As the Covid-19 pandemic continues — far longer than many people could have anticipated — rates of depression are rising globally and regionally.
In one UK study in June, almost one in five people (19.2 percent) said they were suffering from depression, almost double the 9.7 percent found in March.
These findings are consistent with the increase in patients experiencing anxiety and depression witnessed at the Priory Wellbeing Centre in Dubai following the coronavirus outbreak.
Mandeep Jassal, a behavioral therapist at the center, explains.
“Any time there is an adjustment to our usual situation, emotions such as anxiety, frustration and depression can surface. The current situation is an extreme case in point. It may cause a resurgence of depressive and anxiety symptoms in existing patients, in addition to an increase in new referrals — many of whom have never experienced such symptoms before.”
Symptoms of depression can vary from person to person, but some of the key symptoms include:
- Feeling lethargic, tired (not sleep related) and having “brain fog”;
- A sense of hopelessness;
- Difficulty sleeping;
- Inability to concentrate on work;
- Inability to sustain healthy relationships;
- Little interest in doing things;
- Experiencing self-destructive thoughts; and
- Feeling more depressed in the morning.
Jassal is keen to highlight the importance of maintaining perspective in the face of negative news and of pacing ourselves — physically and mentally — as we try to navigate these testing times.
“Remember how this is a global issue, that is affecting everybody.”
So how to cope in the meantime? Here is some of Jassal’s advice:
Plan your day the night before and try to break it down into small and manageable segments. Set goals that are achievable and realistic and try to have something to look forward to each day. Research shows that when we get up and do an activity — even something as simple as going for a short walk or meeting a friend — our motivation increases and there is a lift in our mood. Usually, the first step is the hardest, but in order to get the body’s engine going, doing any kind of activity is hugely beneficial as it releases endorphins that reduce our perception of pain. Use the acronym ACE to help yourself out of the dark tunnel:
A — Achievement. It might not feel like it’s a big achievement compared to when you were feeling healthy. However, acknowledge small wins like getting out of bed, brushing your hair and eating something small. These achievements will help build your confidence as you try to move onto greater challenges.
C — Closeness and connection to others. As humans, we are naturally social animals and it is important to connect with people you can trust and are non-judgmental. Keeping your family or friends informed about your struggles can help alleviate the burden of feeling alone, which is very common with depression.
E — Enjoyment. Humans are playful creatures and it’s important to have something that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning. Maybe it’s learning to play an instrument, speak a new language or participating in a sporting activity. There is something out there for everyone, you may just need to experiment for a while until you find it.
To feel comfortable and be in a state of mental and emotional equilibrium, you need to have stability and structure in your life. However, when you’re depressed, this is no small feat. A set plan or routine each day helps to keep us mentally focused and reduces the chances of slumping into negative thinking. Keep the mind occupied at all times. Simple steps that can help include:
- Lay your clothes out the night before — it’s one less thing to worry or stress about in the morning;
- Break the day up into manageable chunks and recognize each achievement, whether it’s having breakfast, a shower or sitting down to do an hour’s work;
- If symptoms are worse in the morning, put any substantial work or chores off until later in the day, when your body and mind are more relaxed;
- Practice mindfulness with whatever activity you are doing — whether it’s eating, going for a walk or watching your children play. Focus all your senses and attention completely on this activity in order to feel grounded and be in the present;
- Get moving! Undertaking just 15 minutes of exercise a day is considered a natural antidepressant and can lift our mood and make us more resilient;
- Ensure you get some “wind down” time. Light candles, have a relaxing bath, read a book or listen to your favorite soothing music. Remember the music we choose has a direct impact on our mood, so it can be useful to devise a playlist of “feel good” songs when in need of a “lift”; and
- Go to bed and set your alarm for the same time to wake up every day to help your mind and body settle into a routine. Sleep has an important restorative function in recharging the brain at the end of each day. Maintaining a regular sleep-wake cycle allows the natural rhythm of the body to be reset everyday and therefore optimizes brain functioning.
If you are concerned that you might be depressed or if your symptoms of depression are present for at least two weeks, it is essential to seek professional support. Remember, it is okay to ask for help and there are professionals who wish to support you. Seeking support can help you gain perspective and insight into your condition — both key in aiding recovery. It can also help to feel that someone is on the journey to recovery with you and that you are not alone.
- This article was provided by the Priory Wellbeing Center Dubai.