Dr. Vance Whippo
As we leave a year filled with anxiety and head into a new year of more of the same with no clear end in sight, everyday activities, and even more so unexpected events can send us over the edge. We are trapped in our homes, working online with little to no physical interaction with others. This does allow for not having to drive to work and deal with the stress of traffic, but even that is a connection of sorts.Human beings are social creatures with a need to be with others. It can have a calming effect to just sit in a coffee shop with people passing by talking on their phones or typing on their computers. Even that stranger who bumps into us as we go about our day or a person who says “good morning” or “hello” can make a difference. The lack of social contact can be devastating for some individuals and lead to depression or even anxiety.
We have been told to reach out to friends and co-workers over face-to-face computer apps or by phone, but this can be exhausting as we spend a good deal of our day already with work. We pull further away from connections and hope to find comfort in binge-watching movie and TV shows, playing video games, drinking, or using drugs.
We find that we become more depressed and long for connections but fear being exposed to COVID-19, police, and military, or extreme viewpoints of those we once admired through social media. The world seems dark, and evil surrounds us. Our thoughts turn to feelings that “life is not worth living.” Depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts are common today, but they don’t have to be, and they are not the answer to our times.
Self Help Techniques for Depression
Being aware of ourselves and our surroundings allows us to find connection with others and appreciation of what there is in our lives. By taking account of the beauty in life or our own breathing, we are focusing on life itself. By being fully present in the moment and not spending too much time in the past or future, we are able to lessen our anxiety and depression.
The typical person with anxiety and/or depression spends more time remembering past events or dreaming of possible future outcomes. We need to be spending far more time in the present, being aware and focusing on our bodies. The mind has a lot to do in how we are feeling emotionally and physically. Being in tune with ourselves allows for better functioning and a brighter outlook on life.
Just like an automobile that sits in the garage and does not get driven, our bodies must get exercise daily in order to function properly. Without exercise our bodies become sluggish and we tend to gain weight. Exercise has other benefits besides movement and maintaining optimum weight.
With a regular exercise plan, our brains function better and we have decreased physiological issues. When we exercise, we feel better, look better, and function better. This has a huge effect on our psychospiritual wellbeing as well. When the body works well, the brain works well and helps to increase serotonin, a key hormone in feelings of well-being, sleep, digestion, and eating. With this increased positive effect, our feelings of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts can be reduced.
Proper eating is essential to a well running body. Just as when you add low grade oil and gas to your car it doesn’t run well, so eating junk food all the time is not conducive to a well running body or mind. Following a nutritionist’s recommendations for your specific needs is important, as not every person requires the same caloric intake. Typically, eating a larger amount of vegetables and limiting sugars is a good choice for all individuals.
Large amounts of sugar can cause spikes which increase energy temporarily, but then decrease just as fast. It is best to maintain a stable level throughout the day to regulate proper burning of calories and too much blood sugar can increase serotonin in the brain that will increase neurotransmitters.
Serotonin and the increase of neurotransmitters typically are a good thing for the body, but too much of them will have the opposite effect of focus and well-being and cause a fog on the brain.
Spiritual Practices/Religious Services
Just as important as the physical and mental aspects of health during this time is that of spiritual practices and/or religious beliefs and activities. Most of us were raised to believe some basic truths, which gave us comfort and helped us to understand our place in this world. The stories we are told as children are meant to develop a moral compass.
Having a compass to follow provides direction and security in our lives. It is something to hold onto when things are not going smoothly. Our use of spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, reading of sacred texts, conducting rituals, serving others, as well as religious services are important. Each of these can maintain a stable place for each of us, no matter if the other things in our life are out of order.
We are creatures created by God to be interactive with others, but find conflict and engagement with others who have different ideas from ours difficult. With the need to wear masks to protect ourselves and others, there are additional challenges, such as knowing if a person is smiling or frowning. Social distancing can provide further issues that we perceive as reasons to avoid people, including the fear of contracting or giving COVID-19 to others.
Social interaction stimulates our brains and our bodies by requiring adaptation and change to varying situations. The lack of social interaction is a key trigger for mental illness. Supportive relationships can help to lessen the likelihood of mental issues as there is a supportive, caring, and positive interaction of ideas, feelings, and physical contact.
There are a number of social interactions that can be carried out to create positive results which are beneficial for us and others such as video chats or talking with others on the phone, playing video games or a board game by mail/email, or volunteering our services in small groups distanced with masks such as a food bank or food preparation. Our families can be the greatest support for socializing, but our friends and neighbors and even a therapist can be just as helpful.
Take the time to use the technology you have to learn a new skill or create something with the help of others over the internet. These are only a few recommendations out of hundreds. What is necessary to take from this article is that depression is directly related to a lack of contact with others and our own self-care.
Just because the world is changing and it is scary, does not mean that we need to be scared, alone, or without hope. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely; we choose which one we want to be. We have many things that can help us, we just need to try them and ask for help when we need it.
Love overcomes all things.
“Home Workstation”, Courtesy of XPS, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Mountain Ride”, Courtesy of Kay Liedl, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Fish”, Courtesy of Casey Lee, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Chessboard”, Courtesy of Jon Tyson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this article are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact one of our counselors for further information.