Health professionals across the board are seeing heightened occurrences of depression, anxiety, and other mental, emotional, and relational challenges correlated with the Coronavirus pandemic (and the widespread consequences of it).
Taking a proactive approach to managing mental health is crucial. Over a series of four blogs, I am going to detail four evidence-based practices for managing depression, and how they may specifically be applied in times of adjustment and stress.
There is no one quick fix solution to eliminating all symptoms of depression, and it can be easy to write off strategies like this. But do not be discouraged! These are things you can do to help take your mood up a few notches on the scale and, if practiced repeatedly over time, can truly add up and make a difference. They work as well as you allow them to, so I encourage you to as the doubting part of you to take a step back and give them a chance.
Today’s focus is the acronym, PL. E. A. S. E.
PL- Treat physical illness
I imagine I am preaching to the choir on this one given the current situation, but it cannot be over-emphasized. Take proactive precautions to stay safe and healthy and reach out for medical support as needed. Even if your symptoms fall outside the realm of Coronavirus and running to the drug store or taking a nap feels inconvenient in the short term, it is abundantly important to take care of yourself in this way. You will feel better physically, mentally and emotionally, have more energy, be more available to children and loved ones, have more capacity for joy and fun, have more bandwidth for necessary tasks and work, the list goes on.
E- Eat nutritiously
If you have read any of my other blogs, you know I am intentional about avoiding “diet talk”- stereotypical “diets” tend to promote disordered patterns. Instead, I promote the concept of “intuitive eating”- a practice that involves honoring our body’s cues, creating space for all foods, and nourishing yourself in a way that honors health. Now is a great opportunity to familiarize yourself and your family with this concept. I recommend books and resources by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, registered dietitians, and pros on the subject.
A- Avoid mood-altering drugs/substances
With less to do and more time on our hands, it can be tempting to lean into substances. Alcohol and other drugs may seem to help in the short term, but can lead to adverse mental and emotional consequences, including exacerbating symptoms of anxiety or depression. Be cognizant of taking medications only as prescribed, and be extra mindful of what you are consuming, why you are consuming it, and how it may affect you.
S- Sleep well
Implement practices that promote good sleep hygiene. Prioritize getting sufficient sleep. Research tips and tricks for improving sleep, such as soothing nighttime teas, mindfulness apps, following a flexible but structured sleep routine, minimizing screen time prior to bedtime, etc.
For this, I prefer the expression “joyful movement”. Find an activity or two that gets you out and moving. Experiment to find activities that give you joy- this is not about punishing your body, but rather an opportunity to feel strong, engage playfully, activate endorphins, work out stress, and improve sleep quality. We may be more limited with social distancing guidelines, but it is possible to find walking and hiking trails where maintaining distance is possible (and masks are an option for moments when it is not). Or, take the opportunity to take that virtual yoga or barre class you have been wanting to try- with a little creativity, they can be taken outside for a fun change of pace.
The current circumstances are especially difficult for those dealing with depression. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, 911, or go straight to the nearest emergency room. You are not alone. There are people available to support you. Even if it does not feel like it right now, the world is truly a better place with you in it.
Christian Makenna Clements is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #111159.