By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News
According to a survey by the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, more than a third of all Americans have been experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression during the coronavirus pandemic.
Let’s face it: things are pretty tough right now. Thousands of Alabamians are facing job insecurity while also trying to navigate a global pandemic. Perhaps you have loved ones sick from COVID-19. Perhaps you’re worried about being in public and possibly contracting the coronavirus. Maybe you’re just tired of being cooped up at home so much. Whatever your situation, it’s imperative to remember that there are healthy ways in which you can manage all these stressors.
I talked with my psychiatrist, Dr. Amanda Williams of Gardenia Cove, about what she’d suggest people do to help deal with these tough times.
Will Whatley: What would you suggest people do to be social while still adhering to social distancing guidelines to ward off issues like anxiety and depression?
Dr. Williams: Of course there’s video calls and Zoom but it’s also a great time to chat with neighbors in the driveway (even if we usually tend to scurry inside and avoid them) or reconnect with old friends and family you may not usually make the time to reach out to. It can also be helpful to connect with those in difficult circumstances right now – writing cards to people without family in the hospital or nursing homes.
Will Whatley:Do you think there are any positives that can come out of such times where people have to avoid social interaction? If so, what are they?
Dr. Williams: In the midst of the chaos and loss, I’m hopeful that this time teaches us the importance of slowing down, reprioritizing our obligations and strengthening our relationship with ourselves.
Will Whatley:What are some things people can do to ward off things like anxiety and depression while still adhering to social distance guidelines?
Dr. Williams: Lean into the leisurely side of life. We are programmed to be productive and efficient all the time. Now we have the opportunity to find new things we enjoy, and do them just for the sake of enjoyment:
- Go for a drive, get out of the house.
- Exercise as able.
- Be in nature and soak up the sun – sitting in the shade outside, going for a run, gardening or playing soccer.
- Stay in the moment – when you get to worrying about “What If?” – reframe the thought into “What Is?”
- Reach out to family, friends, or professionals if you feel overwhelmed, disconnected, fearful or distraught.
Will Whatley:What sort of things should people avoid during such trying times?
Dr. Williams: During this time, it’s important to give yourself a lot of grace – our community is full of pain, our health, jobs, social networks and lifestyles have all been disrupted. It’s okay to have bad days, but avoid guilt. Watch for unhealthy habits creeping in, such as drinking too much, over-spending, drug use, and using food to cope. Most of us are a little more on edge than usual, and possibly tired of our spouses/family, but avoid unkind words you cannot take back.
Personally, I think it’s also a good time to pick up a new hobby or work on an old one. Whether it’s painting, writing, gardening or working on your golf game, there are plenty of things we can do that will give us an escape and take our minds off the world’s madness, even if it’s just for a little while. Maybe you want to volunteer? Lord knows we all can use some good in our communities right now. But even things like a quick walk or listening to some good music can bring us a little calm in the chaos.
Whatever you’re feeling, just remember that old adage: “tough times don’t last, tough people do.” Let’s show this mess how tough we can be.