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Depression During Quarantine: How to Improve Your Mental Health When You’re Trapped Inside


Although social distancing measures and shelter-in-place orders are an important step in preventing the spread of COVID-19, being isolated can negatively affect our mental health. This is especially true for people who suffer from depression. Here are some tips on how to maintain good mental health when you have depression and are forced to stay inside.

Keep a Regular Schedule—Even if You’re Quarantining

People with depression often struggle to get out of bed or find the motivation to complete even simple tasks. Setting a routine at home provides structure that can help promote motivation and general well-being for people with depression. 

A morning routine can be especially helpful. Set an alarm to get up in the morning, and start your day by getting showered and dressed, even if you’re not going anywhere. Begin your day by writing a to-do list for yourself – checking things off will help you feel more motivated to keep going. Having structure in your day can prevent you from getting “trapped in your own head” or feeling lonely.

Keep in Touch With Your Support System

Stay in touch with the people you care about to maintain good mental health. Schedule regular calls and/or video calls with your support system. It can be tempting to back out of a scheduled call if you’re feeling particularly depressed, but it’s important to keep the dates. Even if you’re feeling depressed and not up to it, you’ll feel better after talking to them.

Stick to Your Treatment Plan

Keep taking your medication as instructed, and talk to your therapist and/or psychiatrist about keeping your sessions going via telemedicine consults. In March, New York state expanded telehealth coverage for Medicaid, meaning that Medicaid recipients now have coverage for telehealth services that were not previously covered. (4)

If you’re doing transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), or were considering starting it, now may not be the safest time for treatment sessions—but don’t give up hope. You can start as soon as things are back to normal. We’re currently offering telemedicine consults for patients seeking medication management, general psychiatric consults, therapy, or TMS.  If you’re interested in TMS, we’re not able to begin sessions right away, but we can get the process started now so that you can start your sessions immediately when we reopen. Click here to learn more.

Exercise to Boost Your Mood

Exercise is a great mood-booster. When combined with a prescribed depression treatment,  exercise can improve treatment outcomes for people with depression. (1) If you have a park or open area nearby where you’re able to keep a safe distance from other people, going for a walk or a jog is a great way to get out of the house safely and get some exercise. 

If you don’t have a safe place to exercise outdoors, there are a lot of ways to exercise at home (even if you live in an apartment). Stretching, yoga, and weightlifting are all activities that can be done at home in a small space. Even if you’ve never exercised at home before, or don’t have exercise equipment, you can find free home fitness videos on YouTube that you can do with no equipment at all.

Eat Well

Research tells us that when people with depression swap out packaged and fried foods for more fruits and vegetables, they can alleviate depressive symptoms. (2,3) It can be tempting to eat easy, fast, and unhealthy foods when struggling with depression—or in some cases, to not eat at all. 

Consider planning meals before grocery shopping. This can help reduce the temptation of eating fast food and junk foods. In addition to helping you feel better, planning and cooking meals at home will help you fill out your day with meaning.

Are You Interested in Telehealth Appointments or a TMS Consultation?

Click here to schedule a phone or video call appointment with Dr. Woo. If you’re interested in starting TMS, we can conduct the initial consultation phase over the phone now. Your sessions will begin as soon as we reopen.


Sources:

1. Craft LL, Perna FM. The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2004;6(3):104–111. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC474733/. Accessed April 19, 2020.

2. Jacka FN, O’Neil A, Opie R, Itsiopoulos C, Cotton S, Mohebbi M, Castle D, Dash S, Mihalopoulos C, Chatterton ML, Brazionis L, Dean OM, Hodge AM, and Berk M. A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial). 2017;15(23). BMC Medicine. https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-017-0791-y. Accessed April 20, 2020. 

3. Li Y, Lv MR, Wei YJ, Sun L, Zhang JX, Zhang HG, and Li B. Dietary patterns and depression risk: A meta-analysis. 2017;23:373-82. Psychiatry Research. Accessed April 20, 2020. 

4. Arthur J. Fried & Amy Lerman. COVID-19 – New York Expands Telehealth Utilization. Epstein Becker Green Health Law Advisor. Published March 18, 2020. https://www.healthlawadvisor.com/2020/03/18/covid-19-new-york-expands-telehealth-utilization/. Accessed April 20, 2020. 

Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.


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