Besides acute insomnia, the Coronavirus pandemic has a hefty share of responsibility for a huge uptick in depression and depression related ailments. Just like its evil companion, “Coronavirus insomnia”, “Coronavirus Depression” has skyrocketed and is affecting even people who would have never dreamed this could happen to them. With new variants springing up like little Greek gods of war and chaos, we are all left wondering when this grievous COVID-19 nightmare will end. Uncertainty and confusion can breed stress, distress, despair…and eventually depression in many. Depression is defined by the Oxford language dictionary as “feelings of severe despondency and dejection” or “a long and severe recession in an economy or market”. Both are extremely applicable to the collateral damage caused by the Coronavirus pandemic saga…it seems only a matter of time that an impending cyclical recession is upon us–many countries are already there.
In an overview provided by the Mayo Clinic, they list the symptoms of depression  as ones that “occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:
- Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
- Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches”.
If you are feeling a knot in the pit of your stomach while reading the above list because you find that you are checking off more than a couple if not almost all of the symptoms, take solace in the fact that you are far from alone.
Coronavirus Depression during the Holidays
Depression can be even more of a challenge during holidays–whether they be the fourth quarter holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year; other calendar holidays; or any other auspicious occasion from which our dearly departed loved ones are absent. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) conducted a study and found that “64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse. Approximately 24% of people with a diagnosed mental illness find that the holidays make their condition “a lot” worse and 40% “somewhat” worse.”
The National Alliance on Mental Illness has some additional interesting data regarding the correlation between depression and the holiday season–keep in mind that these statistics are from some years ago, apres the most unprecedented pandemic on record. NAMI reports that “approximately 755 of overall respondents reported that the holidays contribute to feeling sad or dissatisfied and 68% financially strained. 66% have experienced have loneliness, 63% too much pressure and 57% unrealistic expectations. 55% found themselves remembering happier times in the past contrasting with the present, while 50% were unable to be with loved ones”.  Let’s unpack these sad statistics for a moment within the confines -pun intended- of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. I think we can all agree that we are, to varying degrees, “dissatisfied” with the way life has evolved over the past almost two years with lockdowns, restrictions, travel bans, social distancing, and supply-chain debacles to name a few unpleasantries. Because of the aforementioned, many people were forced into isolation or found their support network severely negatively impacted, as everyone battled to keep their own sanity and/or protect themselves from the Coronavirus. As a result, it is fair to say that the 66% figure of people experiencing loneliness and the 50% who said that they were not able to spend the time with loved ones are quite underestimations. As far as people remembering happier times in the past versus our present COVID-19 tainted reality…ding-ding-ding we have a winner yet again! Who doesn’t remember handshakes and hugs without fear of a subsequent hospital stay; or not having to choose between maintaining your health or your employment; or planning a vacation, wedding, or other big event without the imminent fear that it might have to be cancelled at a moments notice? Which brings us to the topic of financial strain. It goes without saying that the Coronavirus pandemic has devastated millions of people’s financial lives. When entire industries (like travel, leisure, and hospitality) and major multinational companies are struggling to stay afloat, finding individual people suffering from money woes is not hard at all.
Let’s end by looking at depression caused by setting unrealistic expectations and feeling too much pressure to present a “Happy Holiday Persona”. Bah Humbug! This is an area in which you can take the reins and garner some control. Start by realizing that this is no ordinary holiday season. New surges in deadly variants–with Omicron being the latest–means that this year’s holiday season could very well look like 2020’s with the COVID-19 virus digging its heels in and getting another firm grip on our health and wellness, while spreading like a California wildfire. Take time to consider what is right for your individual situation–and that of your family, if that applies–and politely decline invitations to large family gatherings or “office” holiday parties if you are uncomfortable with the group vibe. Likewise, be prepared to say “No, thank you” to travel invitations or being nominated to host a holiday event without guilt. When people love you, unconditionally, they will (ideally) understand and respect your decisions. If you can arm yourself with these three little words during this holiday season…No-Thank-You…you have the potential to have to deal with one less item on your depression plate. In other posts, we will continue to explore other self-help options that may assist with coping with depression.
It is all too common for some people suffering from depression to turn to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to mollify their pain. Unfortunately, that will only end in tears…literally. Alcohol is a depressant, so by definition thinking it could somehow eradicate ones depression is an illogical deduction. Moreover, if someone is already taking antidepressant medication, alcohol can have a deleterious affect on the effectiveness of that medication. To add insult to probable injury is the chicken-and-the-egg fact that over time turning to alcohol to solve depression will result in more depression as well as alcohol addiction, followed by more depression and so on. Before you reach for that next glass of wine, shot of whisky, or one more beer remember there are healthier ways to deal with your depression.
5 Coronavirus Depression Helpful Solutions
We cannot underestimate the power of herbs and spices in combating depression and lifting our mood. Remember that long before chemical medications that leave people further addicted and worse for the wear, people successfully used plants (flowers, leaves, roots, stalks, stigmas, pistils, etc.) to make potions-and-lotions worthy of all their extraordinary healing power. Herbs and spices are derived from these various plant parts and can be an amazing and helpful solution to Coronavirus depression. Following we will take a look at a couple of spices and herbs that you should definitely add to your pantry as soon as possible–even if you are not struggling with depression they are wonderful for your overall health and well-being.
Saffron is so much more than that rarely if ever purchased spice used to color the rice of a delicious Spanish paella. It has actually been used for centuries in medicinal ways such as to aid in digestion and to improve people’s immune system, memory, and mood. The key to the latter is that among saffron’s many redeeming qualities it contains two components critical to giving us a mental and emotional boost: serotonin and B-vitamins. Just as an added bonus, saffron can also help to curb our appetites, due to its serotonin increasing properties. Let’s just say we tend to eat less when our neurotransmitters have our brains in the feel-good-zone, so we’re not constantly stress eating. Saffron is obtained from Crocus sativus flowers–a few thousand are needed just to make one ounce–and due to the arduous task of hand picking the flowers’ stigmas and drying them, purchasing saffron on its own can be a bit expensive. A great solution to this issue, and a way to get some added benefits, can be to consume it in a blended tea such as Saffron and Green Tea.
Ginseng is another power spice, and is one of many plant based components used in traditional Chinese medicine. This gnarly beige-colored root is often used as a stimulant to boost energy and increase stamina. It makes sense, therefore, that ginseng can be a great aid in fighting the effects of fatigue and lethargy that often accompany Coronavirus depression. If you or someone you know has ever been depressed then you are familiar with the brain-fog and difficulty concentrating can be part of this mental challenge. People may find it hard to focus on even the most simple tasks for varying reasons including: inadequate sleep; lack of proper nutrition; excess consumption of sugar, coffee, and junkfood; or perhaps the use of drugs and alcohol. Fortunately, researchers have noted that ginseng may ameliorate cognitive function in the frontal lobe of the brain’s cerebral cortex, which “plays vital roles in memory, attention, motivation, and numerous other daily tasks”.  A common side effect of depression in general is the loss of libido in both men and women. When apathy, anxiety, insomnia, and exhaustion sets in that tends to leave little desire for sexual activity. While the jury is still out on the level of its effectiveness, many men swear by ginseng to deal with their erectile dysfunction. So before you grab that Red Bull or other artificial energy drink, you may want to consider reaching for the more natural pep of real ginseng root, powder, or tea.
Marjoram is a somewhat lesser known herb that packs a mood elevating punch. At first glance it might be confused with oregano–in fact, in some Middle Eastern countries it is somewhat synonymous for it–they are both part of the mint family. Marjoram is a bit milder in flavor than oregano, and is sometimes called “sweet marjoram”. Besides its herb form for culinary use, Marjoram can be found as an essential oil–which is a great way to incorporate it into an uplifting aromatherapy session or a relaxing massage. Another wonderful benefit of marjoram is its effectiveness in preventing and/or treating certain digestive troubles, such as ulcers. To boot, marjoram is an analgesic; so it is equally effective at helping with the pain paired with ulcers. Digestive issues are one of the biggest psychosomatic problems reported by people with Coronavirus depression. For women, marjoram can aid with balancing hormones and improving irregular or missed menstrual cycles–both of which can be welcome perks when dealing with the turbulent roller coaster of depression and anxiety.
2. Ditch the Alcohol
As aforementioned alcohol is not your friend when you are already depressed or heading that way.
The far reaching ramifications caused by alcohol abuse and/or addiction can be long lasting and destructive. Fortunately, there a plethora of resources to help one cope with getting excessive alcohol consumption under control. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), for example, has interactive tools to: help people learn about different drinking levels to identify possible problems; compare their reasons for and against making a change; plan to cut back or quit altogether; track their drinking; stay in control; and recover if a slip-up occurs.
3. Exercise More to Fight Coronavirus Depression
For some people the word exercise automatically evokes thoughts of suiting up to go the the gym–something that is dreaded by many. If anything has come out of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is the realization that there are an untold amount of things that we can actually productively and effectively do at home, like working or working out. Good news for us…bad news for the emptier gyms and in-house fitness classes. There are now so many online workout groups and virtual personal trainers that our biggest problem is choosing the right one. But we don’t actually have to limit your ideas about exercise to a specific aerobic class, boot camp, or weight lifting challenge…unless, of course, that is your thing. Instead we can transform everyday activities into exercise. Take some extra time to do a deep clean of your home or personal space. The reaching, bending, squatting and other movements necessary to get that deep-down scrub will not only work your muscles in a natural way, but you will reap the added benefit of a clean, freshly renewed environment. Being in a clean uncluttered living space is one of the best ways to combat feelings of depression and overload, especially if you are stuck at home for extended periods of time due to the work-from-home or other COVID-19 related reasons.
Another great exercise is simply taking a walk outdoors. There are no fancy gym memberships needed for this activity either; simply don some comfortable shoes and away you go. Getting out into the fresh air has the added benefit of cleansing your lungs, especially if you engage in some deep breathing intervals as you stroll along. Additionally, if you are fortunate enough to live near a park or other tree laden area (forest preserve, woods, palm tree lined beach, etc.), communing with nature can greatly boost your serotonin levels and bring feelings of pleasure. If you have a dog that needs walking, this exercise is a win-win for both you and your canine friend.
Dance by yourself or with others. You don’t need to queue outside the latest “it” nightclub, then pay for overpriced drinks inside amongst a crowded throng of people in order to have a party-good-time. Simply put on some music–whatever your style, wherever you are–and enjoy the feeling of moving your body to the sounds. There are countless studies that speak to the benefits of dancing…mind, body, and soul. The endorphins you release from getting your groove can help you get out of a funk in a safe and fun way. Not to be missed is the fact that a good dance session can keep you limber and rev your metabolism with some extra calorie burn.
4. Develop a Yoga Practice
Yoga is a beautiful way to connect the mind, the body, and the spirit. The practice of yoga is just that… “practice”…because it is ever evolving; it is a journey not a destination; and it is not about perfection but rather learning and growing. For many, the regular practice of yoga can go a long way to helping with Coronavirus Depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges–not to mention the regular old stress of day to day living. Yoga allows us to calm our minds long enough to stop the ruminating thoughts of uncertainty or despair or sadness or anger. Likewise, yoga can have any number of positive effects on our bodies: stretch, strengthen, relax, and even heal. The fabulous thing about yoga is that there are so many variations; there is literally something for everyone from the more meditative yoga Nidra (also called “sleep yoga”), to cleansing yogas like Kundalini, all the way to Vinyasa yoga or full-on power yoga. There is even Bikram yoga made for sweating out your toxins–and probably losing about ten pounds of water weight in the process. Whichever type of yoga you choose to practice, make sure you are grateful for the opportunity to spend that time syncing your body with its counterparts. Most of all, don’t take yourself too seriously…have fun!
5. Try Guided Meditation
One of the most frustrating aspects of Coronavirus Depression is the constant assault on our psyches by ever present news stories and exponentially increasing numbers of new cases and or deaths around the world. We cannot seem to get away from seeing it or hearing about it. Thus, the reason that taking a purposeful approach to slowing down long enough to catch our breath, reflect on something positive or inspiring, and regroup can go way toward reducing feelings of depression, despair, and hopelessness. A good guided meditation can soothe your mind, help you to relax, promote better sleep, and even relieve anxious feelings.
Coronavirus Depression is unfortunately a very real new reality for many people since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic at the end of 2019/ beginning of 2020. The good news is that there are helpful solutions and resources that can guide people as they managing their individual situations. It is important to remember that you are not alone, and if you or someone you know are struggling with depression or other mental health issues such as anxiety or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) there a myriad of sources for assistance. Please reach out to us for referrals using the contact button below; we are honored to help.
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In honor of bringing attention to the importance of sustaining good mental health during the COVID pandemic, our Coronavirus Recovery Plan Team is offering a limited time 50%-75% off of partner products we have tested and found helpful in the battle against Coronavirus Depression and in just living a happier, healthier life. Please check back often for additions and updates, or feel free to contact us directly for access to promo codes and other offers.
- Mayo Clinic. Healthy People 2020. 2011. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007
- National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI). “Mental Health and the Holiday Blues”. Nov 19, 2014. https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2014/Mental-health-and-the-holiday-blues/articles/PMC4677034/
- National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Rethinking Drinking. Alcohol and Your Health” https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/Tools/Interactive-worksheets-and-more/Default.aspx
- Medical New Today. What Does the Frontal Lobe Do? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318139#What-is-the-frontal-lobe