Dealing with Depression In Isolation


Photo courtesy of Ava Lewis.

My new COVID-19 workspace.

Ava Lewis, Editor in Chief

The sudden changes that the Coronavirus outbreak brought to our lives have been overwhelming and sometimes scary as we navigate the new ways we can live in our enclosed environments. Its unpredictability and ever-changing rules are all too familiar to me as someone who deals on the daily with a delicious cocktail of mental health problems, and the state of the world right now adds another layer to the stresses that affect me and probably so many others within the CCHS community and beyond. 

Despite thriving as an introvert in this less populated situation, as someone with depression, I have to always be careful and watch myself to make sure I’m not sinking into a slump of just eating and sleeping all day or isolating myself more than I have to. For anyone else who has persistent depression or just isn’t doing well sitting all day at home, I’m definitely NOT a trained professional but I do have some ideas of things that have helped me get through the last two weeks and would hopefully help you.

Set an Alarm: Have Something to Wake Up For

One of the hardest things I have to deal with with my depression is getting out of bed, not only in the morning but ever. With nowhere to go or too much stress to deal with, fatigue can easily set in and a nice depression nap can make you think you can escape your troubles at least for a little bit. 

Most of the time, however, this can worsen how you’re feeling and set off your body’s internal clock and send you spiraling. Trying to keep your mind and body on a schedule can do wonders for your mental health and can give you fewer things to worry about. Setting a reasonable wakeup time — 10:30 might be pushing it — and a reasonable time to start winding down will help you to evaluate when you need to get things done during the day and give you time with the people surrounding you to get some social interaction in while you social distance. 

Since it’s hard to look forward to doing online Macroeconomics assignments as soon as I wake up, I like to give myself a reward for getting up that is also something I can look forward to, like making a cup of really nice tea and sitting outside to hear the birds chirping or getting to watch an episode of a favorite show before starting the day. Try to stay awake in the day and asleep in the night, even though it might seem impossible at the moment.

Make A Self Care Checklist

While brushing your teeth or showering might seem like such menial and easy tasks for some, depression can make these tasks or even considering them impossible or anxiety-provoking. It might seem easy to roll out of bed and throw on your third pair of sweatpants, but even with nowhere to go clean hair and clean clothes can leave you feeling more at ease and set you up for a much more productive and healthier day. I have a small collection of Post-it notes on my bathroom mirror to remind me of the things I need to do in the morning to put my best foot forward for the day to come, even down to the specific face wash creams to use. Include something for yourself if you can, like painting your nails or taking a relaxing bath just because you deserve it. 

Also know that you will be okay if you don’t get all these things done and try to keep yourself from letting shame into the equation. It can be easy to sink into self-loathing seeing how easy it is for others to get through what they see as simple tasks but know that it has nothing to do with you and says nothing about your successes and your abilities. Everyone is different and be proud of the little things you are able to accomplish in the face of what you deal with and know there are people just like you that understand.

Take Breaks and Keep to a Schedule

As I’ve said before, a schedule keeps you from straying into depressive or shut off territory, and can keep you accountable for getting the work you need to get done done. Let yourself have ten or fifteen-minute breaks in between assignments to get up and move around, but try to stay focused and remind yourself how much you can relax and feel what you need to feel once the work is over. It’s always better to enjoy the nice weather or a good book without the debilitating stress of work hanging over your head, and it allows you to reward yourself for getting stuff done. 

If you find yourself spiraling and unable to get a certain piece of work done, take a break and a breath and let yourself do something else before going back to that work. It will bring up your confidence and bring you back to being aware that you can do this.

Photo courtesy of Ava Lewis.
Thanks to the green screen powers of Zoom, my friend Chloe poses with Miss Rona herself.

Socialize Despite Distance

Something that has done wonders for me in my own self-isolation is to FaceTime and interact with my friends as much as possible and for a lot of the day. There are so many amazing resources for this that I have been using almost every day to keep myself from going insane indoors and have helped me keep in touch with the people who keep me going every day. 

Using applications like Netflix Party to watch movies with my friends from SIT or using Discord or Zoom to have Journalism meetings or play virtual DnD campaigns — I’m not ashamed — keeps me occupied and interacting with people I love and miss spending time with. Though it’s not the same as seeing them face to face, it’s amazing how comforting a FaceTime call with a close friend can be. Keep each other posted and be there for each other in this weird time.

Going Outside and Getting out of Your Head

If you’re able to, being outside and feeling the sun on your skin can really make a huge difference if you’ve been struggling with seasonal depression throughout the dismal winter we had this year. I would say limit yourself to your yard but just sitting outside to do your online assignments or get some exercise will not only give you Vitamin D but will give you endorphins that can do a lot against whatever your mind is going through. Having a healthy body leads to a healthy mind, so make sure you’re doing what you can to stay healthy and active. 

If you also deal with feeling like you’re stuck in your head or feel out of your body or like you’re dreaming, you might be experiencing depersonalization, something I deal with as a symptom of my depression. Being in such a weird, dream-like situation like this might make you feel out of it, but some good ways to combat this and bring you back to the present moment are meditating with an app like Calm or Headspace or going through a self-check-in with all five of your senses to remind yourself where you are and who you are even in a panicked moment. 

If you have more questions about DPD (Depersonalization Disorder), there are countless online resources as well as insight from one of my favorite artists Dodie Clark who has many videos like this one discussing and destigmatizing the feelings associated with DPD. Knowing you are not alone even in your isolation can hopefully make our time apart from each other a little less crazy.