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Beyond the Quarantine Blues…Tips for Keeping Yourself Safe

With such unprecedented changes to our daily life in so short a time, it is totally normal to be feeling down, discouraged, lethargic, or just a little “off.” Mental health is likely to be affected when daily routines are thrown off and there is an underlying sense of danger in the air. You manage as best you can. However, if you had been struggling with mental health before the virus struck, you may feel in a particularly vulnerable position at present. Yes, everyone has had to make some changes, but you may feel on the verge of a mental health flare up because of the current world circumstances, and it may feel as though it is out of your control. If you just got into a great routine of eating well and going to the gym to keep your depression in check, you are now forced to look to alternative strategies to lessen the effects of depression. It’s scary and you may be wondering where to turn.

You’re Not Alone

Everyone’s life has changed as a result of this pandemic. Some changes are more drastic and painful than others, but any major disruption of daily routines can lead to mental health symptoms for people who never experienced them before. You may find it more difficult to get up in the morning if you aren’t going to work or are working from home. It may just feel like—well, what’s the point? Why get dressed at all? It can be too easy to slide back into unhealthy habits like smoking and overeating as well.

In times of crisis and overwhelm, people often look to old and familiar coping strategies. If you have found yourself struggling with this, you are not unique in this regard. Despite the encouragement of some well-meaning folks online, saying you should learn a new hobby or come out of quarantine all buff—try to afford yourself the kindness of holding slipups and bad days with compassion. If you don’t emerge from quarantine a concert pianist or an Instagram famous painter, it’s ok. At this point we are all trying to get through this quarantine with simply our sanity as intact as possible.

Coping Strategies

The weight of the world is heavy. If you find yourself lacking energy, that makes sense. If you find yourself terrified of backsliding into symptoms of a mental health condition, that also makes sense. The tips below can help ease or prevent mental health/depression symptoms, even just the tiniest bit. They will each be elaborated on.

  • Allow yourself to break the rules
  • Recognize all or nothing thinking
  • Make a task list for the day and prioritize
  • Stay connected
Allow yourself to break the rules

This may sound counterintuitive, but yes, allow yourself to break the rules. Things aren’t normal right now, so if you attend a Zoom meeting with sweatpants on—that’s ok! Try to be flexible with yourself if you have to go about working from home via trial and error. Allow yourself to accept that something is done, even if it’s not your normal quality work. We are not living in normal or optimal circumstances right now. If you find yourself really struggling with depression symptoms and don’t have the energy to shower today, try to compromise and at least wash your face and brush your teeth, for example. Find alternatives and compromises.

Recognize all or nothing thinking

All or nothing thinking can make quarantine feel unbearable. This might include thinking:

  • Things will never get better
  • I can’t do this
  • I’m a failure because I didn’t do XYZ today or to the best of my ability

If you find yourself falling into this type of thinking, try to subscribe to a new affirmation or new mantra. This might include: I need to take things day by day, hour by hour, or minute by minute. I am doing this best that I can, and it is enough. “I allow myself to make mistakes and still hold compassion for myself.”

Make a task list for the day and prioritize

If you are feeling overwhelmed, it can be especially helpful to make a task list for the day. Try to prioritize what absolutely HAS to be done. Your goal might be to check of just one of these a day and that’s ok! Whatever is realistic for you.

Stay connected

Lastly, try your best to stay connected with people. Yes, it is hard having to use technology in order to do so, but make do with what you have. If you are feeling extremely depressed and don’t feel up for camming or talking on the phone, find a friend that you may be able to email or text back and forth with. You can also find forums online for added support. Reddit has sub-forums for different mental health concerns where people can interact and support each other. Consider some of these avenues if you are feeling isolated.

When the Scales Tip Toward Danger 

Mental health professionals are fearful of suicide rates increasing due to quarantine, and for many good reasons. Not only are more and more people purchasing firearms, but being in quarantine cuts off a lot of social connection that is a protective factor against suicide. Danger signs obviously include if you currently are thinking of/planning to hurt yourself… but there are some potentially more subtle warning signs that should be attended to before a person is in immediate danger. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, please reach out for support from a friend or a mental health professional. 

How to identify warning signs for depression
  • Feel like a burden to your friends/family
  • Hopeless/helpless
  • Being unable to sleep
  • Intense emotional pain of unknown causes
  • Feel unable to experience joy
  • Feeling very angry/intense mood swings
  • Find it hard to imagine any type of enjoyable future for yourself
  • Feel isolated/as if no one cares about you
  • Increasing use of alcohol/drugs
  • Wanting to sleep all day/finding it near impossible to get up

Angelus is Here For You 

Angelus continues to serve Pennsylvania communities via online counseling during this time of need. We realize that it can feel so much easier to connect in person, and we are sad that that isn’t currently possible. However, we are committed to being there for you the best way that we can during this time. Make an appointment with Angelus today if you would like some added support, to process what’s coming up for you, and to increase your repertoire of healthy coping strategies. We hope you are doing as well as possible. And if you find yourself in danger, please reach out to some of the listed services below NOW and do NOT wait for a scheduled appointment with a therapist.

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    Blog Credit: Natalie Drozda, MA, LPC is a PH.D student in Counseling Education and Supervision at Duquesne University & therapist at Angelus Therapeutic Services