10 Steps You Can Take Right Now to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety and Depression

Back in 2016, I wrote that “Anxiety is like hanging from a skyscraper. Depression feels like you already falling and hit bottom. Anxiety can drive a depressive episode. Give someone enough worries, and depression will slip into a person’s psyche.”

As the coronavirus is spreading so is anxiety and its sidekick, depression, but the importance of managing anxiety to ward off depression may not be fully addressed.

Depression symptoms may begin to appear without us realizing what is happening. In my 30 years as a practicing clinical psychologist, I have seen how good management of stress and anxiety can help individuals thwart a depressive episode.  It may not eliminate diagnoses or mental health conditions but it certainly can lessen the severity of symptoms and possibly shorten the treatment time.

As we experience the Coronavirus Pandemic, most of us are reacting with some level of anxiety even if we have never suffered from anxiety symptoms.  In addition, with the amount of “social distancing” that is required, feelings of loneliness and emotional isolation are increasing. People may be more prone to develop depressive symptoms.

Here are some tips to manage your anxiety to help ward off depression:

  1. Be aware of how much you are thinking about coronavirus.  Don’t make anxiety response more prevalent then it has to be by replaying worst-case scenarios in your mind. Try to notice your thought or when you first begin to worry.
  2. Mindfulness techniques can be very helpful in learning to slow your thoughts down so that you can more easily notice your thinking in the moment.  Most of us don’t see the train of thoughts coming until we are run over by it.
  3. Neuroscience teaches us that if we keep thinking about a negative thought then that pathway becomes the predominant thought. Trying not to think about something, we tend to think about it more. The solution to this is replacing the thoughts with positive thoughts. For example, instead of thinking, I’m going to get the coronavirus, going to get the coronavirus, begin thinking, “I am doing everything in my power to prevent the virus and stay healthy.”Begin listing the things in your mind that you are doing to stay safe.
  4. This little saying “can’t erase must replace” to remind yourself to choose what to think about. When Coronavirus comes to your mind, think of that saying and practice it 10 times a day.
  5. Have a strategy or plan of action should you get the Coronavirus.   A plan of action will help you to stay calm and reduce worry.
  6. Limit overconsumption of news media which fires up negative thinking.  The more gasoline you throw on the fire, the bigger it gets until it is out of your control.
  7. Adapt any past coping skills to deal with stress that have worked for you before the days of Coronavirus, such as exercise, yoga, and meditation. Research suggests that engaging in these type of activities lessens anxiety and depression.
  8. Stay connected with others.  Call, text, email, video conference, Zoom, Skype, Facetime, or utilize other supportive social media.  Since most of us are isolated to our home, make it a point to connect to three people per day. Often when we don’t feel like reaching out, we need to reach out the most.
  9. Remain physically affectionate with your partner and children according to CDC guidelines.  If someone in your household has experienced a positive exposure and needs to be isolated within your home, maintain that emotional connection with kindness and compassion.
  10. If you have a pet such as a dog, appreciate the contributions that your dog plays in your overall mental health. The research has shown that dogs reduce stress, depression, and anxiety along with a host of other benefits.

 

 

 

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