Pandemic Fatigue and Depression
I’m exhausted – emotionally, physically, and mentally. I am tired of all the fighting about politics, pandemic information, racial tensions, and masks, yet I continue to ‘Doomscroll,” which isn’t helpful. I tend to either not sleep enough or want to sleep too much. One of the ways I handle stress is by baking, but I have now baked and consumed so many pandemic cookies that even my yoga pants and T-shirts are screaming for mercy. The anxiety stage of COVID-19 is in my rear-view mirror, and I’m driving on the low-grade depression highway.
I didn’t have a name to pin on what I was going through, but I knew it wasn’t good. Depression isn’t a new experience for me. I’ve battled the “Big D” a few other times when I was going through painful, life-altering situations such as divorce and my mother’s terminal illness. But the symptoms I’ve been having aren’t the ones I recognized as depression. I still get things done (although in a less timely manner), function well enough throughout the day, and I’m not crying or irritable. I don’t feel sad; I don’t feel much of anything; I’m almost numb to emotions.
I thought I was alone in my weird “blah” feelings, until last week, when I read Michelle Obama’s description of how she was feeling. I connected with her story one hundred percent! I read the symptoms of what qualifies as low-grade depression, and I checked almost every box. It felt somewhat validating to know other people are feeling the same things I’m experiencing. It turns out I am far from alone. A survey conducted in June by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that more than thirty percent of Americans are having symptoms of anxiety or depression related to the pandemic. I wouldn’t be surprised if that number hasn’t risen in correlation with positive cases of COVID-19.
Some of the symptoms of low-grade depression include:
- Sleeping too much or not enough
- Eating too much or not enough
- Feeling numb, or just that “blah” feeling
- Trouble focusing
- Feeling hopeless about the future
As Michelle Obama pointed out, some of the tactics that help alleviate depression include keeping a routine, making sure you get some exercise every day, eating healthy, and finding a safe way to have meaningful social interactions. I find myself to be much more upbeat on the days I resist looking at social media. Facebook can be a fun form of social interaction, but on the dark side, it can also become a rabbit hole of depressing posts and hateful arguing. I try to walk the fine line between staying informed but not letting myself become obsessed with ruminating over every gloomy news item.
Getting outside early, before it gets too hot, helps my mood. Some days I have had to force myself to walk out the back door and sit at my patio table for ten minutes, but I’m always happy I did it. To combat the sense of social isolation, I’ve become a letter writer and a telephone talker. In an earlier blog about anxiety, I discussed some helpful tips that may apply to depression also.
Dealing with the unknown is hard for all of us, but it may be especially tricky for people who are planners. I’ve never been good at drifting through life; I want to set goals and establish a clear-cut path to reach those goals. Some people might call label this behavior as “control freak,” but I prefer to think of it as “goal-oriented.” This need for productivity has led me back to old-fashioned paper and pen list-making. I need to feel a sense of accomplishment, even if some of the things on the list are items such as get out of bed, make coffee, and feed the cats. It feels good to check off the boxes, the cats are content, and everyone around me is happier if I have my coffee.
Uncertainty seems to be the only certainty during this time of our lives. If you’re struggling with feelings of depression that are becoming overwhelming, make sure you take the proper steps to get help (listed below). There is hope for the future; we will get past this. I keep playing the song from Annie through my mind, “Tomorrow, tomorrow I love you tomorrow, you’re only a day (or in this case, maybe a few more) away.” The sun will come out again, but if you need help until it does, don’t be afraid to reach out and get it!
Don’t be ashamed if you’re feeling symptoms of anxiety or depression. We’re in unchartered territory and these are fairly common reactions to an uncommon situation. If you, or your children, are experiencing anxiety or depression due to the Corona Virus, please get help. Contact your physician, a counselor, or COPES. Family & Children’s Services is now offering easy, 24/7 telephone help through our Community Outreach Psychiatric Emergency Services (COPES) Team for those having a hard time coping and adapting during this pandemic. Our trained mental health professionals are ready to support and help you alleviate anxiety and stress. Call 918.744.4800 any time of day or night for help.
National Suicide Hotline
Go to their website, suicidepreventionhotline.org or call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)