October marks seven months that the coronavirus has mandated many of us to a stay-at-home order. We at Palo Alto Therapy have compiled a list of tips on how to deal with depression and anxiety symptoms while maintaining social distancing. For the first time, many people are trying to cope with significant changes to their routine, leading to feelings of anxiety. Those who report feeling high levels of anxiety often experience depression as well. It was found that anxiety leads to depression in many US adults.

As seen above, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics survey results indicate that reported rates of anxiety and depression have been rising since April. If you are feeling anxious or depressed, you are not at all alone. Concerns over the coronavirus negatively impact the mental health of an estimated 53% of US adults. Social isolation and stress can lead to unhealthy coping strategies such as disrupted sleep patterns, overeating, or abusing drugs or alcohol. Here are some tips on how to deal with depression and anxiety while abiding by the stay-at-home order. 

Stick to a Routine 

woman writing inside a planner

Setting up a routine is often the first thing a therapist will recommend to anyone struggling with depression or anxiety symptoms. A routine helps manage anxiety because it allows you to know exactly how your day will play out and help reduce decision fatigue. Having a healthy routine is linked to improved mental and physical health. According to Mental Health America, people with daily routines experience lower stress levels when facing mental health problems or adverse life events. 

A routine increases your productivity and enables you to save time and energy that you would typically use on deciding what to do. A schedule also helps alleviate anxiety symptoms and provides a framework to prioritize things that matter to you most. It takes an average of 66 days for a behavior to become a habit, but it can take eight months or more for some people! Don’t give up.

 

Avoid Too Much Coronavirus News

person scrolling through news about coronavirus on the computer

There is a point where too many news updates might be negatively impacting your mental health. According to a study published in the British Journal of Psychology, negative TV news programs can exacerbate a range of personal concerns. Those who regularly watched negative news segments showed “increases in both anxious and sad mood, and also showed a significant increase in the tendency to catastrophize a personal worry.”

Avoid sending yourself into a depressive spiral by checking pandemic news too often. Set a limit on how much time you will spend going over the latest news surrounding the coronavirus, then shut it off. The news will continually cycle through the same negative information because people pay attention to negative stories. Don’t set yourself up for an anxious day before you even get breakfast!

Be Aware of Obsessive Thoughts Getting Out of Hand

woman looking stressed in front of her computer

We live in uncertain and stressful times. It is normal to feel anxious about your health, the health of the people you love, or your career. Know that it is essential to maintain perspective. You must be aware when you are spiraling into depressive thoughts and learn to deal with them accordingly. You cannot change the course of things, but obsessing will not help you feel better.

Often, anxiety is coupled with obsessive thought patterns. At Palo Alto Therapy, we use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to maintain obsessive thoughts and respond. CBT is an effective method of curbing obsessive thoughts as it improves the severity of the ideas, decreases obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and reduces anxiety.

Stay Connected With Others

woman smiling into computer, talking to someone on video chat

With all the technology available, it is easy to stay connected. The hard part is making an effort. Social ties play a beneficial role in the maintenance of psychological well-being. Studies found that low social resources increase the levels of mental distress symptoms among women. Sufficient social support acts to reduce stress and is often vital for early mental health distress detection.

We are social beings, and the need to maintain relationships has never been more critical than now. Reach out to friends, co-workers, siblings, cousins, parents, or anyone you want to build a better relationship with. Calling a friend to check in and hear another person’s voice can do wonders for your mental health, and perhaps for the other person.

Continue Doing Things You Enjoy

woman painting looking content

Meaningful work is essential, but so is taking the necessary time to relax. Finding a good work-life balance is closely associated with job and life satisfaction. People who practice healthy work-life balance practices experience lower anxiety levels and increased job performance when returning to work.

We use a method called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy based on the proven process to change your thought patterns if you change your behavior and vice versa. You can do this on your own by finding ways to lighten your mood, such as watching a funny movie or listening to a new album. You can break the cycle of depressive thoughts if you deliberately change your everyday behavior.

Seek Professional Help when Managing on Your Own Becomes Too Much

open door to a therapy office, chair and succulent plant inside

Sometimes coping with anxiety and depression can be overwhelming, and in these cases, we recommend seeking professional help. Having an open and honest discussion with a professional to process your emotions in a safe environment is sometimes the best way to learn to cope with depression and anxiety feelings. 

Significant evidence points out that structured psychological treatment to depression, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, can reduce the risk of deteriorating mental health due to depression. Learning stress-reduction techniques and practicing mindfulness can help set you up for a lifetime of healthy emotional processing.

Conclusion

The coronavirus has taken a significant toll on many people’s mental health. Building a solid routine that works for you can help reduce decision fatigue that leads to stress. Avoiding toxic information, such as repeated opposing segments on the news, can help prevent depressive spiraling. Knowing when your thoughts are getting obsessive and learning to break this cycle of ideas can help stop depressive feelings head-on. Staying connected to others can help you reduce your emotional burden and feel less stressed. Learn to find ways to lift your mood, which enables you to cope with feelings of uncertainty. Do not be afraid to seek professional therapy if you need it; there is no need to struggle when there are resources out there to help you.