Are you anxious? Are you scared? Are you losing motivation? Are you feeling everything’s out of control? The coronavirus situation is developing at incredible speed every day, every hour. It’s all anyone can talk about. Many of us are feeling overwhelmed by all the information, the rapid changes, the panic buying, the arguing and blaming. Meanwhile, we’re stuck in isolation, life is suddenly so very different, and we feel like everything is out of control.
There’s the key word: control. How much or how little control do you feel like you have over your life right now? Depression and anxiety love it when we think things are crazy and out of control. It’s fertile ground for mental illness to grow.
So let’s become more aware and then examine what we CAN control and maybe tell depression and anxiety to step back and keep at least two metres away.
The amount of time we’re spending online right now is asking for mental trouble. We’re sitting in the same places, doing the same things, absorbing the same information, having the same conversations… and therefore we’re thinking the same thoughts over and over. I said in another blog and video that what we repeat to ourselves is what we will get more of.
What are you thinking over and over? How is this situation affecting you? Are you more motivated to exercise, eat better, be kind, spread love, and do practical things? Or are you less motivated and feeling that heavy weight in your thinking that tells you to stay sitting or lying down… tells you to eat and drink for comfort… tells you everything is gloomy?
Right now, whether you know it or not, you’ve set up barriers for yourself – to cope with the negativity, the anxiety, and the fear. What are those barriers? If you’re scrolling through social media for hours or eating mindlessly (instead of mindfully), maybe drinking lots of alcohol, you’re putting up barriers that you feel will keep hurtful things out. You’re behind walls that make you feel protected. Or make you feel numb. But those walls can also keep all the negative thoughts and emotions INSIDE. That’s how depression works. Depression comes about from using defence mechanisms as permanent barriers. So does anxiety.
Many people are arguing online – arguing about political stuff, especially – looking for someone to blame. Guess what they’ll find? More stuff to argue about and more negativity. Why do people argue so much online? It’s pretty simple. It provides an illusion of having control over something. Because arguing all the time, trying to be right all the time, trying to feel superior… they’re defence mechanisms. They’re barriers, trying to keep old pain away. The stress we’re all feeling right can trigger old hurts from our past and make those wounds open up again and we can end up on a repeat loop. We have to change things. We have to deliberately and mindfully change how we think and what we do.
If you think you suck, stuff that sucks will keep happening to you. That’s why nobody has magically got over depression just like that. Being caught in a loop of depressive thoughts means depression will stay. If you think nothing will get better, you’re right. Nothing will get better. I used to think depression would control me for the rest of my life. I was right… UNTIL I changed my thinking. Until I took control of what I think right now.
I mentioned the key word “control”… “control” goes hand in hand with “right now”. Because right now is what is most important.
Depression is about stuff that happened in the past. So many of us with depression wish we could change what’s happened. I get that, I get it big time. But wishing to change the past is a waste of energy. It’s pointless. Can we control the past? No. Can we change the past? No. So there’s no point spending energy on it. What can we change? Now. We can change what we think and do now.
Then there’s anxiety. Anxiety is about the future. It’s about stuff that hasn’t happened yet. Stuff that may not happen. There’s so much uncertainty out there. Stuff changes every day. Many of us are losing work and income. Many of us are so worried about the virus. Anxiety is also a huge waste of energy because we cannot control the future.
What can we control? Now. We can control what we think and do now.
The everlasting moment of now is what we have. It’s where we live. We live in the now. It’s all we get. But the great news is that the everlasting moment of now is an everlasting chance to change, to make amends, to improve. Now is always with us and it’s a time for do overs.
What can we control now? Well, basic things first… Wash our hands. Stay home. Keep our distance from people. Wear a mask (if we have one).
What else can we control? Our thoughts. None of us were born with depression or anxiety. We learned it. Any worry you have about the coronavirus and money and work has been conditioned into you. You learned it from people around you and from news and social media. If you think the world is out of control, it isn’t. Your thoughts are. Now I’m not blaming you. There’s no shame. I’m just pointing something out so you can understand it and move forwards. Stop worrying about the world and narrow your focus to just you. That’s not selfish. There’s nothing selfish in self-care. What you do with your thoughts and emotions determines what comes back to you.
OK, so what to do NOW:
- Talk to a therapist or a help line.
- Take device breaks. If you absolutely must be online, take time for positive pages/groups that celebrate goodness. The Kindness Pandemic on Facebook is a great one.
- Eat mindfully.
- Drink water. Less alcohol.
- Get up and move around.
- Breathe deeply, mindfully.
- Here’s a big one… meditate. It’s about being in the moment of now. Guided meditation will help you breathe, rebalance, settle your thoughts, and find your centre. It doesn’t require a religion or anything other than (1) an open mind and (2) taking time each day just for you. Do it first thing in the morning. Don’t reach for your device right away and let your mind start racing. “You” time comes first.
- Talk to people. Not text. Text is terrible for connecting; it’s great for functional communication. Get on the phone and hear a voice. Or get on video chat to see and hear people. Disconnecting from interaction – staring at your screen all day – will make your state of mind worse. Don’t use a screen as an escape so much. A little escapism is OK, but not all day and night.
- Help others. Do some grocery shopping for people who can’t get out – volunteers are needed, desperately. Helping them will make you feel like you’re contributing.
- Check in on your neighbours.
- Exercise. Improve yourself. Teach yourself to enjoy feeling alive from it and be grateful.
- Get fresh air at every opportunity. Go outside those walls that are physical barriers around you. Go for walks. At the very least, get outside at 7pm every night and clap for health care workers everywhere.
- Clean your home.
- Clean your fridge. Fill it with nutritious foods.
- Learn to cook.
Above all, tell yourself over and over what you would tell somebody else who is stressing out. Say it kindly, without judging. If somebody else deserves kindness, so do you.
None of this will be easy. We have to work at it. Work hard. Over and over. Repeating the good stuff is the way to better mental health. However long you’ve dealt with depression and anxiety, you need to spend just as long reprogramming your mind. I know. Depression started for me in 1982. I’ve done a LOT of work.
Keep at it. I believe in you. You can do this. We can keep anxiety and depression six feet back from us.