The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has dominated our lives since 2020, and now in 2022, the future remains uncertain. As the virus and the different variants, like Delta and Omnicron, continue to spread throughout our communities and across the world, keeping one another safe by observing public health recommendations is key. But it can be draining on our emotions. If it feels like COVID-19's grip on your way of life is lasting forever, you are certainly not alone.
So what do you do? If you're feeling emotionally drained or stuck in a rut from having to cope with COVID-19 for much longer than you expected, I hope these first 10 tips for dealing with the Covid blues from *Dr. Fumi Stephanie Hancock, PsychDNP, and the additional tips below, help you get through this trying time with a greater sense of hope and peace of mind.
How to Handle COVID-19 Depression
1. Shift Focus- As difficult as this may be for some of us, circumstances beyond our control can sometimes shift the entire paradigm that our lives are based upon. This may leave us feeling disoriented, confused, and without direction. Remember that our lives are still meaningful. We just need to shift our focus and pour our energies into new areas. All of us are more adaptable than we realize. Instead of focusing on what is not available right now, discover what is, whether it’s new hobbies, self-improvement achievements, education, etc.
2. Take a New Route- Life sometimes throws us a curveball, but that does not mean that we need to abandon all our goals. We may just need to take a detour to reach them. There are now more virtual options than ever before for almost everything. Office work, exercise classes, book clubs, social media, and many others are usually just a few clicks away.
3. Reach Out- It may become more and more difficult to maintain contact with friends and loved ones when we have so many restrictions on in-person interaction. Be sure not to let those lines of communication close. Everyone in the world is dealing with this pandemic and you’re not alone, even if you feel lonely. Instead of closing yourself off and letting the walls close in, give someone a call or write to them. They need it as much as you.
4. Physical Health- Motivation can seem to evaporate after a little while without as much external stimulation as we are used to, but don’t let social distancing turn into sprouting roots in front of the tv. Make sure that you maintain a regimen of physical activity. This will help brighten your mood and also help keep your body in the best condition to deal with any possible illness you may experience.
5. Emotional Health- Just as important as physical health is mental health. It is very understandable that we are all struggling in one way or another during these trying times. Make sure that you take the necessary steps to maintain your mental health. There are many resources available such as online support groups, Zoom appointments with mental health professionals, and crisis hotlines.
6. Hit the Pause Button on Negativity- Whether it is the news, social media, even discussions between strangers in public places, most of us can feel overwhelmed by the sheer enormous amount of negativity that we are exposed to daily. Even if it is not always obvious, this can have an effect on our well-being. Be sure to take some time out every day to focus on something else. Read a book, watch a comedy, exercise, play with your pets. Don’t let negativity become the focal point of your experience.
7. Take Time to Unwind- After you hit the pause button on negativity, create a routine at the end of your day to relax and shake off all of the stress that you’ve been feeling. Take a hot bath or shower, make a sleep-friendly treat such as chai tea, and practice some slow breathing and stretching exercises. All of this can easily be done in under 20 minutes and make a huge impact on your quality of sleep and just overall wellbeing.
8. Be Prepared (what to do if you are sick)- If you should happen to get sick, have a plan in place for everything you may need to do and have. Have a list of your doctor’s phone numbers and medications available. Find out where you can get COVID tests. Have your insurance card with you. Keep a contact list of important people with you and also coordinate with them about where you or they would go if they needed to be treated at a hospital.
9. Be There for Others- Sometimes the best way to help ourselves is to help others. None of us are the only ones experiencing the trials of this global pandemic. All of us struggle in our own way and in our own time. It is important to ask for help when we need it but be sure to also be open to lending a hand, or just a shoulder and an ear to someone who needs it. By helping, we all start to improve the common situation we share. Even as a listener, you may find comfort in realizing that someone else’s struggles are very like your own and everyone comes through a little better by being there for each other.
10. Appreciate and Prioritize- While we are all forced to take a step back from the hustle-and-bustle lifestyle that we are used to, this is a great time to pause for reflection. There have undoubtedly been many things that have been taken from us all but take a moment to realize what you still have. You may find that you have much more than you realize. It is also a good time to rethink what is important to you. If every restriction in the book were lifted this instant, what would help you feel really fulfilled with your life? Would it be what you were doing before the pandemic, or is this the chance to take the first step towards something better? Were all of the “important” things from before really so important, or were they just distractions holding you back? Right now is your chance to change your life for the better.
11. Break it Down Into Days- It seems like, when we hear about COVID and related developments on the news, topics are talked about in terms of weeks, months, and years. While we shouldn't ignore facts, we can cope by taking things one day at a time. For example, ask yourself:
- Who can I plan to video call today?
- What can I do with my alone time today?
- Should I go for a walk around the neighborhood today?
- Did I remember to journal about my day today?
Focusing on today, rather than an indefinite period, is a helpful way to reframe things if you've started to feel like Coronavirus restrictions will last forever.
12. Unplug from the News- It is beneficial to be informed, especially when it comes to protecting yourself and others from COVID-19. But we all have our limits on how much news we can handle when that news is discouraging and beyond our control.
Our minds, bodies, and spirits were not designed for a 24-hour cycle of news. Instead of leaving the TV on, or scrolling through social media all day, making an effort to limit screen time can help you think of things that do not center on the fear and uncertainty of Coronavirus news. You can do this by:
- Reading 1-2 Trustworthy Sources
- Limiting News Time to an Hour or Less Per Day
- Staying Away from Screens at Night
13. Set Aside Time to Process Feelings- It's tempting to fill the time we spend at home with hobbies, to-dos around the house, or catching up with our favorite shows and movies. And all those things can be healthy distractions as long as we balance our time among our various responsibilities. But as you budget the newfound free time that's come from this disruption in your routine, it's important to make time to feel and process your feelings. If you are:
- Grieving Lost Loved Ones
- Angry About the Pain the Virus Has Caused People
- Lonely as a Result of Isolation and Social Distancing
- Missing Your Parents, Friends or Partner Who Lives Far Away
You need a chance to express, manage, and get help understanding those feelings. Whether it's journaling, chatting with a mentor or therapist, or reaching out to a supportive friend, making time for your emotional healing is a vital act of self-care that will help sustain you through the turmoil of COVID-19.
14. Acknowledge Things Will Change- I understand why it feels like COVID will last forever. But the truth is, things will always change. To think through this, remember how things have changed since we first learned about the Coronavirus. We have a much greater understanding of the virus, including how to prevent its spread. Those preventive measures do work, and the world's leading scientists are working on ways to treat and protect us from the virus.
15. Learn About Yourself - Time to yourself is also time to learn about yourself. As you explore your thoughts and feelings during your alone time, try going beyond thinking about the Coronavirus. Take a deep dive into big questions like:
- What is my purpose in life?
- What do I hope to accomplish?
- What is something new I would like to learn to do, or a new subject I would like to learn about?
- How are my strengths and talents unique?
Thinking about your unique abilities, your hopes for your life, and your aspirations for the future can help your mind focus on something other than COVID-19 throughout the day. It can bring you the hope of looking ahead, and can give you a sense of gratitude for how far you've come in spite of what a difficult year it's been.
Ask for Help and Encouragement
It is undoubtedly a good choice to reach out to a friend, or to explore our own thoughts and feelings, as a way of breaking up the monotony and helping us cope with the fear of living in a world whose news and events are dominated by COVID-19. But if you're feeling more drained than you expected, even after everything you've tried, don't give up. You don't have to face this alone.
Our HopeCoaches are trained to offer mentoring and guidance for coping with the tough emotions COVID-19 brings up. Talk to a HopeCoach today. Let them know how you're feeling about the future, what kind of support you need, and how your life has been impacted by the Coronavirus. We are all on this journey together, which means no one has to make it on our own. We are here for you and ready to listen.
Finding hope is tough during hard times, but there are things we can all do to stay strong. Find out more here.
*This resource is being offered as a convenience for informational purposes; it does not constitute an endorsement by TheHopeLine, Inc. of any services provided by Dr. Fumi Stephanie Hancock, PsychDNP, or any treatment centers she is affiliated with.