“Just taking small steps, consciously having low expectations, and telling myself, ‘Don’t make a big deal out of it,’ helped me to go through the motions—to get to the range or to the piano,” he says. “Sometimes it’s less about the actual thing you’re doing than the fact that you are trying something—that you are taking control and taking action of some kind—that helps.”
Having a sense of agency—the sense that you have some control over what happens to you—is important for staving off coronavirus depression, says Liu. But that can be hard now, when so many people are working from home and finding blurred boundaries between their job hours, home life, and time for self-care. She suggests it’s a good idea to create structure in your day, to make sure you schedule things that are important for your wellbeing.
“You should be making time to read that book, cook, ride your bike, or go for a walk—all the little things that make you happy,” she says.
5. Try meditation and self-compassion
Sometimes, though, negative thoughts get in the way. Maybe you feel you don’t deserve to do nice things for yourself or you aren’t good enough to reach your goals. For that, Liu suggests practicing self-compassion. After all, she says, we are going through a global pandemic and are not going to be the best, most productive versions of ourselves…and that’s OK.
“Getting a little bit of extra help or doing some things to be kind to yourself and take care of yourself is important right now,” she says.
It can also be extremely useful for people to consider doing a daily meditation practice, to ward off negative thoughts, says Harris.
“Start small, even a minute or two, and do it during times when you’re not necessarily highly stressed or anxious,” she says. “The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to notice your thoughts and be able to let them go, getting more distance from them.”
Meditation can also soothe difficult emotions, helping us focus less on ourselves and be more available for others—another coronavirus depression reliever, says Liu.
“Giving to others is an antidote to the sense of helplessness that we’re all experiencing right now, and it gives us a larger sense of connectedness,” she says. “It’s definitely something that helps us even as it helps others.”
6. Reach out to other people
Both Harris and Liu emphasize the importance of connecting with others for preventing depression. Liu encourages people who are depressed to make an effort to call old friends or family members, take company on your walks (if you can take walks), or engage in other ways with people you care about.
“Social support goes such a long way, even in the face of natural disasters, because experiencing something together creates connection and understanding,” she says.
Michelle definitely feels interacting with other people helps her. But she worries about asking people who are already overwhelmed to spend time with her—and then finding herself turned down or ignored.
“It’s a little disheartening to feel like I reach out a lot and don’t always hear back from people,” she says.
Al also questions socializing as a good strategy for himself.
“I have trouble reaching out,” he says. “I often think, accurately or inaccurately, that it’s asking for trouble.”
This is where Liu thinks friends, families, and communities could step up more to help. Checking in with those who may be isolated or depressed can be hard, especially if they are a bit crankier than normal or even actively block your efforts. Still, it’s good to let people know you are thinking of them and to be willing to listen with empathy if they open up, she says. And, she adds, you don’t have to be pushy.
“Making the space to be a listening, gentle presence and validating someone’s experience—that can go a long way,” she says. “Even leaving unimposing messages of support and understanding makes people feel less alone and that someone cares about them, which is a protective factor.”