During this trying time of COVID-19, we are told to stay indoors, stay in place, to stay safe. Many are discovering the dark side of the rules. As alcohol sales skyrocket +55-240%, many other challenging things are also skyrocketing, depression, anxiety, domestic violence, child abuse, poverty/economic loss, and suicide. These problems affect greater numbers of the population compared with the number of people suffering than those suffering with the virus: Covid-19. Sadly, a side effect of all the fear is judgement. Let’s try to remember to choose kindness and compassion. Let’s remember that not everyone can wear a mask. Thankfully, shields are an option. From mid-March when it became clear that this virus was going to impact the state of Oregon, where I live, I, as a psychotherapist, knew that there was going to be a great deal of suffering caused by isolation.
Our youth and many adults are struggling with anxiety and depression due to this isolation imposed by the government. Don’t you miss seeing a full-faced smile? I do. I miss seeing the full expression on a person’s face. Psychologically, we need this human connection. This is what we are on earth for, to connect with one another. 80% of communication is done nonverbally, much of it is done with our faces. But, a large portion of our expression is covered with a mask.
When people suffer depression and anxiety (as well as Bipolar Disorder), often the brain atrophies over time, making it very difficult to begin the path to recovery. Research shows this, but it also shows that walking can help change the course, repairing and rejuvenating the brain. During times like these, getting out for a walk becomes a crucial step towards health, both physical and mental. Begin where you are, gradually, adding days, then minutes, until you are able to walk 45-minutes per day on a daily basis. Research shows that within six weeks, your brain will show clear growth. If it is possible, get out and hike in nature. A 90-minute hike in a natural environment can make an immediate improvement to your brain. It doesn’t need to be steep or a difficult terrain.
While you’re out walking, notice the natural beauty around you. Focusing on positive things will contribute to helping you feel better and improve your psychological mind. Look for five positive things each day and write them down so that you are clear about them and can review them later. These can be simple things: a silly squirrel, a faceted flower, a beautiful bird, or a tantalizing tree. Or more complex: a neighbor working in their garden who smiles, a dog walking with someone who leans towards you to say hello, a cat meowing at you.
I welcome your feedback, questions, comments, and concerns. All of my writing is intended with kindness and compassion to everyone during this challenging time.