Since the 21 day national lockdown was announced, we’ve been attempting to self-isolate at home as a nation. And by now, cabin fever is starting to set in. Feelings of depression during lockdown are not uncommon – we may feel frustrated, alone, and anxious. For the first time ever, we are prohibited from seeing friends or spending real quality time with extended family. Moreover, we’ve had plenty of time to reflect on life as we know it. Here, we round up some useful tips on how to deal with feelings of depression.
First of all, it’s important to forgive yourself for feeling down. We are living in extraordinary circumstances and having to navigate the unknown. You don’t need to have started twenty hobbies or have done 150 crunches daily. Acknowledging your feelings and giving yourself space to feel them is really important.
Staats Van Rooyen, a Pretoria-based psychologist, notes that self-acceptance is key to your successful navigation of the lockdown. He says that you should be honest with yourself and those around you. He also recommends practising mindfulness and using this time to reconnect with yourself.
Additionally, he argues that the following mantra is important: “I can’t control it, but I also won’t let it control me.” We cannot control lockdown, but we can control how we respond to it, and that is hugely empowering.
Here are some of the ways Staats notes you can successfully navigate depression during lockdown.
Reframe your lockdown outlook
This is key since it’s the first hurdle of lockdown. We feel stuck. It’s not a great feeling to know that you can’t just pop to the shops or have a drink with friends.
A hint of perspective is helpful here. It’s a good idea to reframe, “I’m stuck inside” to, “I can finally focus on my home and myself”. It’s easy to get stuck in the busyness and chaos of normal life that we often neglect self-care and reflection. For the first time in ages, you can shift your focus from the external to the internal.
Staats suggests you keep a journal.
“Take some time everyday to put your thoughts to paper. It’s good to get the negative thoughts out, but remember to also take note of at least one positive thought daily. In the front of your journal, pen your positive thoughts. In the back, you can share the negatives. You’ll soon see that there are positives to this situation, like any other,” he says. Sharing your thoughts and focusing on the positive is key to overcoming depression during lockdown.
Additionally, you can get to those pesky tasks that have been bothering you for ages. You can reorganise your messy drawers, wash those dusty tablecloths, and watch that movie you’ve heard such good things about. It’s a government-mandated call to slow down – so use it. You aren’t stuck at home; you’re being given time to refocus.
Avoid excessive COVID-19 coverage
Yes, really. While it is important to stay on top of things, it can easily spiral into a panic-fuelled scroll through your news site of choice. Just breathe. Staats says, “It’s important that you recognise that much of the news we consume is sensationalised and intensified. It’s good to be aware of what’s happening in the world, but recognise that it is sometimes dramatised. It can be very anxiety-provoking, so keep a close eye on your news consumption.”
Limit yourself to one or two checks per day – maybe one over your morning coffee and one after dinner. Getting totally absorbed by the pandemic coverage can be a major time-suck and can also lead to heightened feelings of anxiety and depression. Ration your news coverage the way we’re all trying to ration our lockdown snacking.
Moreover, it’s important that you avoid the urge to consult the Internet about every itch or sneeze. And if you simply cannot delay Googling your post-workout ragged breathing, use credible websites. Sites like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Centre for Disease Control (CDC) are always good places to start – if you must…
Be kind to your body
It’s the oldest trick in the book – and that’s because it works. Listen, no judgement if you’ve opened your fridge 20 times more than you’ve opened your laptop… Or if you’ve (finally) ditched the zucchini spaghetti for it’s irresistible carb-y equivalent. Forgiveness, remember? But keep in mind that your body is just as important as your psyche when it comes to depression during lockdown.
When you can, choose healthier snacks over sugary ones, and try your best to cook balanced meals for dinner. Maintaining your routine (as far as possible) is important for your body and your mind. So use the time to try a recipe you’ve been ogling for a while.
And the elephant in the room: exercise. Do what you feel comfortable with. It’s totally okay if you can’t run a 5km fun run after lockdown! In the meantime, you can try a non-strenuous home workout, or if cardio isn’t something you usually do, consider trying some yoga. The endorphins are always welcome, perhaps even more so now. Don’t underestimate the power of a good stretch when it comes to dealing with depression during lockdown.
Reach out to friends, virtually
How good do you feel after a hearty chat with pals? Don’t let lockdown rob you of this simple pleasure. There are plenty of apps that can keep you as connected as possible, and it might help you to make use of them.
Celebrate birthdays, have catch-up drinks, or a conduct good old gossip session from home. It can be difficult to drag yourself out of bed and the thought of catching up with those close to you may seem a bit overwhelming. But making the effort is so worth it.
Like with anything, quality means more than quantity. Swap shallow Facebook likes and complementary Instagram comments for a simple phone call or video chat. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone – literally everyone is dealing with this to some degree. And who knows, maybe some of us actually deepen our relationships because this crisis forced us to use new channels of communication?
Use the resources available to you
If everything is feeling too heavy for you to share with someone close to you, make use of counselling services. Talking things through could be a huge help. Vocalising the fact that you’re struggling is already a major accomplishment and there are plenty of healthcare professionals who will be willing to hear you out.
Staats notes that the lockdown can be a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with your feelings, and this may yield valuable results for your therapy. But you don’t have to try best depression during lockdown alone. While he believes lockdown is a chance to “be your own best friend”, he recommends contacting a professional if feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and sadness become unmanageable.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) does amazing work. They offer free counselling and 24-hour helplines. To contact a counsellor between 8am-8pm Monday to Sunday, call 011 234 4837. You can also reach their 24-hour helpline on 0800 456 789.
If you have a designated psychologist or therapist already, ask if you can do telephonic sessions. Keeping this channel of communication open is a good idea, and having an appointment to diarise may also help you feel a bit more structured.
By Features Writer Ashton Kirsten