- As people transition out of the pandemic, they may find themselves experiencing depression.
- Often, this depression arises out of not being able to meet their emotional needs in key areas due to changes wrought by the pandemic.
- Honest evaluation and flexibility can help people find new ways to fulfill their needs for exploration, love, and purpose and reduce depression.
Are you, or someone you know, struggling to cope with depression as we’re transitioning out of the pandemic?
What you (or they) are going through isn’t as uncommon as you might think. According to a recent study published in JAMA Network Open, depression has been three times higher during this pandemic than it was previously.
The researchers also discovered that lower-income groups had an increased risk of getting depressed compared with higher-income groups.
This puts more pressure on those who are already worried about or dissatisfied with their professional lives. It’s a vicious cycle when we’re all trying to balance our personal and work lives with our mental health. Fortunately, there are strategies that can help you survive and thrive during post-pandemic recovery.
The slippery slope that is depression
Perhaps it started out with you feeling a bit more tired than usual. At some point, maybe you began to lose interest in things you used to enjoy. Perhaps you’re having trouble sleeping, or on the flip side, you’ve started sleeping more than you used to.
Depression can manifest in different ways. While some might feel overwhelmed and become increasingly sad, others might think they’re handling things relatively well, only to find that they can’t focus on simple tasks.
There is a whole range of physical, emotional, and mental changes when you’re experiencing depression. One crucial thing you must do is to pay attention to these changes and be ready to take action.
What’s the best way to cope with depression?
Regardless of the everyday pressure we need to deal with in our personal and work lives, we have to remember that human beings have needs that must be fulfilled in order to function. This means that you must identify and address any mental blind spots in yourself around depression, in yourself or others, during the post-pandemic recovery.
You might have heard of Abraham Maslow’s theory of human motivation and the pyramid of needs based on his work. Maslow’s theory included “self-actualization,” or needs that help us achieve our full potential through personal growth.
More recent research by psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman has redefined self-actualization as combining exploration, love, and purpose. A good approach to adapting to the new abnormal in the post-pandemic recovery, and addressing any depressive symptoms, is evaluating your life through the lens of these needs and ensuring that you satisfy them.
A large part of the depression that people may experience comes from refusing to recognize that our needs have changed. We can’t simply go back to the way we used to live our lives after we get vaccinated. Your own and other people’s habits, norms, values, preferences, and goals changed, sometimes dramatically, during the many, many months of the pandemic. You have to recognize that the previous way we fulfilled our needs does not work in our current environment.
Our needs for exploration, love, and purpose remain urgent and paramount. However, we have to learn about these changes within ourselves and others. Then, we need to address these in ways that take into account our current circumstances. Here are some ways we can effectively tackle and meet our needs:
We have a need to explore, learn, and understand the world. Exploration in this sense is driven not by fear and anxiety—such as the watching of regular news briefings on the pandemic—but by the thrill of discovery and curiosity about the novel, the challenging, and the unknown.
Depending on your vaccination status and the number of cases in your state, you might still be staying at home. Still, you have tools to help you address depressive symptoms in post-pandemic recovery.
Studies have shown that physical activities can help ward off depression. You can sign up for online exercise classes. You could also safely exercise outdoors and have access to places where you can maintain social distancing; you can also look into exercising in green spaces.
This second aspect of self-actualization can be manifested by expressing love. The first step, of course, is to express this love towards yourself. If you feel overwhelmed by depression or think that you already need help from a professional, one of the self-care acts that you can do is to look into online therapy and telepsychology, which boomed during the pandemic. You can even check with your company if this is something that they can provide or facilitate.
Next is bestowing love on other people. This means making a positive impact on the lives of others and building up your social connections. Stronger social support networks help address depression.
You can express this love towards your existing relationships. Surprise your romantic partner with an unexpected date night, plan a get-together for your friends, or volunteer to provide virtual companionship to lonely seniors.
The other critical aspect of self-actualization involves developing, refining, and pursuing your sense of meaning and purpose. In the context of the post-pandemic recovery, it’s even more important to proactively seek a sense that you are contributing to something you’re passionate about that’s bigger than yourself, a personal mission of service that offers you fulfillment and contentment.
Some people might find their sense of purpose in taking care of their family and friends, and that’s fine. You might decide to reach out to struggling colleagues, or maybe you could focus on improving your local community. Whatever you choose to do, you should regularly evaluate how much it contributes to your sense of purpose. Revise your activities to help further develop that sense within yourself.
Dealing with depression in the post-pandemic recovery means doing an honest evaluation of your activities and connections. Make sure your needs for exploration, love, and purpose are being met consistently. Taking action now—not later—will help you improve and maintain your mental health during these challenging times.