7 ways to deal with COVID-depression

Coronavirus COVID-19 poses a serious threat to our mental health. Already, we are seeing that 1 in 10 Australian's are reporting experiencing depression as a result of the pandemic, with that number only expected to grow. The true impact is only just being understood, however there are some things you can do to protect yourself and boost your resilience.
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Mr. Max von Sabler

Mr. Max von Sabler

Clinical Psychologist

How do you deal with depression? It is is perhaps more challenging now than ever ever before. The looming mental health crisis in Australia is symptomatic of the harsh reality of social isolation, economic hardship and uncertainty. Already, reports from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) suggest that 1 in 10 Australians are experiencing depression because of COVID-19, with almost the same amount of people describing that they felt so depressed that nothing could cheer them up. Furthermore, 20-30% of Australian’s felt that everything was an effort.

1 in 10 Australians are experiencing depression. The impacts of the COVID-19 on mental wellbeing are only just starting to emerge.

Preliminary research out of China also suggests that COVID-19 has driven a steep rise in depression and anxiety. Specifically, more than 53% of the 1,204 people surveyed reported that the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health was moderate or severe. Going back further to 2009, longitudinal data from Hong Kong emerged detailing the negative psychiatric impact of the SARS crisis. These researchers found that of those who contracted and survived SARS, 1 in 4 developed PTSD and that this persisted 3-years later. This underscores that health crises interface with mental health, too, and that dealing with depression is not just about recovery from illness.

We should not underestimate the true impact of health conditions on mental health. Anxiety and depression are common, but so is PTSD, among survivors.

With more than half of Australians missing out on face-to-face contact according to the ABS, the true effects of COVID-19 are only just emerging. After all, human’s have an enormous need to connect with others, and social support may actually buffer, or mitigate, the negative effects of uncertainty and change. Now, more than ever, we must ask ourselves: How can we deal with depression?

Our pain centres become active when we are at risk of isolation.

I’ve put together seven proven tips to help you deal with depression:

  1. Seek engagement: Be flexible in how you engage with people. Yes, video calls do provide a great opportunity to connect with people around us, but when they are overused we can experience enormous fatigue. These platforms put us under a lot of strain to engage with the traditional turn-taking of a conversation, and without the physical cues of a person in front of us, we rely heavily on facial gymnastics to get our message across. I suggest to set the phone/screen up comfortably somewhere; go handsfree; and remain engaged with the person. Try to avoid multitasking as this can fatigue you faster. Importantly, if you’ve spent all day in virtual meetings, you may want to opt for one-on-one contact with someone rather than a group – and even limit the time that you do this. It’s important to have engagement but to also seek some rest and time away from screens.
  2. Quality over quantity: We know that social support isn’t just about numbers. Seek out people you want to talk to and have boundaries with those you don’t. If you’re too fatigued for a group meeting, I suggest doing something more personal with someone you care about.
  3. Structure: Find creative ways of implementing this in your day. Break the day into different periods, be flexible, and be compassionate and realistic when you can’t. Timetabling can often be the glue that holds your life together, especially during change. It is also a great way to assert some control over your life when things around you make you feel powerless.
  4. Flow: People feel a sense of engagement from doing different things, not the same things. Some of the best moments in life come from being able to stretch our minds to their limits, voluntarily, to achieve something worthwhile. So yes, it’s not just about relaxation. Try something different, pick up a new skill, learn something, or immerse yourself in an activity you wouldn’t ordinarily do.
  5. Meaning: The things we do that have meaning and purpose can be the most rewarding. Spend some time reflecting on what is important to you and why. There is so much change happening around us, therefore it is important to stop and to reflect on what is actually functional and what your life consists of. Think about your friends and family, or the workplace, and ask yourself: “What role do I play in these people’s lives; and, how have they helped me to become who I am?”
  6. Control: Set some actionable, short-term goals. This means, purposefully planning short-term things that you can achieve. These are uncertain times, but an excellent opportunity to prepare, plan and still achieve things in your everyday life. If you get stuck, ask yourself: “What or who do I need to achieve this”?
  7. Movement: In many ways, depression can be conceptualised as a disorder of movement. Its manifest symptoms are about slowing down. That’s why exercise, changing surroundings, and mental exertion are essential. At the very least, I suggest exercising in some form for 30mins a day of a moderate intensity. It’s proven to work!

Lastly, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. We offer specialist services face-to-face in Melbourne or via Telehealth nationwide that can help you figure out how you can best deal with depression. Find out more about our treatments here.

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