Covid-19: mental health survival guide
When in crisis we all behave differently. Whether it’s stocking up on loo roll, comfort eating, arguing with your loved ones, or experiencing anxiety or depression symptoms that might not have been there before. Along with the boredom and loneliness many of us will be xperiencing while staying safe at home, some of us could also start to notice changes in appetite or sleeping patterns, a lack of energy or motivation, tearfulness, heart palpitations, breathlessness, stomach upsets and more. We are living through an uncertain and scary time for the world, and these symptoms are a totally normal response.
But why do symptoms of
depression and anxiety happen?
When we’re exposed to a potential threat our brain switches on a small almond shaped structure hidden deep in our brains called the amygdala. This part of the brain was developed in the time of our ancestors hunting wildebeest, and it is highly effective at keeping us safe. As an early human hunting wildebeest, faced with a bear, there aren’t many options. You could run away, stay and fight, or stay very still and hope it goes away, so your brain prepares accordingly by initiating what we now call the fight, flight, or freeze response. Unfortunately, the amygdala hasn’t had an update since the times when a bear attack might be more likely! What this means for us in modern times is that when we encounter any threat- ranging from encountering a dangerous predator, to walking out into oncoming traffic, to missing multiple calls from your mum or boss or even hearing the latest update on the pandemic- our brain reacts exactly as if we’ve encountered a bear. Our heart starts pounding, our breathing rate increases, our muscles tense up like a coiled spring ready for action, our mouths go dry and the digestive system shuts down leaving us nauseous or even running for the loo, and all he extra energy makes us hot and sweaty. If that weren't bad enough, it also focuses all the attention on the potential threat, causing us to worry or ruminate, and making it very difficult to think of anything else. All of this is totally normal and even helpful in the event of a bear attack, but totally unhelpful and distressing when faced with an uncertain threat like covid-19.
So what can I do about depression and anxiety during the covid-19 pandemic?
Dr Russ Harris put together the following very helpful video with some helpful practical steps we can take to face those feelings that might help us to get through those difficult thoughts and feelings that can come up for us:
I have put together these other helpful resources you might wish to use, but if you feel that you need additional support please do get in contact if you’d like to speak more about how I could support you vie my online or telephone therapy sessions.