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With more time at home and reduced social contact, many have been finding themselves struggling with increased symptoms of depression. Dr. Rachel Leonard, PhD, LP, clinical director for Rogers in St. Paul, offers advice on steps you can take when dealing with depression during this unusual time.
Individuals with depression may have stopped following their usual schedule and do things like sleeping later into the morning or engaging in unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to avoid or escape from painful feelings. Reestablishing or keeping up with a routine can help alleviate symptoms and prevent those who are struggling from feeling worse.
“Consistency in scheduling can help combat the tendency for these avoidance behaviors to increase,” Dr. Leonard says. “Continuing to shower in the morning, change into different clothes, and get ready for the day often has a positive impact on mood.”
It’s easy to get lost focusing on all of the negative things associated with our current situation, and that’s one reason Dr. Leonard suggests choosing to do something positive for others.
“People have been decorating windows or doors with hearts, creating chalk art for their neighborhood, sewing masks for others, and writing thank you notes to essential workers and the elderly,” she says. “Helping someone or spreading joy can increase a sense of control in a challenging situation and can help us feel more positive as well.”
Gyms are currently closed, but there are a number of ways to get moving while at home. Walking, running, biking, and other forms of outdoor exercise that follow social distancing are great ways to get your heart rate up, says Dr. Leonard. Workout and yoga videos on YouTube or exercise apps offer other options as well. However, Dr. Leonard stresses that you don’t need to do anything too formal.
“It’s also helpful to get creative with your exercise,” she adds. “This could be cleaning your home, dancing with your kids, or completing a household project that requires some physical activity.”
There are many challenges to our current situation, but Dr. Leonard says that we’re also presented with a unique opportunity to work on relationships that we have with family members or roommates, and we can use this time to build closeness and better connections.
“This could be done by planning to learn a hobby together, completing activities together at home like cooking a meal or planning a family game night, or making time for deeper conversation. There are various conversation starter cards that you can purchase (chat packs, for example) or find online for free that help you get to know others on a deeper level.”
It’s all too easy to fall into a rut and watch endless hours of TV, spend too much time gaming, or sleep excessively. Dr. Leonard says that learning a new skill or hobby can bring a greater sense of enjoyment and an improved mood.
“It can be helpful to learn something new with another person-- both for social reasons and for increased accountability,” she says. “Do you have a friend or family member who wants to learn something new with you? You could meet on video chat regularly to check in together and discuss how things are going.”
Unsure if you could be suffering from depression? Take our quiz that can help flag symptoms. Those interested in treatment at Rogers can call 800-767-4411 for a free, confidential screening or request one online.
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