy products can create an excellent mask. Google is your friend, search for DIY masks, and you’ll find one that appeals to you.
Exfoliate the body: Banish winter dryness and imagine any inner “yuck” going down the drain with it. Again, Google is your friend, and there are simple DIY scrubs you can make from sugar and oil that will get the job done nicely.
Deep condition your hair: When is the last time you took the time to fortify the locks? Salon products are great, but so is olive or coconut oil. Add heat. No cap? Try aluminum foil. Yes, it looks ridiculous, but no one is going to see you, although you probably want to refrain from selfies.
Be more rigorous in your brushing and flossing routines. Vanity aside, keeping your mouth clean is as essential to your health as washing your hands. Seriously.
Light some candles and take a bubble bath.
Whatever self-care means to you, kick it up a notch, you’ll feel better about you!
4. Get dressed already! Pajama days are great; I love them too! Try and limit them to no more than 1-in-a-row. It’s easy to fall into a funk when you’re not having to suit-up and show up for work or you can’t even leave the house and interact with people. Crisis or not, the world does not stop spinning, and life goes on with or without you. Do your best to show up and play the part., even if that part seems smaller right now. You don’t have to put on a professional outfit, but don’t live in jammies or sweats until the crisis ends.
Keep your mind active, learn something new!
5. Learn something! Make a list of 10 things you’ve wondered about. The pyramids in Egypt; the life span of birds; how to make bread; how to change a tire; the lives of famous musicians/actors. Whatever it is that sparks your curiosity, write it down. Take one at a time and really learn about it. Read articles, listen to podcasts, maybe find a documentary. Spending hours online with mindless interaction on social media typically won’t leave you feeling fulfilled, Learning will. When we learn, we grow, and staying in a forward-thinking and growth mindset helps to combat depressions in both the short and long term.
6. Listen to or read something that inspires you. There’s not a whole lot of uplifting news in the mainstream right now. It’s a good time to seek it out actively. There’s a plethora of inspirational talks on YouTube. A simple search term “inspirational” will get it done. Read an inspiring story or listen to an audiobook. Not sure what to read? Here’s a page of inspirational reads recommended by our life coaches. Most are available for instant download.
Feeling inspired? Make a vision board. Psychologists agree that vision boards improve motivation, and motivation is not compatible with depression. Your board will help you remember your “why,” and that will enhance your sense of purpose.
A great way to start is to simply set some goals. You can set a specific goal using the SMART goal structure or just take a piece of paper and make 3 columns. In the first column, write everything you would love to get done by this time next year. In the second column, write what needs to happen in the next month to be on track for the yearly goal. In the last column, write down what you can do TODAY to meet your monthly goal. If you’re not moving forward you might be moving backward, keep trudging forward.
7, Nurture your inner child and play: Do something to balance out binging on Netflix, social media, and video games. If you are going to binge-watch, try and find something light, funny, and uplifting. Go ahead and watch Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones for the umpteenth time too, but add something light in the mix sometimes. On some level, we become what we continuously watch and hear.
Binge-watching or all-day video games in moderation isn’t necessarily bad but balance it out with something that does not involve an LCD screen. Doing things that come from you and utilize your abilities are much better when it comes to keeping depression at bay.
How do you like to play? Write stories or poems? Draw? Color? Paint? I personally love art but I am not so gifted. Therefore, I am quite drawn to adult coloring books and paint by numbers. They are fabulous for tapping into one’s creativity and staying balanced. Try journaling. We are making history right now. Whatever age you’re at, either you or someone else will be fascinated by hearing your testimony to living through the COVID-19 crisis.
Don’t got it alone, break the isolation
8. Don’t let yourself become isolated: Sometimes easier said than done when one battles depression but is super important to stay tethered and connected to the world. Pick up the phone and call friends or family members. Better yet, SKYPE. Not everyone is comfortable with video, but try and remember it’s not about how anyone looks on camera, it is about being present with other human beings. Too much time in ones one head can spiral downward, so it’s essential to keep a strong support network. Be honest with trusted others about how you feel. No one is expected to have their “happy-face” on all the time right now. Don’t be afraid to express yourself, good or bad.
9. Reach out to someone who may be in need. Nothing lifts the spirits more and gives one a sense of purpose than helping another. Whether it’s an elderly neighbor who needs you to run to the grocery store, a friend who is in relationship hell or another person who is just stressed out from the news, be the light of their day. Offer yourself to help or be a shoulder to lean on. Let it be all about them; your turn can come later if need be. Getting outside of the self will boost your mood and leave you feeling fulfilled.
Total wellness = healthy body, mind and soul
10. Eat well. Its easy to get into some funky eating habits when we’re stuck inside, and the produce department at the grocery store is suddenly barren. It seems so acceptable to give in to cravings because the truth is life is just a bit challenging right now and comfort food can take the edge off. Just be mindful of what you’re putting in your body and try to make healthy choices. Sugar spikes wreak havoc on one’s mood and leave people feeling sluggish and down. Too much alcohol will not fix anything, and the hangover and dehydration are such downers. Couple that with feelings of guilt and shame many people experience after such escapades, and it can be a real slippery slope.
Try and drink more water and less caffeinated beverages, sodas, alcohol, or even too much juice. Hydration is vital to all of your body functions, to even mild dehydration contributes to emotional problems (WebMD). Caffeine is a diuretic, and sugar/alcohol screws with hydration levels too.
If you fall short of your health ideals (or any other), don’t beat yourself up, just accept it and try again tomorrow. Feeling bad about yourself isn’t going to help anything and makes it even harder to make healthy choices, just let that $#!+ go and move on. You’ll be better for it.
11. Exercise: Even if you’re in full-blown quarantine, outdoors is still open. If you’re not suffering from illness, you can at least go for a walk. Find a park, or if available, go to the ocean and make a deliberate effort to notice and appreciate the natural beauty. If you live in a busy city, walking down the street and admiring the architecture or culture of an area can be stirring.
There is overwhelming evidence that moderate exercise has a positive effect in fighting depressions. If you can’t leave home, just spend a few minutes stretching. Stretching releases both physical and emotional tensions.
12.Make a gratitude list. Feeling gratitude Is synonymous with feeling happy. Happiness and depression cannot exist in the same space. Make a list of 20 things you are grateful for, or for fun, make an A-Z list with something for every letter in the alphabet. After you finish the list, circle 5 things and stop and truly feel the gratitude. Its sometimes easy to ramble off an “intellectual’ list of things to be grateful for, but gratitude is not a thought, it is a feeling, and it is an action. Feel the appreciation and then act on it. Tell the people you love how much they mean to you, do something nice for someone who you are grateful to. Do it wholly unsolicited and expect nothing in return. Just express your gratitude. You’ll feel amazing after.
Read: Gratitude for Happines
13. Meditate: Science proves that the physical and emotional value of mediation is profound. For many meditations is a spiritual practice. I personally am amongst those who believe in God and the spirituality of meditation, however, if you are not, you can still benefit dramatically from practicing mindfulness. Staying “grounded” through mindfulness will preserve your inner peace and sense of security.
If you are new to the idea, here is a simple and practical strategy to get started: A Beginners Guide to Meditation for Wellness.
14. Be gentle with yourself. Some days are going to be better than others. Be quick to celebrate the wins and forgive the less than perfect days. That same rule applies to others. Find other people doing something right and praise them for it. The world was a broken place long before COVID-19 and is indeed vibrating much more fear and negativity right now.
No one is perfect, depression or not; we are all struggling now. Every one of us could all use some more love. It starts with you! Love yourself, love others, and please stay well!