It has been almost two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread public health measures that have limited or revoked our capability to partake in certain activities. Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a source of stress in many areas, including our finances, relationships with others and ourselves, and overall mental and physical well-being. Many of us will have experienced feelings of sadness, isolation, boredom, and worry at some point during the pandemic. However, when these feelings remain with you for a reasonably long time, you may be experiencing symptoms of the COVID-19 blues or a more serious form of depression. This blog post will explore what the COVID-19 blues are and outline seven ways to overcome these feelings.
What are the COVID-19 blues?
The COVID-19 blues are a form of situational depression caused by dramatic changes to the habits that comprise our day-to-day lives. The following common symptoms of the COVID-19 blues 1:
- Feelings of sadness, loneliness, emptiness or hopelessness
- Feelings of restlessness
- Anger or irritability more than normal
- Withdrawing from things you used to enjoy
- Avoiding talking to friends and family
- Changes in sleep (oversleeping or undersleeping)
- An increase or decrease in appetite
Paying attention to the duration and severity of these symptoms is critical as several of the symptoms are also related to clinical depression and/or anxiety. The COVID-19 blues are often characterized by shorter symptomatic episodes followed by more joyous periods. By addressing signs of the COVID-19 blues early on, individuals can “bounce back” quickly or avoid these feelings altogether. So, what should you do to combat the COVID-19 blues?
1. Increase natural light exposure
Perhaps one of the most approachable tools to fight back against the COVID-19 blues is increasing light exposure. Stepping outside to feel the morning sunshine on your skin and/or working in front of large windows boast more benefits than what meets the eye. Not only is natural light integral to the production of Vitamin D within the body, but it is also said to have significant energizing and mood-boosting properties 2. Vitamin D is also crucial to maintaining a strong immune system, and sufficient levels of the vitamin help protect against flu and other acute respiratory infections 3.
2. Get moving
Exercise, especially outside in the sunshine and fresh air, can profoundly increase an individual’s mood. Whether it be walking, stretching, yoga, running, cycling, resistance training or any other physical activity, moving your body in a way that feels best for you can make all the difference for improving and maintaining your mental and physical health 4. You may even find that you meet friends who share a passion for a particular form of exercise and act as an additional source of motivation and support.
3. Chat with a loved one
Making an effort to maintain and build upon your relationships with friends and family is one of the most critical factors in long-term psychological well-being and happiness 5. Even if you are unable to see loved ones in person, connecting with a video or phone call has the power to significantly brighten your and/or your loved one’s day. Your social ties can also help you cope with stressful times, offering support and a compassionate ear. We could all use a little extra love these days, so make that time to check in with your friends and family.
4. Try something new
Many of us have felt disoriented throughout the pandemic due to unforeseen, sometimes significant, changes to our daily routines. We have lost several of our ‘safe’ day-to-day habits. While this may be an intimidating ordeal, it is also an opportunity to try and enjoy something new while experiencing personal growth 6. Not only does trying something new help you beat boredom, but it also opens the door to a new habit that may bring you joy. Having the courage to attempt a new activity, independently or with a loved one, can surely pull you out of your COVID slump.
5. Eat well
How you fuel your body has a significant impact on your physical health and energy levels, both of which are linked to mental health. A recent article published in Medical News Today outlines that diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats tend to be beneficial for mental health 7. Nutrition can also easily go hand-in-hand with trying something new. The internet is home to thousands of healthy recipes that you can try out, and cooking with friends or family can serve as a fun and uplifting bonding activity.
6. Set boundaries around negativity
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals may have found it challenging to tune out of the news and social media. Numerous media stories throughout the pandemic have been full of negativity and fear, leading to increased anxiety, depression, and acute stress reactions 8. So, how can we each protect our mental health? Creating boundaries to limit social media and/or news consumption is a great place to start. This could look like setting a reminder to exit a media platform after a certain time during the day and instead partaking in a habit that you deem to uplift your mental state. The idea of creating boundaries around negativity also extends to limiting contact with those people who you are not happy to converse with or be around. If you find it difficult to set and maintain your boundaries, talking to a mental health professional may be beneficial.
7. Reach out for help
If at any point the COVID-19 blues feel overwhelming and/or symptoms persist for an extended period and/or increase in severity, then it’s time to get help. At Insight Psychological, our psychologists specialize in treating depression and anxiety disorders. With your therapist, you will discuss your mental health history and complete an assessment to evaluate your condition. Following this assessment, your therapist will use various treatment methods catered to your specific needs to help you overcome your anxiety or depression and reclaim your life. Please get in touch with us, or follow this link to learn more.
Adams, M. (2020, September 17). COVID-19 blues vs. depression: How to tell the difference. MD Anderson Center. https://www.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/covid-19-blues-vs–depression–mood-disorder-how-to-tell-the-difference.h00-159385101.html
Dresden, D. (2020, November 3). What to know about the health benefits of sunlight. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/benefits-of-sunlight#depression-and-sad
Vitamin D. (2022, January). The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/
Get Happy: Why Exercise Can Lift Your Mood. (2021, April 9). Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/get-happy-exercise-can-lift-mood-infographic/
4 reasons friends and family are good for your health. (n.d.). Piedmont. https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/4-reasons-friends-and-family-are-good-for-your-health
Lickerman, A. (2010, April 1). Why new experiences are so important to have. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/happiness-in-world/201004/trying-new-things
McGrane, K. (2021, January 8). Nutrition and mental health: Is there a link?. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/nutrition-and-mental-health-is-there-a-link#Preventing-mental-health-conditions
Davey, G. (2020, September 21). The Psychological Impact of Negative News. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/why-we-worry/202009/the-psychological-impact-negative-news