Years of living life as the supreme most species on Earth, there is not much that humans are not aware of. Taking control of our lives and, in some cases, how the future will look like comes very naturally to us. We always have a plan. Be it finishing a course, managing a successful business venture, or deciding what we will have for dinner, there is a sense of power in knowing what to expect.
But in March 2020, all that changed. Suddenly, a never-heard of the disease started killing people, if I may say, almost whimsically. Almost felt like it was a common cold. After all, the symptoms were pretty much the same, right? But little did we know that what seemed like ‘just another flu’ would completely change life as we know it.
COVID-19 halted life on a scale that was never seen before. As millions and millions of people worldwide shut themselves inside their houses, they also opened their minds to a new kind of fear – the fear of the unknown. Uncertainty became a constant in all our lives. Some feared not knowing how to earn enough money, while others feared not knowing if their loved ones would ever come back from hospitals. All these bottled-up emotions and no outlet to channel them led to 1 in 3 people getting severely depressed (3 times higher than normal times). Yes, COVID Blues is not just FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out) but is as real as it can get!
Lockdowns, Isolation, and Depression – The Helpless, Hopeless Cacophony of Life in a Pandemic
Humans are social animals. They have an inherent need to connect with other members of their social group. Social interaction is not a secondary need but is essential for a healthy life. It is because of this reason that social isolation is used as a punishment technique! But lockdowns and social isolations come as a package deal with COVID-19.
As a preventative measure, Governments all over the world are encouraging people to stay indoors. But not only do these lockdowns confine the people indoors, but they also shut out a big part of what makes them humans – the need to share happiness and sadness with others. Studies have shown that mental health diseases like depression, PTSD, and anxiety are becoming one of the biggest and likely, long-term problems caused by the pandemic. In addition to COVID-19, people are now trying to cope up with the ill effects of these mental disorders.
“I miss meeting my friends. Am I depressed?” – Identifying the Telltale Signs
The most important thing about mental disorders is that there are no fixed triggers. Each one of us reacts differently to even the same situations. While some of us can manage not going out every day, maybe even enjoy the ‘me’ time that comes with lockdowns, others find it extremely difficult to cope. However, years of research in the area have pointed out some of the common signs associated with clinical depression that you should watch for:
- Not feeling like yourself or you don’t enjoy activities you previously loved.
- Feeling of guilt and restlessness as if something terrible is going to happen, but you don’t know what.
- Experiencing episodes of extreme rage, feeling more irritable by even trivial things.
- Not feeling like talking to friends, skipping family times at home, or ignoring messages from loved ones.
- Change in sleeping patterns, insomnia, or the feeling of not doing anything all day.
- There is a sudden weight gain or loss triggered by stress-eating or a loss of appetite.
- ANY thought of self-harm.
Please keep in mind that not everyone experiences sadness or guilt in the same way. Also, people who are not clinically depressed may show some or all of these signs at some point in their lives, more now than ever before. So instead of looking for just the signs, it is best to keep track of the number of days you feel a certain way.
A general rule of thumb is that if you experience episodes of these symptoms for 14 consecutive days, with each day becoming harder, you are likely to suffer from depression. In a situation like this, please don’t hesitate to seek help. You will be surprised to know how many others are feeling the same way!
Depression or not, how to cope with COVID-related fatigue?
When in despair, look not at clouds but the silver lining accompanying every single one of them! The world may be in a crisis mode, but that doesn’t mean you need to as well. Do not let yourself think about all the bad things happening around you for more than a few minutes in a day. Instead, counter all the negative thoughts by doing good. When we feel gratitude, our body releases dopamine and serotonin – the feel-good hormones. Here are some other ways in which you can cope up with the feelings of despair:
- Follow a daily routine and make it as close to your pre-COVID routine as possible.
- Put a stopwatch on how much time you spend watching the news or social media- don’t binge on COVID news!
- Bring that yoga mat out and get more involved in physical activities (in compliance with government restrictions).
- Avoid late nights (unless your regular work routine calls for it). Instead, try to maintain a healthy sleeping schedule.
- Do the opposite of what your body tells you to do. So, if you ‘feel’ like sleeping all day, pull yourself up and exercise. Once you are doing it, you will realize it wasn’t so bad in the first place.
- Give yourself achievable goals (learn a new language, finish that book you were reading). The more you focus on things you can control, the less you will fear the unknown!
But if nothing else works, don’t shy away from reaching out to professionals. It is OK to not feel OK. But it is not OK to not ask for help if you feel things are getting tough. With this, here’s hoping the future will be free of COVID-19 and its atrocities very soon. Sending happy thoughts!