Managing Depression & Anxiety through the Pandemic
Early morning reflections
It’s a beautiful June morning in the spring of 2020. A year none of us living will ever forget. A year that will be written about in history books for future generations. Whether we are 90 years old or merely a child, this year will be personally life changing. There is A LOT going on. The Novotel Corona virus combined with the global protests to fight for equality have created a new world that we all now live in. What we know and how we live our lives has been turned upside down and inside out. Nothing is the same. In terms of employment, which is so critical to living a comfortable life, some of us are fortunate enough to be able to work from home. Some of us have found ourselves unemployed and some of us are essential workers who are both physically and mentally exhausted. We now are afraid about our futures and in some cases, people are afraid about where their next meal will come from, how they will feed their children and how they will ever recover from this dark place. But wait…
There is nothing but peace and tranquility at the hour in which I take my daily walk.
On this particular spring day in June, the sun is rising, and the birds are chirping. The promise of a new day offers hope. It is somewhere between 6 and 7am for me and I feel inspired to take my morning walk. If you knew me really well, you are probably surprised or laughing right now. I have fought exercise for YEARS! Just could never find something that I liked and that I would stick to. I recently have a need to remind myself that the single most effective tool in my arsenal to battle my depression and anxiety is EXERCISE. Any form. Just move my body and change my state – even when I really don’t want to.
Working from home has allowed me the luxury of ‘time’ in the morning, to take care of myself in the most important ways. Now I walk every single morning and I am committed to keeping that promise to myself. I have to. It is my therapy, my selfcare and my best chance of keeping my mind healthy. I truly don’t even think about it as exercise for my body. My focus is my mental health. My cognitive behavioral therapist has taught me that there are three ways to relieve the symptoms of depression and they are:
2. Talk therapy
Exercise talk therapy and medicine – in that order. Combining all three is often times needed.
I find that I love to spend time with myself and process my thoughts, my ideas, and find inspiration. For some reason, I have always had a rush of excitement, creativity and eagerness towards the day. I am filled with ideas and inspiration. Usually this period lasts only in the morning for a few hours. Most of the other time, I am doing ok. Sometimes I am happy. Sometimes I am sad. Sometimes I worry. I prioritize having time to myself throughout the rest of the day to read, meditate or journal to try to hold on to this early morning feeling.
Whatever your situation these past few months, we have all been doing something in common. We find ourselves “sitting in our feelings” for months now. All of us. I remember a time when I did not understand what this meant. My life coach taught me how to do this for myself and it is something that is basically a survival mechanism for me today. It is simply the process of sitting by yourself with nothing else to do, nowhere else to be, no deadline, no agenda, and no interruptions. No TV, no music. Just quiet. Outside in nature seems to work quite well. It is solitary time to tune into what we are thinking and feeling. It is a time to listen to that inner voice. Most of the time we are so busy in our schedules that this feels incredible wasteful of time and awkward. When I first did it, the only thing I did was cry. I recall the day exactly. The exact spot on the couch I was sitting on. The fact that I had a bag of cheese doodles and orange soda right next to me (I use to believe that this was an effective coping mechanism). I knew I was getting on the phone with my life coach and it was not going to be an easy pleasant conversation. I was deep in a depression and felt that I would be a burden to my coach. See this is depression thinking. It’s not rationale. But it exists. Maia always gave me the tough love I so needed, and we continued to work together for several years. I owe my recovery to that woman who I am still in touch with today and who knows that I love her no matter where she is or how long it has been since we have spoken.
My most recent work on myself includes trying to get my mindset back to the place I was pre-pandemic. I had worked for years on my depression and anxiety and I was really in a healthy place. I had worked tirelessly to turn my beliefs to one that saw the beauty in the world. An attitude that everything happens for a reason and the world was conspiring FOR ME. Even the difficult things that happen will serve you some good. It may be extremely hard or impossible to see but you may recognize the lesson one day. Just knowing that this CAN happen (good coming from sadness) is possible.
Walking is now part of my “new normal” routine. Get up and out of the house before I even have a chance to decide whether I want to or not. Put on some comfy clothes and my good walking sneakers. Now that I work from home, I have the luxury of time in the AM. Time to take care of myself in the most important ways. I find myself thinking about this a lot as we are experiencing this new normal. It is such a time of stress, sadness, fear, anxiety, depression and so many other emotions. It is good to remember that we are not the only ones feeling this way. Many of us are struggling, financially emotionally and physically. Some suffer spiritually as well. We try to hide this from each other.
For some reason, our personal experience feels so individual to us. We feel unheard and we feel that others don’t feel things in quite the way we do. While there is truth in the fact that not everyone is going to have the exact same beliefs and feelings in response to a particular situation, it iS true that we ALL struggle with some of our more negative thoughts and feelings. There is commonality in having emotions, being a human being, learning and growing as we live our lives. Most of this growing is outside of our comfort zone. My favorite quote from Albert Einstein states “there is no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone.” Albert Einstein. A name synonymous with genius. A man whose picture is next to intelligent in the dictionary. One of the most famous people of the 20th century.
There will always be another lesson and sometimes the world will try to teach us a particular lesson until we have mastered it. Until we pay attention and tune in and really see and understand what there is for us to learn and how we can adjust our lives to overcome that challenge, it will continue to show up in our life. So many of us turn the other way because this is just too painful, too hard, too vulnerable. Having someone that helps speak truth out loud to you about who you are how you behave and how you view things is incredibly intimidating. Ironically, it is the #1 thing needed in our life to help us grow as a human being. These are really tough conversations to have but hopefully you are having these conversations with people you trust and who are part of your inner circle. If we have even 1 other person who plays this role for us, we should consider ourselves extremely fortunate.