How to Deal with Anxiety and Depression During Crisis
Mental well-being is important for health and prosperity. It influences how we think, feel, act, handle pressure, identify with others, and settle on decisions. COVID-19 has brought mental health into sharper focus, as we deal with anxiety and depression due to isolation, loss of income, and fear.
Anyone might deal with anxiety or depression during a crisis, but those who experience them as chronic mental health conditions may feel especially powerless. By managing and taking ownership of these emotions, individuals can take steps toward some degree of agency and inner peace.
How individuals with developmental disabilities process crisis
Persons with developmental disabilities typically have a more limited ability to process crisis than other children and adults — it’s almost entirely based on what they know of their own past experiences or relationships to trauma, and the reactions of those around them.
Certain triggers — whether they be auditory or visual — can set off adverse reactions that may be difficult to control. It is imperative that caregivers learn what sets an individual off and how they might demonstrate their distress, or their cues — such as facial expressions, tics, a shift in speech pattern (slowed or quickened, stuttering, etc.), sweating or other physiological responses, etc.
Autistic responses to crisis
Autistic individuals can exhibit great disturbance when routines are disrupted — certainly, a crisis represents a shakeup to the norm. Care managers will do their best to preserve as much of a sense of constancy as possible, even as the environment must necessarily change. It is important to be as concrete as possible in your explanations of what’s happening within the individual’s abilities. One strategy psychologists recommend is social stories, illustrated storybooks that contextualize social scenarios in a tangible, easy-to-comprehend format.
Those with intellectual disabilities or cognitive impairments may not have the capacity to understand the extent or magnitude of a crisis, especially if it is not within their immediate sphere of sensory experience. Explaining in simplified terms (potentially using visual aids or pictures) can help while providing whatever assurance you can. These individuals tend to follow your emotional cues, so appearing calm and composed is paramount.
Individuals who are clinically diagnosed with a depression or anxiety disorder are likely to display amplified symptoms in response to crisis — signs of nervousness, agitation, withdrawal, despair may all intensify. When the crisis is as long and drawn-out as the COVID-19 pandemic, therapy and lifestyle adjustments are critical to avoid dangerous thought or behavioral patterns.
In fact, everyone can benefit from these measures during stressful periods.
How to deal with anxiety and depression in a healthy way
Even during normal times, finding energy and inspiration can be hard for those coping with anxiety and depression. In times of tragedy, things may seem especially negative or hopeless, with nary a silver lining to be found.
The key to coping with anxiety and depression is controlling what you can control, and recruiting the resources to navigate toward your best possible outcome. Here’s how.
Change your attention
Depression creates never-ending negative thoughts in your mind, especially when you’re alone or isolated. So, you can divert your attention by focusing on things that give you enthusiasm, keep you busy, and add a more meaningful purpose to your life. You can start by learning a new hobby that you always wanted to learn, such as learning how to cook or playing an instrument. Perhaps a yearly positivity planner could be beneficial.
Keeping yourself away from negative news can help you — negative and sensational news can fuel anxiety and depression. Instead, either find happiness in your life or make happiness, for example, by spending time in nature, walking, swimming, or riding a bicycle. Set a routine for your day, a schedule for exercising, sleeping, eating, and self-care. A well-organized day lend structure helps you stay busy and engaged.
Above all, show love and gratitude to your loved ones. Because finding hope in a time of hopelessness is essential and keeps a person positive.
Connect yourself with others
The requirement to physically isolate during the pandemic has left many feeling alienated and alone. Even if you can’t interact with others in person, staying connected through video calls, texting, and phone calls can help.
Start with taking time to catch up with your old and long lost friends. Your depression may tell you that you’re not worth their time or they don’t care, but recognize those thoughts for what they are – nonsense. Strengthening and deepening interpersonal connections can go a long way to improving one’s outlook.
Favor deep conversation over small talk. Share your experiences, suffering, and what you’re going through. This will comfort you and help form a trusting bond with others.
Establish healthy habits
A person can easily slip into bad habits especially during a crisis. A healthy lifestyle gives energy, improves mood, and mitigates depression and anxiety symptoms.
Take deep breaths, stretch, or do yoga. Yoga helps to increase body awareness, relieves stress, reduces muscle tension, strain, and inflammation, sharpens attention and concentration, and calms and centers the nervous system. Exercise regularly because it helps to boost up your mood. It helps to improve self-esteem and cognitive functions. Conscious breathing is a simple activity you can do anytime as a respite from negative thought – focus intently on each breath as it enters and leaves your body, settling firmly into the present.
Don’t neglect sleep! Depression and anxiety have a huge impact on the sleep cycle. Sleep helps heal our bodies and brains to consolidate our memories and process information. Lack of sleep is linked to both physical mental health problems. A full night’s sleep helps maintain emotional balance and gives you the energy to stay positive.
A healthy diet is also beneficial in calming depression and anxiety. A diet rich with antioxidants like beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E is good for counteracting the chemical imbalances of depression and anxiety. Consume whole grains and complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and legumes. A protein-rich diet can improve focus and alertness. Omega-3 fatty acids are also considered mood-enhancing nutrients. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can both contribute to anxiousness and unease.
Medications and therapy
Antidepressants can help to balance chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters that affect mood and emotions. These depression medicines can help improve your mood, help you sleep better, and increase your appetite and concentration.
Get online therapy from doctors. Your counselor will guide you and help to maintain your mental well-being.
The COVID-19 outbreak may drag on, but do not let it drag your mental health down with it. Managing your mood and stress should be a priority, not an afterthought. When dealing with a serious mental condition such as anxiety or depression, this becomes even more challenging. Control what you can control (personal habits and routines) and do not be afraid to reach out for the help and treatment you need. If you feel helpless or powerless beyond hope, call on ECCM to connect you to the resources to uplift your spirits and your life.