The COVID-19 pandemic has affected various aspects of daily life, and it transformed people’s routines and norms almost overnight. What’s worse, many people had to face the stresses of the pandemic alone. Since physical distancing and lockdown restrictions cut many of us off from our loved ones, it created the perfect environment for isolated ruminating, which leads to feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and depression. These chronic feelings could also affect COVID recovery.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, depression is a common but serious mood disorder. It adversely affects people’s ability to handle daily habits like eating, sleeping, and working. Symptoms of depression include persistent irritability, feelings of guilt, pessimism, and chronic feelings of sadness, emptiness, or anxiousness. A pandemic—especially one that involves strict quarantining—exacerbates depression and anxiety. Here are some things that could help people get through those feelings.
Take Things One at a Time
During quarantine or a lockdown, taking things by the day (or even by hour) can give people the strength to regulate their emotions. For example, it’s best not to think of things to do for the entire day upon waking up. Instead, it is better to concentrate on getting through the next hour. A person in lockdown should focus on tasks they can complete in a matter of minutes or seconds, like bathing, doing a breathing exercise, or pursuing a hobby. Taking things one at a time also means holding space only for things in the present and not thinking of what could happen or what has happened.
Maintain a Routine
Unstructured time leads to passivity, which could cause negative ruminations about the present. A person who has lost their usual routine would benefit from making a new one that schedules activities by the hour. Creating daily and weekly to-do lists is especially important for people who have lost their job.
For example, it is good to devote the first hours of the day to self-care, two to three hours in the morning to look through work opportunities, and one hour for lunch. Then, the next two to three hours could be for working on resumes and cover letters. The evening can be for dinner and pursuing a hobby or a passion project. Instead of thinking of lockdowns as a time for isolation, people should treat it as time for self-improvement. For those who don’t know how to start building a routine, consulting a life coach or therapist would help.
(Virtually) Connect with Others
Self-isolation shouldn’t mean alienating oneself from people who care. People can up a regular time every day to contact friends and family members and schedule virtual get-togethers. Starting a book club, having a movie marathon, or holding game nights can bring friends and loved ones together.
People who know someone who is sick—whether from COVID-19 or another chronic ailment—being emotionally available for their loved one will mean the world. Something as simple as regular check-ins or messages, lending a listening ear, or entertaining them with jokes and stories will make a difference.
See Things from Another Perspective
People should never forget that their feelings are valid. Everyone is going through something. However, this could also be a chance to reflect on what truly matters. Without discounting the challenges that COVID-19 has brought, people can look at this period as a time for discovering aspects of themselves they have yet to explore. For example, people who were hitting bars every night pre-pandemic could treat physical distancing as a time to explore quiet activities like reading, making art, gardening, and more.
Instead of seeing this time as a period without bars and clubs, it could be a time for self-discovery. The pandemic has brought great turmoil and uncertainty. However, reframing it can bring some comfort.
The pandemic will eventually pass. However, the damage it wrought will remain with the world for a very long time. People are only starting to come to grips with the consequences of COVID-19, so it is vital to be kind to each other and seek help from professionals.
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