It’s been over nine months since the COVID-19 pandemic began and there’s no end in sight. The number of reported confirmed cases continues to climb and more than 200,000 people in the United States have died from the virus. We are living with unprecedented uncertainties, social isolation and a profound sense of loss. It is no wonder depression symptoms are three times higher in the U.S. than before the pandemic.

Coping with Depression and Anxiety During the Pandemic

According to the CDC, rates of depression increased by 17.8% and anxiety increased 17.4% between June 2019 and June 2020. Stay-at-home orders, economic uncertainty, lack of structure and routine as well as grief for the loss of a loved one are sending stress levels soaring. The COVID pandemic is impacting our physical, economic and mental well-being.

Social distancing and stay-at-home orders are challenging, but for individuals living with mental illness, COVID is exacerbating feelings of depression and anxiety. We are social beings hard-wired for human connection. There is a correlation between isolation and loneliness and addiction. According to Nielsen, alcohol sales were up 32% the week ending May 2, 2020 compared to the same week one year ago and online alcohol sales have increased by 243%. Using alcohol as a coping strategy could evolve into substance abuse as well as lead to a host of physical concerns.

What can we do?

Now more than ever it’s important to pay attention to the emotional and physical signs of stress. These include:

Feeling irritation, anger or denial
Feeling uncertain, nervous or anxious
Lacking motivation
Feeling tired, overwhelmed or burned out
Feeling sad or depressed
Having trouble sleeping
Having trouble concentrating

Unfortunately we can’t completely eliminate stress. If you or a loved one is struggling, the following strategies may help lower levels of anxiety. Left unchecked, stress can contribute to many health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Take breaks from the news. Limit how often you consume the news and avoid the sensationalized news outlets. Healthcare professionals also recommend not checking the news at least one hour before bedtime.

Take care of your body. Getting regular physical exercise improves your mood and breaks the cycle of negative thoughts. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and make sure you get plenty of sleep. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing exercises and mediation are helpful in reducing stress.

Make time to unwind. Schedule time to unplug and focus on activities or hobbies you enjoy. Read a book, listen to music, spend time in nature or work on a craft.

Stay connected. Although we can’t be face-to-face right now we can safely connect with others through digital platforms. A strong network of family and friends is a great buffer for stress. Everyone is struggling one way or another, so it’s more important than ever to stay connected.

Set goals and priorities. This is a great time to set short- and long-term goals. Have you ever wanted to learn a new language or play an instrument? How about train for a marathon or try a new sport? Setting and then checking off goals gives you short bursts of dopamine, the feel-good hormone associated with happiness.

Focus on the facts. While it may seem the pandemic will go on forever, and it may go on a while longer, it will eventually end! The more you know the facts about COVID-19, as well as your risks, the easier it is to cope.  Information is power.

Rates of depression and anxiety are skyrocketing and many fear we will be facing a mental health epidemic. Unfortunately the stigma and misunderstanding around mental illness is widespread. Our team at WellBridge Healthcare is committed to helping patients and their families understand the causes, symptoms and treatments available so they can live healthy and productive lives.

If you are experiencing a mental health or addiction crisis, please contact WellBridge Healthcare at 972-596-5455 (Plano) or 817-361-1991 (Fort Worth). We are available 24/7.

By Wellbridge Healthcare