By Tony Rankin
Special to the Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — These strange days of COVID-19 and the impact of tornados cause us to feel like we are juggling chainsaws on a tightrope. Frequently an overwhelming sense of gloominess or depression coincides with difficulties of addressing the ordinary stresses of illness or disaster.
You find increased frustrations of getting groceries in a timely fashion. You may be irritated that you can’t go to a local park or shopping center because of enforced guidelines. It may seem strange to wear a surgical mask and see other persons wearing them coupled with the difficulty communicating clearly and with ease like previous days.
You may be afraid to choose the wrong move. You may be fearful of making a decision too quickly. You may have had to cancel doctor or hair appointments. You may miss eating at your favorite restaurant. You may think you don’t have what it takes to survive difficult days. You may be nervous to handle the unknown. Your fears may include uncertainties, the realities about sickness and death, and the sameness of staying at the house most of the time.
What are the symptoms of clinical depression?
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Sleep difficulties including trouble falling or staying asleep or sleep excessively
- Increased tearfulness
- Irritability and restlessness
- Guilt and helplessness
- Ongoing fatigue
- Aches and pains
- Loss of interests or hobbies
- Overeating or loss of appetite
- Persistent emptiness, anxiousness and/or sadness
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
Having some or all of these symptoms may be an indication you need to contact an area licensed clinical therapist/counselor.
Where does depression come from?
Bloodline — There is some depression that is inherited from previous generations. It may be genetic or learned behavior.
Situational — Some depressed moods or “funks” are related to life circumstances that may involve poor choices, finances, uncontrollable events and more.
Loss — Loss of jobs, death of relatives, unrealized hopes and dreams, and loss of security have ways of causing depressed moods to surface.
Threats of the coronavirus (COVID-19) can intensify moodiness and depression. The news and reality of job loss, financial shortfalls, the unknown and lack of control of medical conditions, and the drastic change in our lifestyles and plans and hopes for the near and distant futures seemed to be robbed from us. Using these days to be mindful of our desires, emotions, anticipations, prayers, and hopes is the solution.
Try these ideas often:
Take the warnings seriously. It’s so easy to assume it won’t be as bad as it was in China, Korea, Italy, New York or New Orleans. Occasionally we avoid warnings because we are fearful of what might really happen, don’t want to be told what to do, or don’t believe the news, doctors, or governmental leaders. The pictures and video images of ambulances lining up, white tents being erected in various parts of Tennessee, and daily warnings remind us of the serious nature of the hidden virus.
Be realistic. Soon it will be the illness of a friend, neighbor, colleague, church member or a family member who is struggling with the dreaded test result or symptoms of COVID-19. The reality of the pandemic is everywhere. Accept the fears of the unknown and don’t pretend it’s not near you.
Get rest. Avoid the “It’s another snow day so I can stay up late watching reruns.” You still need to get plenty of sleep whenever possible. Sleep is at a premium when you have a depressed mood. Avoid making it worse by staring at the news and mindless television to an extreme.
Deal with the sameness. Remember when you used to dread going to work, sitting in traffic, rushing home to fix supper, and scrambling to get to dance practice, soccer scrimmages or a baseball game? Currently we wish we could be on the move, but now we are asked to stay home. So being stuck makes us get bored with nothingness, get tired of staring at the same walls, and having plenty of time to wish we were too busy again. Deal with the sameness of the house by playing a game, watching a fun show together, talking about something that makes you happy, sad, mad, or confused, or clean out a drawer, box, closet or a part of the garage 30 minutes a day.
Eat right. The foods that give a quick “upper” or stress release will complicate matters. Try sticking to fruits and vegetables, non-fatty meats, and limit desserts and sweets to an occasional treat.
Spend time. Spend time (in person or on some electronic device) with the person who you love. Laugh, tell stories and talk about hope and strength. Stay connected with others by telephone, notes, letters, text and e-mails.
Have hope. We don’t have to be depressed alone!
If you feel suicidal, call your therapist, doctor, or 911 or go to your local emergency room. The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-855-CRISIS-1(855-274-7471).