No one would argue that it's been a tough year for all of us. We’ve never experienced a global pandemic to this extent in our lifetime. In addition to medical fears and loss associated with the COVID-19 virus itself, health experts say Americans are experiencing Anxiety and Depression made worse by pandemic-related stressors, including job loss, evictions, remote learning, travel restrictions and limits on gatherings with family or friends. As well, the length of time the pandemic has gone on is causing many of us to have increased feelings of emotional exhaustion and hopelessness.
Survey Confirms Symptoms Of Anxiety & Depression Are Up
A Census Bureau - CDC survey conducted over the past Summer and Fall found that expanded symptoms of Depression and Anxiety have been seen in all 50 states. The survey concluded that 1 in 4 of us reported feeling anxious more than half of the previous week, and 1 in 5 of us reported feelings of depression during the same time period. Results also showed the volume of calls to help lines have increased significantly compared to previous years, driven by COVID-19-related concerns.
The Study Further Found That The Increased Stress, Anxiety & Depressed Feelings May Be Causing:
Heightened fear and worry about health, finances, jobs, and loss of support services
Changes in sleep or eating patterns, as well as difficulty sleeping or concentrating
Worsening of chronic health problems
Increased muscle tension and pain
Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances
What Can You Do To Relieve Stressful Feelings During The Pandemic?
Focus on things you can control rather than the constant barrage of negative information coming at you through the media, colleagues, family, and friends. When you move the center of control from something outside yourself to inside yourself, you can help reduce anxiety. Try the following:
Limit news and media consumption, including social media. When we constantly check our newsfeed and see bad news, it activates our sympathetic nervous system, and can send us into fight-or-flight mode. Doing this hour after hour can exacerbate mental health issues. Experts recommend limiting news and social media checks to once or twice a day, turning off news alerts, getting your information from one or two credible news sources, and only posting positive messages and comments on social media.
Keep your routine, even if it feels disrupted. Experts say establishing and keeping consistent daily and weekly routines is a way for people to feel there is some certainty during the pandemic. Even if you work from home now, try to get up at the same time as before the pandemic and keep as much of your normal morning routine as possible - go for a walk or run, eat a healthy breakfast, and drink that cup of coffee or tea. Keep up regularly-scheduled medical and therapy appointments (most can be done online now). If you used to grocery shop once a week for example, but now are isolating at home, try using an online grocery delivery service, but do your online shopping at the same day/time you used to go out to the store.
Make social connections by checking in with loved ones regularly. While social distancing and limits on gatherings are essential to slow the spread of the virus, you can still check-in with family and friends by phone, Zoom or Facetime, text or email. You might even consider taking live cooking or craft classes online (or whatever aligns with your hobbies) - you’ll connect with the teacher as well as the other students while in the class. Science shows there’s a clear connection between mental health and social contact, so make formal time in your schedule to for social activities, as it's one of the things that can easily fall off your to-do list.
For most people, the stressful and depressed feelings will resolve on their own over time, but for some, they may not. Health experts recommend you seek professional help if you find yourself overwhelmed by continuing or increasing symptoms like exhaustion, fatigue, guilt, irritability, sleep problems, intrusive thoughts, and a reduced capacity to experience pleasure.
Are You Noticing Signs Of Increased Anxiety Or Depression During The Pandemic?
You can access licensed psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and therapists who provide treatment for depression from the convenience of your home. Click here to find your current insurance provider and request an appointment today!
CDC: Mental Health and Coping with Stress During the Pandemic
The Lancet: The mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with and without depressive, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorders
CDC - Census Bureau: Anxiety and Depression Household Pulse Survey