5 Ways to Help Deal with Depression and Anxiety During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Whether it’s feeling stressed about spiking case numbers, being on unemployment, or just the lack of normal social activity, this pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health. Although the vaccine is finally out and we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel that is the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no saying exactly how long it will take for things to get back to normal. In the meantime, it is more important than ever that we all take steps to keep our mental health up. While we can’t control all of the external factors that cause depression and anxiety, here are five steps that you can take to improve your mental health for the remainder of the pandemic.
1. Stick to a Routine
Normally it’s easy to set up and stick to a routine. You wake up, go to school/work, go home, exercise (see number 2 for why you shouldn’t skip your workout during COVID), have dinner, and then relax until bedtime. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has closed schools, closed offices, gyms, bars and restaurants, and many other “non-essential” businesses. Although these measures are important to try and slow the spread of the virus, they have thoroughly ruined many people’s daily routines. Whether you’re working from home, unemployed (or working reduced hours), or going to school via Zoom, you may be feeling a little lost or aimless right now. And when we’re feeling that way, it can be easy to fall into bad behaviors that feel comforting in the moment. Overeating (especially junk food), oversleeping, and just sitting around the house all day trying to shove that depression and anxiety down might seem like tempting ways to cope when you don’t have anything else that you need to do all day. However, one of the best ways that you can keep your mental health up is to create and stick to a daily routine. Check out this piece from Healthline for tips on coming up with your own routine.
2. Exercise Regularly
Although exercise can’t cure anxiety or depression, especially for those who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition outside of COVID stress, it can help reduce symptoms. Exercising may be the last thing that you want to do when anxiety and/or depression leave you feeling drained of energy before you’ve even thought about starting your workout, but the reward is definitely worth the extra effort. If you’re having trouble jumping into a full exercise routine, start small. According to the Mayo Clinic, just 10-15 minutes of light physical activity (i.e., taking the dog for a walk) a day can help. Just do the best that you can and work your way up to a full workout (shoot for at least 30 minutes a day, 3-5 days per week) over time. Check out this article from Mayo Clinic for more details on how exercise can help improve your mental health.
3. Keep a Balanced Diet
Everyone knows (or at least they should) that sticking to a healthy diet is important for physical health, but what you may not know is that healthy eating is also important to your mental health. It might be surprising to learn that what we put in our stomachs can affect what goes on in our brains, but there is a ton of research to back this up. You may have even noticed in your own experience that anxiety and depression can affect your appetite, make you feel nauseous, give you indigestion, as well as cause a host of other less-than-pleasant stomach issues. In fact, numerous scientific studies show that anxiety, depression, and gastrointestinal problems are linked. So, bad news to the tens of millions of Americans diagnosed with IBS, GERD, and other chronic stomach conditions – anxiety can cause flare-ups of your condition (and vice-versa). Whether you have a preexisting stomach condition or not, it’s important to keep a balanced diet if you want to lessen your anxiety and/or depression. We all want to support local restaurants right now, but maybe skip the burgers and order something with fruits or veggies instead. Or use any extra free time that you might have right now to finally become a master chef. Follow these guidelines from Harvard Medical School for more detailed tips on keeping a healthy diet.
4. Stay Connected
One of the most difficult parts of staying safe during the pandemic is avoiding many of our usual social gatherings. Going out to restaurants and bars, visiting friends and family, and going to concerts (and other public events) are all heavily discouraged by medical professionals (and outright banned in some states/cities). Unfortunately, humans are a social species and even the introverts among us need some social interaction in their lives. Feeling lonely and feeling depressed often go hand in hand, and the COVID-19 pandemic has produced what Medical News Today refers to in an article as an “alarming increase in loneliness.” Citing a recent study of 1,008 people aged 18-35, the article shows that 80% of respondents reported feeling “significant depressive symptoms” since the start of the pandemic. This has resulted in many people ignoring public health guidelines and gathering in large groups anyway, as well as increasing alcohol and drug use as a coping mechanism. These are obviously (we hope) bad ideas for both physical and mental health. However, there are healthier ways to get at least some social interaction while staying safe for the remainder of the pandemic. Apps like Zoom and Facetime have made it easier to socialize remotely than ever before. If you’re tired of only seeing friends and family through a screen, maybe plan a fun outdoor activity (like going for a hike) where everyone can wear masks and keep their distance while still enjoying some in-person company.
5. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Yeah yeah, we’re a weighted blanket company and this one is a little self-serving. But hey, we’re a small business with bills to pay during the pandemic too, and it’s not like we’re making this one up. It’s well-established that sleep is one of the most important things for both physical and mental health. There’s nothing like waking up feeling refreshed and ready to start your new routine. A good night’s sleep can help lessen anxiety and depression symptoms on its own, but it can also give you the energy necessary to make some of other lifestyle changes we’ve talked about. But don’t take our word for it, check out this article from Harvard Medical School to see how sleep can affect your mental health and vice-versa. Unfortunately, anxiety and depression can make it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep at night. So, if you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep right now, maybe consider a Magic Weighted Blanket. Studies have shown that the deep pressure stimulation provided by weighted blankets can lessen anxiety and improve your mood, and that’s before you factor in the benefits of simply getting more sleep. We understand that money is tight for a lot of people right now, but your purchase of a Magic Weighted Blanket supports a small business, American manufacturing, and improve your mental health. Regardless of whether or not you choose to buy a weighted blanket, make sure that you’re doing everything that you can to get a good night’s sleep. It really can make a huge difference in how you feel. Check out this article from Healthline for tips on getting to sleep when you’re struggling with anxiety and/or depression. And if nothing seems to be working, reach out to your doctor for medical advice/treatment that may help.
Wake up feeling refreshed with your Magic Weighted Blanket