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How the Pandemic Can Trigger Depression

Five ways to avoid the quarantine blues.

Source: Anthony Tran/Unsplash
Source: Anthony Tran/Unsplash

Whenever tragedy strikes, people often reach out for emotional support. Communities come together, religious groups gather, family and friends unite. Such healthy relationships lift us, infuse us with courage, and give us strength.

When we're confronted by shared suffering, human contact is healing. It awakens our humanity and triggers self-reflection. Frequently, a crisis causes us to put away petty concerns and value life more. As a wise man once said, gratitude is born of suffering.

For example, after September 11th, the island of Manhattan became an endless memorial. New Yorkers took to the streets and cried together. They created works of art, lit candles in parks, sang songs in memory of their loved ones. I remember hugging strangers on a city bus and weeping with local business owners on my street. "We'll get through this," we told each other as we embraced and wiped our tears. Such physical displays of affection meant the world to me. Nearly 20 years later, I can still feel their warmth.

The social distancing of the coronavirus doesn't allow for such contact. We can't hug or touch. We miss being in the presence of our loved ones. Houseguests are banned, family events are canceled, dinners or lunches with friends are forbidden. Many of us are isolated and feeling more alone than ever. (See "How to Lower Your Coronavirus Anxiety.")

Isolation fuels depression

While younger people can make use of technology for video visits or gatherings, older people are less likely to know how to use such technology. Additionally, since they are the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, they are less likely to ask for help.

Depression breeds in isolation as worries about the future eat away at our sense of well-being.

Quarantine tools to help you get by

The New York Times recently ran a wonderful article entitled "How We Got By." The article features interviews with people who survived horrible situations and survived, such as the sudden death of a loved one, losing a job at the same time as a marriage ending, surviving homelessness, and being held as a political prisoner.

The survivors of these events not only got by; they also turned their stories around and found a way to thrive. Here's what these brave souls recommended:

1. Learn a New Skill

Tackle a skill you always wanted to learn. Learn an instrument, enroll in an online course, take a writing class. Any new task is welcome. After all, you have the time, right?

2. Immerse Yourself in Reading

Reading offers an emotional and psychic escape. You can read books online, order new publications, or take books out of the library virtually. A good murder mystery or a biography of a favorite celebrity can add an extra dose of fun.

3. Create New Routines

Stick to your regular routines, such as exercising, keeping a consistent sleep schedule, and maintaining personal hygiene. Add special self-care activities, such as watching your favorite movie again, looking through family photos, or reorganizing your closets.

4. Treat Your Situation as an Opportunity

Too busy to add new routines? Not anymore! In this way, quarantine time is a gift. What task have you been avoiding? What about that screenplay that you wanted to write? How about cleaning out that closet? (You know the one.)

5. Reach out

Make time to call friends; reconnect with old high school or college buddies. Now's also a good time to check on elderly neighbors and offer to help them out with shopping, etc. The wonderful thing about altruistic activities is that they raise your spirits, too.

Still not satisfied? See "9 Ways to Cure Your Own Depression."