COVID-19, Social Distancing and Depression

Like other mental health experts in the United States and around the world, the team at EXIS Recovery recognizes that the coronavirus pandemic is more than a public health crisis — it’s a full-blown public mental health crisis, too. 

If constant uncertainty and extreme social isolation have left you feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed, you’re not alone. Here’s how you can de-stress, elevate your mood, and take care of your mental health.  

Living in a “new normal”

The coronavirus pandemic has transformed daily life as we know it, plunging virtually everyone across the globe into a “new normal” that’s unsettling and shrouded in uncertainty. 

Not knowing how the pandemic will progress or when it will finally end can be a perpetual source of worry and stress, especially if vital public health measures like sheltering in place and social distancing leave you feeling isolated and alone.

It’s not surprising that psychological distress is a common side effect of the current pandemic. In fact, the pandemic has given rise to a perfect storm of factors that are known to trigger or contribute to depression, including: 

Even as job loss and economic insecurity are at an all-time high, many front-line workers are under increasing stress, pressure, and risk. Long-term business and school closures, along with shelter-in-place and social-distancing orders, have also left pretty much everyone stranded on a much smaller social island.  

Social distancing versus social isolation

Social distancing, wearing a mask, and staying home are necessary public health actions that aim to reduce the spread of Covid-19. It’s a virus that experts say is transmitted from person to person mainly through respiratory droplets when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. 

It's easy to understand that these measures are essential, but for the average person, they're simply not natural. Even under normal circumstances, a lack of social interaction can strain your mental well-being. 

That's because limited social interaction can give rise to overwhelming feelings of loneliness and isolation. Research shows that people who feel isolated and alone have a higher risk of developing a chronic mental illness like depression.  

If you're already dealing with a depressive disorder, social distancing and the effects of social isolation can be even more pronounced, making it that much harder to focus during the day or attain restful sleep at night. 

Socially distant, but not isolated  

For as challenging and socially isolating as the coronavirus pandemic can be, it's important to remember that no matter how lonely you may feel, everyone’s basically in the same boat. 

Virtually everyone has had their normal routine upended to some degree, and most people really miss their social time. And as the pandemic continues, virtually everyone is experiencing an ongoing mix of fear, anxiety, boredom, irritability, frustration, and anger. 

Take comfort in knowing that we’re all in this together, and then look for concrete ways to reduce your stress levels, ease your feelings of depression, and reconnect with others. Helpful strategies include:

Look for the silver linings

It’s not all bad news, all the time. Maybe you’re working from home now and you really like it, or maybe you have more time in your day to get outside and go for a walk. Try to notice — and appreciate — the silver linings in your life. 

Reconnect, and stay connected

It’s alright if you didn’t reach out very often at the start of the pandemic; after all, you were busy reacting to your new normal. Now, as you begin to regain your equilibrium, there’s no better time to reconnect with loved ones. 

Connect online, on the phone, by mail, or even in-person — social distancing doesn't have to mean social isolation. 

Go easy on yourself

Change your expectations of what you’re capable of getting done in a day, and take frequent breaks from the 24-hour news cycle. Make time to do something you enjoy every day, whether it’s reading, running, or simply taking a few deep, mindful breaths.  

Know when to get help

If pandemic worries and perceptions of social isolation leave you feeling so overwhelmed that coping strategies don’t reduce your stress levels or make you feel better, the team at EXIS Recovery can help.    

Call our West Los Angeles office at 424-244-3513 to speak with someone today, or schedule a virtual counseling session with one of our mental health specialists any time.

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