Long Term Pandemic Depression
It’s been well over a year of lockdowns, loss, uncertainty, and so much more. The reality of living through a global pandemic is more than anyone could have anticipated. If you’re not feeling ok, you’re not the only one.
Rates of anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, psychological distress, and stress have drastically increased worldwide since the start of the pandemic.
The extent to which the pandemic has affected people varies between individuals, but one thing is for sure – it has affected everyone.
If you are experiencing new or exacerbated mental health issues and depression because of the pandemic, we’re here for you.
It’s Normal to Not Feel Normal
The reality is, there’s no such thing as a new normal. With regulations, data, and restrictions changing on a regular basis, it’s nearly impossible to anticipate what the future holds.
Most people, whether they’re experiencing depression or not, have felt a lack of motivation, more fatigue, and some amount of anxiety during the pandemic.
We’ve lost people, homes, jobs, hobbies, and much more.
These feelings might ebb and flow, and feel more manageable as we acclimate to the current state of the world.
Even with the development of vaccines, new variants and other variables have still left us in a state of uncertainty.
All that to say – it’s normal to not feel normal. But there are still things you can do on a regular basis to help boost your mental health and find ease from depression and anxiety.
Pandemic Related Mental Health Symptoms
If you had a pre-existing mental health condition before the pandemic, it may have been exacerbated, or this may be new for you.
It can be difficult to determine what are normal reactions to living through a pandemic, and what may be indicative of a more clinical issue.
Here are some mental health symptoms to watch out for:
- Nightmares and difficulty sleeping
- Other sleep changes, low energy
- Appetite and energy changes
- Difficulty concentrating and decision making
- Physical pain like headaches, stomach issues, and body pain
- Thoughts about harming yourself or suicidal ideation
- Irritability, anger, and frustration
- Lack of interest in hobbies or activities
- Difficulty in your relationships
- Withdrawal from friends and family
Dealing with Depression
Knowing if you’re experiencing depression or just a case of the pandemic blues is the first step. Almost everyone has experienced some of these symptoms since the start of the pandemic, but if they are consistent, they may be indicative of clinical or situational depression.
One of the biggest ways to tell the difference between a case of the blues and depression is the length of the depressive episode. If it lasts more than two weeks and has a significant impact on your daily life, it may be depression.
If you have a history of depression before the pandemic, you’re more likely to develop symptoms of depression or other mental health issues.
If you’ve made it here, that’s a great first step. It means you’re looking for some sort of answers or ways to change and heal.
Here are some steps you can take to find relief from your depression.
Seek Professional Support
Whether or not it was triggered by an external factor – like a pandemic – depression is a mental health condition that is diagnosable and treatable.
The first step is to find professional support. You don’t have to do this alone.
You can find a qualified mental health professional that specializes in depression through directories like the Psychology Today website.
A licensed therapist or psychologist can help by giving you a listening ear, giving you practical tools to deal with depression, and helping refer you to a psychiatrist if you are curious about mental health medication.
Other professionals outside of therapists may be able to help you too.
Acupuncturists, naturopaths, functional medicine doctors, and other holistic practitioners all have experience in helping to treat depression and other mental health disorders.
Change Your Routine
Depression seems to take on a life of its own, and like any living being, it wants to stay alive.
This is one of the reasons you often find yourself giving into habits that you know are adding to your depressive symptoms instead of helping.
One of the ways you can help treat symptoms of depression on a daily basis is by changing your routine.
Changing your routine can look like this:
- Not using screens for an hour before bedtime
- Stepping outside for fresh air instead of checking social media
- Going for a walk when you’re feeling down
- Cooking instead of ordering in
- Taking a few deep breaths when you’re overwhelmed
- Taking a shower or bath when you need a break
- Reaching out to a loved one when you feel like withdrawing
Remember that even the smallest of changes can have a huge impact on your well-being.
Dealing with Loneliness
The Zoom fatigue is real and socializing through a screen just doesn’t have the same draw that it did last March.
Community is the balm that keeps life juicy and supportive. Without it, we often feel isolated and unsure.
Finding community even in the smallest of ways can help you feel a sense of belonging and help ease symptoms of depression.
Here are some ways you can do that:
- Join an outdoor workout class
- Go to a dog park if you have a furry friend
- Text someone that you miss them
- Join an online community or course
- Message someone that inspires you on social media
- Tell a loved one that you need extra support right now
Pandemic Depression: Looking Forward
There is hope.
This will end, and we’ll all get through it together.
As much as it may hurt right now, you can and will get better. You are worthy of all the joy, connection, and happiness you desire.
If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please seek professional support. You can get immediate help by calling the international suicide hotline number in your county.
Natasha (she/her) is a full-spectrum doula and health+wellness copywriter. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, health, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more education and empowerment. You can connect with Natasha on IG @natasha.s.weiss.