Many take depression lightly but in fact it is an ailment that needs serious attention. Depression has become a common illness irrespective of age. Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of diseases.
According to WHO, globally, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression. It can cause the affected person to suffer greatly and function poorly at work, at school and in the family. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.
Mental health is equally important as physical health. In public mental health terms, the main psychological impact to date is elevated rates of stress or anxiety. Among many global health, economic and social disruptions, the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has forced millions to physically isolate. Combine that with extensive news coverage on the pandemic and an unknown future, and it's no wonder that anxiety is on the rise.
The stress of social isolation, the worry about jobs, money, and health, and the profound feelings of loss that many of us are experiencing at the moment can trigger depression for the first time or exacerbate symptoms if you’ve already been diagnosed.
There is a steep rise in the degree of fear, worry and concern in the population at large and among certain groups in particular, such as older adults, care providers and people with underlying health conditions. COVID-19 has led to internal and external war for humanity. At one side people are being addressed by external forces and the government to maintain social distance, isolation and other hygiene conditions. On other hand some sections of society, especially older adults, children and sick people are fighting internally with the fear of an uncertain situation rising due to COVID-19 pandemic. This fear is giving rise to feelings of anxiety, loneliness and depression. As new measures and impacts are introduced – especially quarantine and its effects on many people’s usual activities, routines or livelihoods – levels of loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol and drug use, and self-harm or suicidal behaviour are also expected to increase.
This is a distressing, uncertain time. Even as some places start to open up again after several months of lockdown, the end may still seem a long way off. Human beings are social creatures. Being cut off from the love, support, and close contact of family and friends can trigger depression or make existing symptoms worse. Months of social distancing and sheltering at home can leave you feeling isolated and lonely, having to face your problems alone.
The boredom, loneliness and stress of being in lockdown, struggling financially, or having to juggle a job and homeschool your kids, can prompt unhealthy ways of coping.
There’s no easy fix for recovering from depression, and finding the energy and motivation to take the first step can be tough. But you have more control over your mood than you may realize.
Distract yourself: When you’re depressed, out of work, and isolated from your social network, the negative thoughts running over and over in your head can seem never ending. But you can break the cycle by focusing on something that adds meaning and purpose to your life. Perhaps there’s something you’ve always wanted to learn, like a new language or a musical instrument? Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to write a novel, take up cooking, or grow your own vegetables? Focusing on a project or goal, even a small one, can give you a welcome break from negative thoughts and worries—and add a sense of meaning to your days.
Find simple sources of joy: While you can’t force yourself to have fun, you can push yourself to do things that will boost your mood throughout the day. Try listening to uplifting music (even getting up and dancing around if you can) or finding a reason to laugh by watching funny videos on YouTube or anywhere else. Spending time in nature—whether it’s walking in the park, paddling on the beach, or going for a hike—can ease stress and put a smile on your face, even if you’re alone. Or try playing with your kids or a pet—they’ll benefit as much as you will.
Limit your consumption of news: Yes, you want to stay informed, but overconsuming sensationalistic news or unreliable social media coverage will only fuel your negativity and fear. Limit how often you check news or social media and confine yourself to reputable sources.
Maintain a routine: Sleeping too much or too little, skipping meals or exercise, and neglecting your personal care only feeds into your depression. Establishing and maintaining a daily routine, on the other hand, adds structure to your day, even if you’re alone and out of work. Try to include set times for exercising, spending time outside, and communicating with friends each day.
Express gratitude: When you’re depressed, especially at this awful time, it can seem that everything in life is bleak and hopeless. But even in the darkest days, it’s usually possible to find one thing you can be grateful about—the beauty of a sunset or a phone call from a friend, for example. It sounds cheesy but acknowledging your gratitude can provide a respite from negative thinking and really boost your mood.
Engage with others: Meeting friends and family in person is still difficult for many of us at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to feeling isolated and alone. While nothing beats the mood-boosting power of face-to-face contact, chatting over a video link, on the phone, or via text can still help you feel more connected. Reach out to close friends and family, take this opportunity to look up old friends, or schedule online get-togethers with groups of people. Even if your depression symptoms make you want to retreat into your shell, it’s vital you regularly stay in contact with people.
Get moving: Exercising is one of the last things you feel like doing when you’re depressed—but it’s also one of the most effective ways of boosting your mood. In fact, regular exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant medication in relieving depression. Even if you’re still under lockdown or a stay-at-home order, there are creative ways to include exercise into your daily routine.
Practice relaxation techniques: Incorporating a relaxation technique such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or a breathing exercise into your daily schedule can provide a welcome break from the cycle of negative thinking, as well as relieve tension and anxiety.
Eat a mood-boosting diet: In times of stress, we often turn to “comfort foods” packed with unhealthy fats, sugar and refined carbs. But these foods, along with too much caffeine and alcohol, can adversely impact your mood. Instead, focus on fresh, wholesome foods whenever possible and increase your intake of mood-enhancing nutrients.
Sleep well: Just as depression can impact your quality of sleep, poor sleep can also contribute to depression. When you’re well rested, it’s easier to maintain your emotional balance and have more energy and focus to tackle your other depression symptoms. Changing your daytime habits and bedtime routines can help improve your sleep.
Use reminders to keep yourself on track: When you’re depressed, it’s easy to forget the small steps that can help to lift your mood and improve your outlook. Keep reminders of the tips that work for you on your phone or on sticky notes around your home.
Understand that you’re not alone in this worst time. The entire world is sailing in the same boat. If we are sailing together then why not sail towards a better tomorrow. There is definitely a brighter sun on the horizon waiting for us to smile at it.