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Mental Health Recovery After a Personal Catastrophe

It's Okay to be Less Than 100% Under Coronavirus Stress

How I'm Managing Coronavirus Stress with Bipolar 2

How I'm Coping With the COVID-19 Pandemic And Depression

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The COVID-19 Pandemic has caused me to struggle with certain aspects of my depression more than I usually do, but I'm trying to cope in healthy ways. If you're also having trouble coping with your depression during this difficult time, maybe some of these ideas can help you, too.

Too Much Isolation

I know we need to stay home during this time. I am practicing that and hoping others do the same during this COVID-19 Pandemic. It does become a challenge, though, because some people begin to struggle with feeling isolated. With my depression, I have a tendency to self-isolate anyway, but this is not healthy for me. I become withdrawn and can spiral down into a major depressive episode. For this reason, I am making a conscious effort right now to participate in as much interacting with other people as is possible and safe. For example, I talk with and spend time with my husband and children in my home. I am participating in online meetings and have even leaped out of my comfort zone to host an online book club. I'm also spending time outdoors. I find being in nature especially soothing and peaceful during this stressful time we're currently facing. The more I can keep myself active, the less time I have to self-isolate, which is especially important right now, since I'm already isolated from others as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Too Many Thoughts

One symptom of depression I deal with is catastrophizing, which is when I think something is or will be much worse than it actually is, or when I imagine the worst-case scenario. As you can probably imagine, this depression symptom has been kicked up a little due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. I've coped with catastrophizing during this pandemic in two ways. The first is distraction and the second is creativity. I've distracted myself through music. I've listened to songs from my middle school years, my high school years, and my college years. I've listened to playlists for novels I'm teaching. I've used television, movies, books, my dogs, baking, cleaning, and organizing as distractions. All of these things have helped me cope with my depression during the COVID-19 Pandemic, and I will continue to use them to distract myself as long as it takes. Tapping into my creative side is also helping me get through this time. I have been painting and sketching. I've been writing poetry and taking photographs. I've also rediscovered my passion for nature study, which is what fueled my sketching and photography ventures over the past week. When I get involved in a book or movie or in a painting or sketch, I want my brain to focus on that one task. I make sure to choose something that I think I can get totally lost in so that my mind is less likely to wander back over to the COVID-19 Pandemic. I've found both distraction and creativity to be very effective tools for me to use against catastrophizing.

Too Much Period

With this COVID-19 Pandemic situation, sometimes I've just had too much in every aspect. There's too much information. I feel confused. The number of cases and fatalities continue to rise. I am heartbroken and feel helpless. My husband is a nurse at a local hospital. I worry about his health and safety daily. It all gets to be too much for me sometimes, and I feel the panic rising up inside. When this happens, my first step is to practice proper breathing. Once I have my breathing under control, then I practice grounding techniques. I remind myself of what I learned in therapy. I can only control my actions. I have made a conscious effort not to watch the news. I will check updates on my phone once a day or ask my husband if there's something I absolutely must know. I am also making sure to take time to practice extra self-care during these days.

While the COVID-19 Pandemic has made it more challenging to cope with depression, I have found some ways to make it more manageable. What have you found that's helping you cope with your depression during this difficult time?

 

Challenges Women Face in Addiction Recovery

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Pursuing and surviving sobriety is no easy feat, and for women in addiction recovery, the challenge can feel even more strenuous. Addiction of any kind can touch the lives of just about everyone no matter our racial, ethnic, or religious background, however, the fight to stay sober might look different for different individuals pursuing recovery. Due to numerous unfair gender roles and expectations society places on women, many female addicts often feel as though getting help is simply not an option. Because women are often obligated to be caretakers for friends, children, parents, and grandparents, many of them are too wrapped up with the challenging responsibility of caring for others, leaving little or no time to care for themselves.

I've been reminded continually throughout the month of March, which has graciously been named Women's History Month in the United States, how crucial it is that we care for all women, especially those impacted by addiction and mental health. On March 8 especially, commonly known as International Women's Day, many of us rally together to support women, advocate for women, and pursue a better future for women of all shapes, colors, and sizes. However, I believe that caring for women, especially women in need should extend far beyond the month of March.

Addicted Women Desperately Need Support

Female recovering addicts are often barred from receiving the social, mental, and emotional support they need in recovery due to so many societal expectations, unfair gender roles, and the inability to take time off. Some women are so consumed with life responsibilities that they don't even bother to pursue recovery at all. While others would love to seek out sober supports but aren't given the time or ability to due to a lack of time, lack of finances, or an inability to find proper childcare to attend rehab or even a single recovery meeting.

With all this said, if you know a recovering mom, friend, grandma, neighbor, aunt, coworker, or cousin who needs support, I want to encourage you to reach out and give them a helping hand. Even something as simple as helping to provide proper childcare or finding a good therapist can go a long way for a woman in need.

Even though Women's Day has passed, there is so much work to be done for women everywhere. Let's do better to lift each other up and look for the good in one another. Have some compassion not just for the women you love, but for all women and at all times.

How the COVID-19 Pandemic Affects My Schizoaffective Anxiety

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COVID-19, or coronavirus, is taking a toll on my schizoaffective anxiety. I haven’t heard voices because of the stress (thankfully), but this is a case where I can’t tell myself I’m worried about nothing, because everyone else in the world is freaking out about the same thing I am.

Schizoaffective Anxiety and Panicking About COVID-19

I’m not that worried for myself, because I’ve been able to stay at home, although I was worried yesterday when I developed a slight cough. It’s gone away.

I’m worried about my parents because my dad is sick already (not with COVID-19) and my mom is a professor, though she is now working remotely from home. I’m also worried about my husband Tom because he works full-time at a bank, which is open. I know everyone says to stay at home, but some people can’t. Being able to stay at home is a privilege, though I am used to doing this. I know, for many, the new routine is isolating.

Because of my schizoaffective anxiety, I’m always looking for something to panic about even on a good day. Well, as I said at the beginning of this article, everyone is panicking about COVID-19. I just have to take it easy and prioritize. The most important thing I have to do today is to write this article, so right when I woke up, I got ready to write it. I also have a phone call with my sister, Laura, later today, so I wanted to be sure to have this written by then.

Schizoaffective Anxiety and the Fear Surrounding COVID-19

Staying at home isn’t hard for me. I work from home, and I stay in most of the time anyway because my schizoaffective anxiety makes it hard for me to go out. However, last week I did take the train to a therapy appointment. A young kid was sitting across from me. He coughed right in my direction and didn’t cover his mouth. I've been paranoid I got the coronavirus from him ever since, especially yesterday when I developed a cough.

Luckily, my therapist changed my therapy appointments to phone appointments, so I don’t have to worry about taking the train anymore. (My schizoaffective anxiety makes me feel afraid to drive.)

Tom and I went out to eat on Saturday. My parents went out to eat at a different restaurant, too. We were all happy we did because, the next day, it was announced that all restaurants and bars had to close down dining in. But then I was still scared we’d made a mistake in going out. It’s hard to feel sure of anything right now.

The fear surrounding COVID-19 has made my general schizoaffective anxiety worse. Again, I thank my lucky stars I haven’t heard voices. All the little things I’ve written about in the past that my anxiety latches onto are worse. I’ve been asking my loved ones for reassurance about things I’m worried about. I thought I’d gotten over that. But, in some ways, living through an actual crisis has made me realize what really matters. I just hope I and my loved ones make it out of this, and I hang onto the lessons I’ve learned.

Replace Anxious Thoughts with Grateful Thoughts

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Anxious thoughts can be overwhelming, crushing, and exhausting. Cognitive-behavior therapy and other similar therapies teach that anxious thoughts are frequently more problematic than an actual anxiety-provoking situation. Problems do exist--we aren't making them up--but what causes us great stress and anxiety is how we think about the problem. When it comes to reducing anxiety, this is a very good thing that we can use in our favor. Often, we can't change a situation that is causing anxiety. We can, however, affect our thoughts about this and any other circumstance that contributes to anxiety. We can even replace anxious thoughts with different, realistic, centered thoughts and ideas. Here's a look at replacing anxious thoughts with grateful thoughts. 

The Benefits of Changing Anxious Thoughts to Grateful Thoughts

In changing our thoughts about a problematic situation, we don't change the situation. It's tempting to think, then, that bothering with our thoughts is a waste of time. If we can't fix a problem, why waste time and energy on our thoughts about it? As it turns out, changing our thoughts makes a very big difference to our anxiety and our overall mental health and wellbeing. By replacing anxious thoughts, in this case with grateful ones, we:

  • Shift our focus to what is right rather than what is wrong
  • Gain some space between ourselves and the problem (we see there are other things than just the situation)
  • Give ourselves the power of choice (we might not be able to choose our circumstances, but we can choose our response)
  • Free ourselves to take action (rather than being paralyzed in fear and anxiety, we can act to increase the good)

Gratitude itself is powerful. Being grateful means pausing to appreciate what is good in your life. It doesn't get rid of the bad and the anxiety-provoking, but it does open you to new thoughts, ideas, and possibilities. Appreciating the good keeps the bad from overwhelming us. 

Is Gratitude Possible Amidst the COVID-19 Scare?

At the time of this writing, the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping the world, and a lot of things are happening that are out of our control, and there is a great deal of uncertainty about the future. Both the lack of control and the lack of certainty are causing anxiety to skyrocket. Unfortunately, we can't change the situation, and this knowledge can contribute to a sense of helplessness. Pausing to be grateful won't eradicate the virus, put supplies back in stores, or return our freedom of movement. That said, cultivating a sense of gratitude is more important now than ever. 

By taking time every day to pause and take stock of all the good that still exists, we keep our sanity and our very humanity. Life isn't bad. In fact, it happens to contain a lot of good, even now. However, it's hard to remember that when there is so much going on that is truly frightening. That's why pausing to reflect and focus our attention is crucial for our wellbeing. It returns a bit of balance and stability and brings a sense of peace and contentment when we realize that some things, some very good things, still exist around us and within us. 

Someone in my neighborhood had the idea to have everyone put a teddy bear in a front window. That way, when children are outside walking with their parents (that's allowed in my state even though just milling around in public is now a misdemeanor), they can spot the bears. It's a cute little game that brings smiles to children. It's not a medical cure. It doesn't end the isolation. But it is a way of remaining connected and showing children that the world still has teddy bears. And that is something I'm grateful for. 

I invite you to tune into this video. I share one of my meditations, one that involves changing anxious thoughts to grateful thoughts. It something that has always helped me, before the pandemic and now. I hope you, too, find it helpful. 

Dealing With Depression at Work During the Coronavirus Isolation

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So here's the thing: the Coronavirus has made our planet its home for a while now. Although it showed up in December 2019, it is only in the month of March that we have decided to take it seriously. To contain the virus, many countries have prohibited people from leaving their homes and practice social distancing instead. This has naturally taken on a toll on the mental health of extroverts and ambiverts. And over time, it will affect introverts too (if it hasn't already). I speak from experience because I am an introvert whose depression has already worsened due to the lockdown. Let me elaborate. 

Working From Home Was Normal for Me

For personal reasons, I have been exclusively working from home as a writer from 2017 to date. I usually don't go out much, maybe once in seven or ten days. I used to go for a daily morning walk but stopped it a while back as my sleeping patterns changed. Still, since I live with my family, I don't feel lonely and I like being able to work by myself. This isolated lifestyle suits me as an introvert, so I thought this situation wouldn't affect me much. Well, I was wrong and how! It has only been twelve days since I last left home and I have been yearning to go out since day four. I guess it boils down to basic human psychology - sometimes, we want something just because it is forbidden to us. That's the only explanation I have for my newfound urge to go out every single day.

Yet The Lockdown Has Made Me Feel Like a Bird in a Cage

Honestly, I am feeling trapped, like a prisoner who has been placed under house arrest. I even feel suffocated from time to time, irrespective of whether the windows are open or shut. And simply standing in my balcony barely makes a difference. I am easily irritable and bored. I've got cabin fever alright, and it's worsened my depression. My productivity has gone to the dogs (I am submitting this article a day late and I have missed other clients' deadlines as well) and it's really difficult to get out of bed. I would give anything to see a puppy up close or smile at a kind stranger. But I am tired of complaining about it because not only is it a waste of time, this 'stay home' situation is unlikely to change anytime soon.

The Best Solution to These Depressing Times Is to Focus on the Things You Can Control

Way too many well-meaning but ignorant people are pushing the 'be positive' ideology on anyone who dares to admit they are feeling low or depressed. What they don't realize is that their advice is meaningless because a) people are stressed for good reason and b) depression robs you of the will to think positively. And as it gets worse, it takes away your energy and zest for both work and play. Ultimately, you feel mentally and physically drained and have nothing to look forward to. I got a taste of that as I had an extremely bad mental health day yesterday: I was unable to get out of bed for the most part of the day and felt angry and helpless. So when I felt a little better today, the first thing I did was make a list of ways to deal with 'coronavirus depression' that would help you and I. Because let's face it, not everyone is lucky to work from home, companies are shutting down, and it is imperative for us to do the best work we can to keep our clients and/or jobs. 

Watch the video below to know what I came up with to control depression

 If you have any tips, hacks, and coping mechanisms of your own, do share them in the comments below. Today, more than ever before, it is important to not leave depression untreated because it is natural to feel hopeless and lonely under these circumstances. And depression may result in suicidal ideation and consequently, suicide attempts and death. Make sure you stay virtually connected with as many people as possible, especially if they live by themselves or have been quarantined. 

Around the world, all of us are going through a stressful and challenging period. It is important that we try our best to be kind and compassionate to not just our friends and family, but also to those who are less privileged than us. Let's not forget to take care of our plant and animal friends too. We are all in this together. And remember, history is proof that when we come together as one, we humans are able to survive the most adverse conditions.

Coping with Anxious Thoughts About Coronavirus (COVID-19)