For many people, the greatly anticipated year of 2020 has not turned out to be what was expected. You may have brought it in with exuberance, joy, excitement and celebration at the turn of a new decade. But before the end of the first quarter, life as we knew it quickly changed and the swift transitions have likely taken their toll on your sanity.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020), the unemployment rate jumped from a modest 3.6% in January 2020 to 14.7% by April 2020. That is an estimated 23.1 million people newly unemployed. It’s likely that the current unemployment rate is even higher and is quickly climbing as businesses have been forced to downsize and restructure their operations based on the impact of CoronaVirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). That in itself is a whole lot to deal with…now add in the impact of schools closing abruptly, colleges ending classes and sending young adults home from dorms, and parents having to work from home (while newly “homeschooling”) with multiple children needing their attention). There’s also seniors in nursing homes that are not allowed to have visitors, essential workers being on constant high-alert about remaining safe and in good health, or persons forced to be distant lovers because they are separated from their significant other during mandated quarantine and social distancing orders. The list of changes goes on and on and it can easily become overwhelming.
Depression and anxiety are experienced by everyone at some point in our lives. Symptoms are likely to increase during times of crisis, but they’re not impossible to manage. Overwhelm should not be the new normal; neither should chaos and uncertainty in multiple aspects of one’s life. Here are a few things to try and gain or maintain your peace when you feel like life is out of your control.
Journal Your Thoughts
There’s probably a lot running through your mind given the current circumstances of society. Getting your thoughts out on paper can help you to sort things out and relieve stress. Organizing your thoughts has a way of making you feel more organized all together. Jotting things down helps to alleviate the mental fatigue caused by holding on to all of your thoughts, plans, to-dos, etc. Eventually you can look back on what you’ve written and may discover some fond memories. One thing is certain, you won’t be where you were when you wrote what you’ll be looking back on and most likely, you will have made some progress.
Move Your Body
When you don’t have much control of what is going on around you, it helps to focus on what you can control. Stepping away from the usual and getting a change of scenery, some fresh air, taking a brief walk, or getting in a yoga session are great ways to improve your mood. Any form of exercise can help to improve your physical and mental health. This is an area where you get to choose… so pick your positive form of release and get moving. Your mind and body will thank you.
Visualization and Focused Breathing
Visualizing is the act of intentionally choosing a thought and focusing on that. It could be an image, a place, or even you mentally creating what you want your future to be. The point of visualizing is to take your mind off of what may be stressing you and taking a mental journey into positivity and peacefulness. While visualizing, you can also focus on your breathing. Focused breathing reduces stress and tension, lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, improves mood, and helps to regulate the body’s reaction to stress and fatigue. Try starting and ending your day with visualization and focused breathing. When you open your eyes you’re likely to have a new and better perspective.
Symptoms of anxiety and depression include excessive worrying, feeling restless or on edge, feeling guilty, worthless, fatigued, having trouble concentrating, anger, irritability, or having suicidal ideations. You may also notice changes in sleep patterns, appetite, unexplained physical pain and urges to take part in reckless and irrational behavior. If you find that you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms and are not able to effectively cope with them, you may benefit from reaching out to a professional.
You don’t have to try and force that smile. If you’re feeling increased symptoms of depression, anxiety, or any form of mental and emotional strain, it is okay to seek professional help. Having someone to help you work through the issues that are too much for you to manage alone is a great way to relieve some of the pressure you may be feeling. Counselors and therapists offer a safe place to share your concerns without judgment. If you experience suicidal thoughts, contact the The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK  or Crisis Text Line (text “START” to 741741). Both are staffed 24/7 by professional counselors.
Unemployment Rate Rises To Record High 14.7 Percent in April 2020. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2020/unemployment-rate-rises-to-record-high-14-point-7-percent-in-april-2020.htm
Written by By Sharon Doe, MFT Intern