If you don’t have ready access to a therapist, you may want to contact your health care provider, if you have one. See what they have to offer and if you’re eligible for services. Or you can simply ask friends or family if they can recommend any therapists.
In many areas, there are sites that specialize in helping people find local therapists, or you can turn to the Psychologist Locator, a site operated by the American Psychological Association.
2. Add small, good things to your life
While professional treatment is ideal, what can people do when they see their mood sinking?
Harris says that it’s important to start adding small things to your life that you enjoy, to fight off feelings of helplessness that often come with coronavirus depression.
“Plan small activities daily that allow for a moderate amount of pleasure and accomplishment (e.g., reading, cleaning out your office, painting a picture, styling your hair),” she says. “Activity scheduling is very effective at the outset with depression.”
Of course, it’s not always easy to do that now that many of our usual pleasurable activities have been curtailed during the pandemic. Still, it’s possible to adjust our expectations and try new things.
Michelle tried several ways to help snap her out of her funk. One of the most impactful for her was adopting a kitten, whom she came to love.
“That kitten saved my life, because when nothing else was interesting or could grab my attention, the kitten was the one thing in my life that made me happy,” she says.
Michelle also found it helpful to pursue creative self-expression by trying to do short writing exercises based on prompts she found in a book—such as, “What is a time in your life when you said no?” or “What do you think you’re destined to do in this life?”
“This was something I could do that gets me doing some kind of creativity, but isn’t a big commitment; and I didn’t have to think it up myself,” she says. Plus, it brought her a little joy, which helped alleviate her difficult moods.
3. Find ways to exercise your body
One of the best treatments for coronavirus depression is getting physical exercise, while not getting exercise can induce depressive symptoms. Especially during this difficult time, it’s important to take care of your body.
Al is aware of how his physical health affects his mood; so, he’s made sure to maintain routines of self-care, like getting enough sleep, eating well, and getting outside when possible—all of which have been tied to preventing depression. Though adjustments to his exercise routines were needed because of the pandemic, some of those changes were positive, he found.
“It may be less fun, but it’s more flexible at the same time,” he says. “You don’t have to coordinate with other people or take other people’s schedules into account.”
When the pandemic ended Michelle’s in-person yoga class, she tried the Zoom version of the class but found it wanting. So, she made it a point to find other exercise outlets—like taking walks and bicycling—which made her feel better.
“I don’t do big bicycle trips yet. But even if I just pedal across the street and around the neighborhood, I’ve at least gotten out there,” she says. “It definitely helps.”
4. Foster a sense of agency
For Al, it was important to make progress on personal goals, like improving his piano playing or his golf game. While it was sometimes difficult to find the motivation and energy when depressed, he found ways to trick himself into getting started, which not only helped him get closer to his goals, but improved his mood.