Dr. Susan Blatt
Even without a pandemic, depression is common.
At any given time, 7 percent of adults consider themselves depressed. With the COVID crisis, it has been particularly hard to maintain a cheerful outlook. But we may have weathered the storm, and in the meantime, we have had a quiet time to reflect on our lifestyles.
If you have a history of depression, before this difficult time, talk to your doctor about medication. Maybe you have stopped taking it, but should now restart it. Antidepressants can be helpful. Other medicine, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or sleeping pills should not be used to cheer us up, because they do not have that effect.
What is depression like? It is a negative outlook on life, including a negative outlook on the future. People who are depressed may become inactive, stop interacting with friends and relatives, may eat too much, may watch too much television.
It requires an understanding of this situation and a lot of resolve, to bring oneself out of these harmful habits. If you see a therapist, even if you do not take antidepressants, this may be the time to meet with them – even if that is over the phone.
You need to monitor your own health, during a time like this. Just like when you go to the doctor, weigh yourself and take your own blood pressure. You should have a blood pressure cuff at home that you can use, by yourself. Look up normal weights if you need to, on the internet. If you have lost or gained weight during this period at home, think about why.
Make a plan to at least return to your pre-COVID weight. If you need to lose additional weight, this is a good time to change your diet. If your blood pressure is above normal (normal is 120/80) talk to your doctor about changing medicines or dosages. If you are diabetic, keep in frequent contact with your doctor.
You need to maintain a low weight and a low HbA1c. You need to stick to your diet and get lots of exercise.
If your weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar are all in the normal range, you will feel better. The next area to explore is problems with idleness. Keep television watching to one or two hours a day. Turn it off the rest of the time. Keep an eye on the political situation, but do not let political channels run all day.
The opposite of TV watching is getting exercise. Even if you are confined to home, you can go outside several times a day. Take a mask with you when you walk in case you want to talk with someone.
Alcohol is not your friend. Drinking causes weight gain, heart disease, and depression. It does not help you sleep peacefully, all night. If you must have a small glass of wine at dinner, that is fine. Drinking all evening is not fine. And a drink at bedtime may cause insomnia later in the night.
This is a perfect time to alter your diet since you are choosing your own food and cooking it. Try to find dishes that have a small amount of meat and several vegetables. Avoid deserts and avoid eating between meals.
Also take this opportunity to clean your house, air out unused rooms, throw out clutter, and (if you can) work in the lawn. You can see your yard improve every day as you cut back flowers that have finished blooming and pull out weeds.
If you have not been reading, set aside an hour a day for a good book. Read something you have around that you had always planned to read. Share your reading habits with your friends. If the public libraries are open, renew your card by phone and call and ask for several books on a subject. Libraries are beginning to be available on a limited basis. If you worry about the books being contaminated, let them sit untouched for several days.
In terms of our worry about COVID, try to take the issue one day at a time. By now, you have surely survived the worst of the pandemic. By staying home and wearing a mask, you have avoided the virus and stayed healthy.
Do not let those good anti-COVID habits slip or you will be sick. In addition, make sure that your general health is as good as it can be and do what you can to prevent depression.