6 Ways To Manage Depression & Feelings Of Hopelessness While Isolated In Quarantine

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6 Ways To Manage Depression & Feelings Of Hopelessness While Isolated In Quarantine
Self

During the quarantine and isolation during shelter-in-place protocols due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, everyone is experiencing increased stress, leading to feeling overwhelmed, irritable, depressed, and angry.

You're living with a level of unpredictability that you feel no real power to do anything about. The world outside is unpredictable and you don't know what to believe or who to trust.

There's so much information and disinformation that you’re left anxious about your health, your finances, your job, and your life.

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Trauma starts in childhood.

In childhood, children are traumatized whenever parents are unpredictable or volatile and don’t know what to expect.

Trauma happens when children cannot trust their own parents. And because they're young, they have no control or power over your situation.

These experiences get recorded as trauma in your brain and body. You learn helplessness and react by either protesting or shutting down.

In simple terms, you carry that reactivity for decades. You’re always looking for safety and are hypervigilant to danger.

COVID-19 can trigger some of those survival patterns learned in childhood.

It's for this reason that some people are overwhelmed by anxiety, restlessness, are unable to sleep, and find it hard to stay home.

Others are sinking into depression, shutting down, and becoming lethargic. They struggle to get off the sofa or get out for a walk.

COVID-19 has created similar trauma, in some cases bringing you right back to the feelings you experienced as children. It’s made your life unpredictable.

You cannot trust its course or outcome and you feel helpless over so many facets of your life in the face of it. What can you do?

Fortunately, you're no longer as helpless as when you were young.

It’s important to allow your adult brain the opportunity to choose a response, rather than the familiar reaction learned in childhood.

You can choose to follow some guidelines to help you to manage the fear, anxiety, and depression you feel.

Here are 6 ways to help manage feelings of helplessness or frustration due to isolation during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

1. Organize your day.

It's important to organize my day into what I can do to avoid going into what's called "timeless helplessness."

Find a rhythm and establish a daily routine. Know when you'll wake up, have breakfast, talk to friends, do some work, walk the dog, cook dinner, etc.

Don't let your days just pass by, or you'll experience more malaise and lethargy!

2. Get moving.

Another important tool to fight the feelings of helplessness is mobility.

Physical movement is key. Go for a walk, lift some weights, or practice some movement.

Your body is the one thing you have control over right now. Exercise increases endorphins and dopamine to help you feel better.

3. Get support online.

There are many other tools available online for dealing with strong emotions. For example, there are apps for practicing mindfulness, meditating, praying, and breathing.

You also have access to many helpful professionals guiding you to eat better and to stay healthy by improving your immune system.

There are online workouts and yoga classes to stay active, too.

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4. Connect with your partner.

It’s important to also schedule some time to connect with your partner. Make a ritual for a time to talk, share a meal or cuddle up.

It's easy to feel lonely while your daily lives are disrupted.

Try to use this time to increase your friendship and intimacy with one another. Maintaining your sexual interactions releases feel-good hormones and soothes stress.

Many couples will come together over this crisis. But many others are struggling right now.

They are feeling disconnected and are fighting more. External stressors are causing a lack of patience with one another.

Uncertainty is met with a need to control, which sometimes ends up being a need for your partner to be different.

People who don’t get along are trapped together all day. Police statistics and domestic abuse hotlines are showing a rise in reports around the world for increased domestic violence incidents — as much as 30 percent.

Divorce rates have also risen in Asia, as much as 50 percent, and it’s predicted that the Western world will follow once the crisis is over.

5. Be aware of situational tension.

If you and your partner are experiencing increased tension in your relationship, you may be locked in a power struggle.

Perhaps you're trying to communicate, but your words to one another are filled with judgment, blame, and criticism. This, inevitably, will lead to misery for you both.

Make sure it's your goal to walk out of lockdown together at the end of this time. Don't behave in ways where that won't be possible.

Experience shows that your struggles won’t resolve themselves and may get worse if you don’t address them head-on.

Call a truce if you're both too worked up to communicate civilly.

No criticizing, no ignoring each other, no name-calling, no defensiveness. Now is not the time to be pointing out your partner’s character defects.

Here are some ways to help change the focus:

• Pull up two chairs, face one another and connect with your eyes. Take turns expressing appreciation for one another during this time of crisis.
• Move on to telling one another about the underlying fears that you’re experiencing. Beneath a lot of anger and frustration is fear. Allow yourselves to be vulnerable and to safely express what you’re feeling.
• Describe to one another what resources you’re finding helpful (breathing, walking, reading, praying, baths, cooking, chatting with friends, etc.).
• Get clear about each of your needs for both space and connection.
• Work together to create rituals to support one another.
• Share and celebrate the moments where you’ve seen goodness, hope, beauty and inspiration in the world during this crisis.
• Reach out for online counseling if you are stuck or unable to have a safe connection on your own.

6. Give yourself a break.

You have never dealt with something like this before in a collective way. Each day brings its joys and disappointments.

Work with some of these ideas so that you can not only survive but thrive in this unusual time.

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Mary Kay Cocharo is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in West Los Angeles, California. For more information, visit her website.

This article was originally published at MK Cocharo. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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