As the pandemic lingers, managing depression can become that much more difficult. These proven steps can help patients, and you, better manage depression.
How does one manage depression during a pandemic like COVID? In this video, Susan Noonan, MD, MPH, shares her unique perspectives and advice. Not only is she a clinician, but is a long-term patient with depression.
There is no denying that COVID has impacted the mental wellness of most of the population. It brings monumental stress, newfound fears, and a plethora of unknows. Add to it the constant stream of information (and sometimes contradictory and changing information) in the media and online, and it is no wonder people may struggle.
On top of that, we all have experienced social isolation and limited in-person contact, including with clinicians and support groups. Some have changes in their work or school lives, and some have experienced job loss.
Studies have shown that those who accept reality and adapt will have a greater chance of emotional stability during these sorts of crises. As such, it is important to recognize the things we do have control over.
Share these 6 steps for patients to successfully manage depression during COVID:
1. Stay connected. Whether the patient uses the phone, online virtual meet-ups, or social distanced small gatherings, there are ways to keep in touch with friends, family, and especially their mental health care team.
2. Create structure for yourself. Encourage patients to stay busy and find some purpose to the day. This will help their inner clock run smoothly, which will in turn help stabilize their depression. Along those lines, patients should keep regular sleep schedules.
3. Feed body and brain. Remind patients to eat healthy. When things get stressful, it is easy to fall into bad eating habits and indulgent ways. As much as possible, eat a healthy diet, and try to avoid snacking too much. By eating regular meals, patients will also help their blood sugar levels, which can also impact mood.
4. Move more and sit less. Physical exercise has shown to help with depression and mood disorders. It is good for general health, too!
5. Draw on personal coping skills. Patients often have methods to help them through difficult times. Engage those healthy behaviors and hobbies like listening to music, spending time with pets, reading, crafting, and the like.
6. Stay informed but limit exposure. With information changing regularly, it is important to stay up-to-date. Suggest patients limit their exposure to the news and to make sure they are using reliable sources. Importantly, patients should avoid these updates around bedtime.
Dr Noonan is a physician consultant and Certified Peer Specialist in the Department of Psychiatry at McLean Hospital and the Massachusetts General Hospital. She is the author of four books and a blog on managing depression, most recently Helping Others With Depression: Words to Say, Things to Do (December 2020). Dr Noonan offers peer counseling to fellow patients, including physicians and other professionals, and can be confidentially reached through her website at https://susannoonanmd.com.