By: Schatzie Brunner
I love being alone. However, long periods of it can put me on a path to depression and anxiety. Some people love to be around other people, and I understand that they may get energy from being with others. But as an introvert, being alone gives me energy while being with others exhausts me.
So, when the pandemic hit, I initially thought, “This is great! I’ll enjoy this.” But as the weeks went by, I reached a place of being somewhat depressed and undoubtedly anxious. Why is that?
I think the reason I get depressed and anxious is that I tell myself stories, and when I’m creative and imaginative, stories are easy. But here’s the problem, if I tell myself stories like I’ll never earn a living again, or life can never be the same, I must remember that those are stories without any proof.
It is so easy to “live in my head,” and those stories can consume me 24/7. But over the years of practicing well-being, I’ve learned some tricks that help me recover from fantasizing about what might or could happen.
I am not in a position to give anyone advice, but I have learned to get out of the negative cycle when it begins to overwhelm me by knowing there is no proof for my imaginary storied outcomes. Just knowing that helps me to remember to stop pondering and start doing. Because if I stay in my head, I remain stuck in my pain.
One trick is to think about someone else, a neighbor or friend, or even a close family member. When I do this, the next trick is to think about doing something for them…a little thing. This tactic is especially helpful if my depression has left me exhausted. For instance, I’ll give a neighbor a call to see how they’re holding up during this pandemic. And when they ask me how I am, that is not my cue to tell them all about the stories I’ve played out in my head. Instead, say, “I’m OK. I hope we talk soon.” And I end the conversation. Another trick is to think about doing something charitable. For instance, I’ll drop off supplies at a mission or send five dollars to the Red Cross or donate to a local food bank. The fact that I’m doing and not thinking is what matters. And the reward is it makes me feel a little better.
I can dwell in my depression and anxiety, and believe me, that is easy to do. But if I start to act, no matter how small a gesture I make, I get to tell myself something positive, which helps me cope.
I have always believed that my soul absorbs whatever I tell it, good or bad. My soul doesn’t know the difference between negative statements like, “I hate myself” or “I’m a total loser” versus positive comments like, “I’m a loving sister” or “I was a great tennis player.”
I’ll close by giving you one more trick I use as a daily practice. Each morning I try and write down three things I’m grateful for, yet sometimes I can only think of one, and that’s perfectly fine. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to think of two or even three. Reflecting on gratitude is a healthy habit.
These are my go-to tricks for overcoming the hurdles of depression and anxiety as this pandemic lingers. I wanted to share during this time of great uncertainty and continued struggle of self-isolation, as I hope you find these helpful.