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During this pandemic, I have seen an increase in clients reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety. Generally, depression is ruminating about the past, and anxiety is worrying about the future.
People often operate on “autopilot” when they are consumed in thoughts about past or future events.
This causes distraction, poor eating habits, somatic issues, continued trauma, and a complete disconnect from themselves and others. They tend to become completely unaware of the present moment.
Have the incidences of depression increased during the time of social distancing?
I have witnessed a great deal of increased depression, isolation, and loneliness. Humans are inherently social beings, and the ones who are riding out this pandemic in solitary isolation are the ones who are tending to suffer the most with depression. (1)
Humans crave physical touch and emotional connection, and it is very hard for those facing this alone to find comfort.
What unhealthy habits are being picked up by people during the lockdown?
While I believe that everyone is trying to cope as best as they can, I have observed a rise in the following harmful tendencies:
Some people feel compelled to use substances or food to provide relief from anxiety and depression.
Others, finding it hard to deal with isolation, gather with friends in their homes, or break social distancing, unnecessarily exposing older loved ones and vulnerable children.
Attempts to cope with a personal mental health problem can become a public health problem if not properly mitigated.
What are some mental health issues you see in your practice during the lockdown?
First and foremost, I have seen an increase in anxiety, which is perfectly understandable, given these unprecedented times.
People are troubled by a range of worries and fears, not only about their family’s physical health during a pandemic, but also around issues like finances, homeschooling kids, and staying employed.
I have seen anxiety play out in many different forms, such as:
- Somatic physical complaints
- Lack of sleep
- Appetite changes
- Excessive rumination
- Panic attacks
More dissociative forms of anxiety escape include:
- Binge-watching TV
- Excessive daydreaming
- Increased procrastination
Additionally, there has been an increase in discord among those living together, especially if their relationships were rocky before the pandemic.
Everyone has had to adjust their work (if they still have a job) and mingle it with their home life.
If they have children, the added stress of homeschooling, carving out workspace, and managing childcare has seen families come close to breaking points. There may also be a disturbing rise in domestic violence.
Can you explain more about the rise in domestic disturbances and what people can do to help?
Since lockdown orders were given, mental health professionals have raised their concern for the safety of those already in abusive relationships. Here are three main aspects that need to be stressed upon:
- At a time when an increase in incidents is expected, a disturbing trend is seen toward a decrease in reporting of domestic violence, child abuse, and elder abuse.
- It is important for victims of domestic violence to know that it is not their fault – every individual deserves safety, health, and freedom from abuse. They should know that safety and shelter are available if they reach out.
- It is also important for neighbors to look out for one another, and if they suspect dangerous physical and emotional abuse around their neighborhood, they can call 911 or a national hotline (3) to find ways to help their vulnerable neighbors. We should remember, none of us are alone, help is out there, and we should look out for each other.
What lifelong habits can be developed in the long run for mental health benefits?
While there is much that is unknown about this virus and how long social distancing has to be practiced, people can improve their lives in a myriad of ways while they have this extra time to reflect, connect, seek help, reach out to others, and stay safe and healthy.
Perhaps this will be an important lifelong lesson in practicing proper hygiene, learning to better care for themselves and others, and finding peace and balance in their lives through mindful living. That is certainly my wish for everybody.
The COVID-19 outbreak has greatly limited any kind of social interaction by confining everyone to their homes. It may seem like an inconvenience, but it is a small price to pay for containing the spread of this unprecedented illness.
So, instead of wallowing about something you cannot change, try embracing the lockdown by looking for the good things it has to offer.
A positive outlook coupled with a concerted strategy to cultivate healthy habits while letting go of the harmful ones is the best way forward in these trying times.
It is easy to slip into depression, get accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle, and adopt bad habits when you are stuck at home, but try your best to beat these unhealthy tendencies.
Be mindful of what you eat, stay active, keep your mind at ease through yoga and meditation, try new things, and revisit old hobbies. Engaging in such productive activities will keep your mind, body, and soul stimulated and happy.