Manage Your Anxiety and Depression and Stay Sane and Productive During the Coronavirus Pandemic
As a psychologist and owner of Houston Therapy, I have a lot of experience working with depression and anxiety. I like most of us, have never seen anything like this pandemic. It has disrupted lives across the globe and will leave a lasting impact. However, the field of psychology has been studying and treating anxiety and depression for some time. We can apply some of that collective knowledge and experience to our current situation.
A lot of my clients have been having a hard time dealing with all of the change brought on by this pandemic. It has exacerbated mental health issues in some and caused new ones in others. Unfortunately, being isolated from our peers, friends, and family can wreak havoc on our mental health. Here are some tips I have been telling my clients.
The coronavirus has fundamentally changed how we connect and work. There is a lot of change and even more uncertainty. To cope with this, I have been advising my clients to try and keep a routine or regular schedule. Under normal circumstances, our jobs, commute, loved ones, social obligations, and hobbies helped to provide structure to our lives. Now, we have to work to create that structure for ourselves. It is these routines that will help ground people so that they can be productive and restore a sense of balance.
Though most people are working from home, I still advice people to wake up, shower, and get dressed as if they were going into the office. If you used to go to the gym in the morning, try some exercises at home before getting ready for the day. Anything that keeps the routines you had before. Putting on dress slacks or a fashionable blouse can be a small but effective reminder that you are working.
I work with a lot of college students. Many of them have a hard time keeping a regular sleep schedule during the summer. With not as many responsibilities people tend to stay up late and regret it in the morning (or afternoon depending on when they wake up). While you may not be a college student, the same rules apply. Sleep is basic and fundamental need for our physical and mental health. Going to sleep at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning will provide a sense of structure your body is used to. Additionally, it will ensure you are getting enough quality sleep, which will help you regulate your emotions, and increase creativity and productivity.
Also, try to keep work and home life separate. This is hard because so many people are working from home. It is easy to get distracted by all of the things we would usually do at home. Most people have strong associations to places. So I recommend having a dedicated place in your home that is your “home office.” This can be a separate room, separate computer, or even a separate chair and place at your kitchen table. Just make sure you only use that place for work. You want your brain to think “this place means work.” This will also help you to unwind at the end of the day. You can still keep your bedroom, or couch as places you relax.
Set work hours and stick to them. Working from home does not have to mean that you are always working. In fact, people are more productive if they have designated breaks and times when they are not working. It is easy to get burnt out right now. It is vital to take time for hobbies, loved ones, and self-care. Again, these activities can ground you and help you feel more connected to your playful, non-work self.
Social Distancing is a terrible term. Now, more than ever we should be maintaining and strengthening our social connections. Physical Distancing and Social Connection is what I recommend. Most mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety breed in isolation. Make sure you are taking adequate time to connect with friends and loved ones. Even if you don’t feel like it, try to push yourself to reach out. We are social creatures. We need socialization and connection to thrive. You can still meaningfully connect while staying at least 6 feet away. At Houston Therapy we offer teletherapy. Everyday we have intimate conversations and meaningful connections with our clients through video or by phone.
Lastly, all of our therapists and counselors are offering video or phone sessions during this time. Studies have shown that teletherapy can be just as effective as in-person sessions. Please reach out for help. You can call, email, or schedule directly online. We are highly skilled professionals with the knowledge and expertise to help someone get through tough times.
If you are interested in mental health during this pandemic please see our previous blog post about how to cope with anxiety due to coronavirus.