Breaking Through the Pandemic Blues

So you handled the past year pretty well. You were able to work virtually, you talked to your friends online, and you found satisfaction in things like baking, reading, and listening to virtual concerts. You even felt that you had turned a corner as the weather began to improve, and then – WHAM! – you suddenly didn’t care if you got things done. You slept more than you should, and let the bills go unpaid. You stopped returning phone calls from friends, and couldn’t concentrate enough to read a newspaper article. None of your social media connections seemed important anymore, and even the thought of a new normal where you can go out with friends unleashes anxiety.

You, my friend, have the pandemic blues. If you were depressed before, it is possible that this has hit you sooner than your friends, but even for people who are usually high functioning, it’s like being dragged under a big black wave. So, what can you do to deal with this thing…it is not quite depression and not really an anxiety disorder, but you cannot ignore it because you have to get back to a reasonably functional, hopefully, happy life? Well, here are some suggestions that may help. Not all of them will work for everyone, but if even one or two are effective for you, it means you will be on the track to feeling better.

For starters, don’t keep trying to push your bad feelings down. You need to acknowledge them, give them a name, and recognize that you might be feeling angry, or frustrated, or sad. It is normal to feel many different negative feelings during this time, and just the act of naming the feelings is a start.

Push yourself to respond to calls from friends, and if you can, make a list and call one friend a day. You do not have to have a long conversation – after all, we are all saying we haven’t done much – but just checking in and asking, “How are you doing?” takes you outside yourself and focuses you on someone else.

Make an effort to push back the video and zoom fatigue that the pandemic has created. You may still have to be on zoom for your work, but try something other than Netflix and Amazon Prime Videos for entertainment. Do puzzles with family members, try a crossword puzzle, or play cards – anything that gets you away from a television or computer screen.

You have been having everything delivered and have become Amazon’s biggest customer – so now is the time to stop it. Do go to the supermarket, and even to the little corner store. You can wear your mask, and socially distance, but just getting out of the house and breathing the outside air will wake up your senses.

In fact, while you are outside, why not consider a walk around the block. Take a look at all the things that are in bloom and the buds that will be flowers and leaves any day now. In addition to paying attention to nature, you can get some exercise and remember that there is a world outside of your house.

Mindfulness, paying attention to what you are feeling and doing now, without judging yourself, can also be a help. You can walk mindfully, eat mindfully, and even breathe mindfully. There are many mindfulness exercises available online, and now is a good time to investigate these techniques that can help. Remember that nothing is permanent, not even the way you feel and that even though uncomfortable things happen, they will change. Our thoughts, our feelings, and our experiences are in constant flux if only we pay attention to them.

Try to pay things forward and be kind to those who are less fortunate than you are. It is easy during the pandemic to donate to a shelter or food bank, or work a few hours at one. Being kind to others is also a way to be kind to ourselves.

These are only some suggestions. Try making a list of what you think will help you break through the pandemic blues. You will be surprised at how many ideas you can generate that can get you going and keep you feeling better.