We’ve all heard the terms used to describe how we are experiencing the pandemic and sheltering in place. People talk about “being in this together” “challenging times”, “roller coaster rides”, etc. You’ve heard the terms; you’ve probably used them yourself.
But are you really aware of how you are feeling? Many of us have rarely experienced depression and so when we start to feel it, we’re not even sure that’s what’s happening. We just know we feel irritable or “off”.
I was depressed last week. Not just for a little while but for the entire week. It was a vague heaviness that hung over me. It made getting up unpleasant. It made going to work really difficult. Don’t get me wrong, I love my work and once I was with a client, I was able to put my feelings aside and be present. However, I am currently working remotely and my office is downstairs. Making myself walk down those stairs, entering that space that happens to have lots of windows but is still darker than the rest of the house, was an effort. Exercise, something I typically relish, was a chore. Watching television, hiding in a book, and sleep provided some relief.
I knew I couldn’t go on for long like this. Saturday, a friend of mine was offering a yoga class online. I really didn’t want to do it but I made myself put on my yoga clothes and once again head downstairs to my yoga mat. By the end of the hour, I felt much better. Later, I walked with a friend for five miles. Sunday, I rode my bike for two hours. By Sunday night, I was back in my usually groove, feeling grounded and ready to go.
I was lucky, I bounced back relatively quickly. Not everyone does. Depression is hard. It’s heavy. You feel like you’re walking in mud. You know you want to feel better but it feels hard to get your feet back on the ground.
Here are some tips for pulling out of the depression dive:
- Get outside. Sunshine and access to trees and flowers has been shown to improve mood. The Japanese call it Forest Bathing.
- Exercise. No matter how hard it is to put on your tennis shoes, to make yourself move, it is the best non-pharmaceutical option we have. The research is extremely strong on how exercise can improve anxiety and depression.
- Say a mantra. In my yoga class we said, “I am loved. I am supported.” By the end of an hour, I believed that was true.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Write 3-5 things every day that you are grateful for. They need to be different.
- Share your feelings with others. Don’t go this alone.
One of the most important things to remember is that you do have choices and can take an active role in changing your mood. You can manage it instead of letting it manage you.
If you’ve tried all these things and you are still not feeling better, it may be time for some therapy. I encourage you to find a therapist to work with. If you’d like to make an appointment with me, you can call me for a brief, free conversation or go directly to my website and schedule an appointment from there.