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Are We Potentially Trading One Pandemic For Another?

Are We Potentially Trading One Pandemic For Another?

By Susan Williams

During this pandemic, by all accounts I’m one of the lucky ones. I am healthy, safely isolating with family and we have enough space in our home so we’re not living on top of each other. All my extended family is also safe, I have easy access to the outside and I frequently connect and talk with my friends.

But as what I think is week five now (I’m not absolutely sure) of this social isolation, I’m finding that one day is just melding into the next. I sometimes lose track of what day it is and it’s getting mentally tough.

On the odd occasion, I imagine myself going out of the house and touching every doorknob wondering whether I could end my fear of getting this virus by actually just getting the virus. Some other days I just want to stay in bed, pull the blankets over my head and just wait for this all to be over.

At the same time, my sleeping patterns are sometimes out of whack. I will wake up in the middle of the night for what seems like no apparent reason and then have difficulties getting back to sleep. To try and combat this, I am trying to get more exercise and eat better but sometimes this proves to be a challenge too. I find that watching mindless television or scouring my pantry for foods with high levels of salt or sugar can be easier then doing some healthier activity.

And then it hit me. Could these possibly be early signs of depression?

In an article published on The Conversation entitled COVID-19 could lead to an epidemic of clinical depression, and the health care system isn’t ready for that, either, the authors, two Clinical Psychologists highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic is “a perfect storm of depression risks” and shared the following;

“Most of us know the emotional components of depression: sadness, irritability, emptiness and exhaustion. Given certain conditions, these universal experiences take over the body and transform it, sapping motivation and disrupting sleep, appetite and attention. Depression lays waste to our capacity to problem-solve, set and achieve goals and function effectively.”

The article went on further to identify that there are a number of factors that are contributing to this situation.

  • Stress and loss – the unpredictable nature of this pandemic compounded with the grief and loss it is bring can contribute to depression
  • Interpersonal isolation – we are not designed to be socially isolated for too long. Either spending too much time alone or too much time with the same people can contribute to depression
  • Financial difficulties – financial difficulties can always be a contributor to stress and anxiety. Given the far reaching financial challenges right now, many are likely experiencing this

So, what should we do? How do we stop this situation before it becomes a real issue?

The authors of this article suggested following the recommendations that were offered in Healthguide’s Coping With Depression post. Here is the actions of what they recommend (I would suggest visiting their website – they do a great job of expanding on these recommendations with specific activities);

  1. Reach out and stay connected
  2. Do things that make you feel good
  3. Get moving
  4. Eat a healthy, depression fighting diet
  5. Get a daily dose of sunlight
  6. Challenge negative thinking
  7. Get professional help if you need it

In my case, I think I fortunately recognized some possible signs early and notified my family members to just keep tabs on me. I don’t think it will be too difficult to shift myself or my thinking to go in a more positive direction. But if I’m one of the lucky ones, then this makes me wonder about how other people might be doing.

If staying socially connected, getting the right amount of sleep, making sure we eat well and exercise are just some contributors to fending off depression – are we possibly headed for a mental health pandemic?

We already know that older people struggle with loneliness. Research from the  AARP discovered that approximately 1 in 3 adults aged 45 and over are lonely. So how will extended social isolation impact these feelings longer term?

When it comes to sleep, we already have issues. SleepHealth reported that in the US, “70% of adults report that they obtain insufficient sleep at least one night a month, and 11% report insufficient sleep every night.“.  With the uncertainty of this pandemic, is this potentially causing even greater sleep issues?

As well, some research from the CDC found that only 22.9% of adults between the age of 18 and 65 get the appropriate amount of exercise. This number is pretty low as it is, will this only get worse during this pandemic?

And when it comes to eating healthy food, an article in NPR pointed out that 75% of Americans believe they are eating healthy but more then 80% are actually failing to eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. How will this change over this pandemic as many go searching for those comfort foods that are likely not good for us?

As so often is said, knowledge is power.

So how are you doing? Have you considered your mental health recently? How are you managing in some of these areas of your physical and mental health?

If you’re not doing so great, please do something about it. Talk with someone – tell them how you’re feeling. Get some support to help you. This is important. We all need to come out of this situation strong.

The last thing we want to do is exit one pandemic only to enter into another.

Stay safe and stay strong everyone.

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.