By Leon Puttler
JACKSON, MI – COVID-19 impacts almost everyone’s mood and outlook. But for some people, the pandemic brings debilitating levels of anxiety and depression.
It’s natural and probably helpful to worry enough about a pandemic to take sensible precautions when we go about our daily lives. Anxiety is different. Anxiety is when we worry excessively about something in the future that may or may not happen.
COVID-19, and the social isolation enacted to slow the pandemic, have caused or contributed to anxiety and depression. For people with pre-existing anxiety or depression, it can exacerbate those conditions, particularly because access to treatment went down at the same time anxiety went up.
When facing anxiety, stress and depression, it’s important for people to recognize and accept their feelings. We need to accept the way we feel rather than see ourselves as weak.
Fortunately, there are many helpful ways to reduce anxiety and depression:
• Exercise is important. Get out of the house and take a walk, go biking or engage in some form of physical activity.
• Find your own space in your house so you have some privacy if you share living space with others.
• Relaxation is important. Try something like deep breathing and tensing and relaxing different muscles in your body to assist you.
• Social support is extremely helpful. We’ve lost the ability to go out and see other people. But there are other ways to stay in contact through different platforms like Zoom. It’s not the same, but it’s important to maintain these relationships. In some ways, it can be even better. If you have a Zoom birthday party, people who live far away can attend and bring everyone closer together.
• Our normal routines have been changed by the pandemic. It helps to get back to a daily routine that works for you as much as possible.
• Try to come up with a positive thought or two every day. Humor eases stress so watch something funny and have a good laugh.
• Helping other people can reduce anxiety. Good deeds are rewarding. We’re also reminded that we’re not alone and that some people are worse off than we are – giving us an important perspective to view our own problems.
Therapy services are available in many forms, both short- and long-term. I encourage everyone who struggles with difficulties dealing with the COVID-19 situation to reach out to professional therapy resources.
Finally, adjusting to COVID-19 is not a short-term issue. Someday the pandemic will pass. But I believe the aftermath and its impact on us will go on for years. Remember you are not alone.
– Leon Puttler, Ph.D., is a clinical and research psychologist who works for the Center for Family Health, 505 N. Jackson St., and for the University of Michigan. He is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Research Society on Alcoholism.