How to cope with a low mood in times of COVID

Being inside can lead to feeling trapped and feeling trapped can lead to a downward spiralling of negative emotions and negative thoughts. And this can get even worse if, in the process, we have lost our job or we are in economic difficulties. But other things can happen in life that lead to a further feeling of low mood ultimately. Sometimes this can take us to places like wishing that we’re dead because that feels like a way out of this helplessness or hopelessness that we are experiencing. When this happens it’s really important not to beat ourselves up, because ultimately this is a sign that our mind is feeling overwhelmed. It does not know how to cope with the current situation and so it’s going into shut down. Hence, feeling depressed. So what can we do in these moments?

The first really important thing is to be gentle with yourself. It’s useless telling yourself: “Oh come on! Get on with it!” Because in this moment, what you need is a gentle cushion. It’s like having a child who has just fallen on the ground and they’re hurt and they’re crying. Telling them to get on with it and to stop crying will not actually help them deal with the pain that they are feeling.

The second thing that’s really important is to activate ourselves, to do something: engage our mind, engage our body – our body in a very particular way. For example, do exercise, go out for a walk, if possible. Do some kind of activity like a hobby that helps you engage with something, that focuses you on something. Play some Sudoku or crossword puzzle. These are things that help your mind focus. And every time your mind shifts to focusing on negative emotion, just go back to the activity that you’re doing.

The next thing that’s really important is to have some kind of discipline, to schedule pleasant activities at least once a day. The more, the merrier, in this kind of situation. But think of something that’s really simple. It doesn’t have to be a spectacularly pleasant activity. I think of, for example, going for a short walk in nature, if possible, or preparing a cup of hot chocolate and sipping it gently. These simple things. And preferably to plan for tomorrow, rather than to plan for the same day, because this helps us not get caught up with the negative emotions that we’re feeling in that moment that will stop us from actually doing that activity.

Another thing is to speak to people. When we are feeling low there is a higher chance that we end up isolating ourselves and this will make the situation worse. So, chat with other people, video call them. And this can be done on the spur of the moment, but it can be actually a very good idea to plan it in advance. This goes back to scheduling pleasant activities.

And finally, it’s really important that if you are feeling low and this continues for a long period of time, or it gets worse, that is a place where perhaps it’s good to seek professional help. At this stage, very often psychotherapists offer also online sessions. So that might be a place to go to, to help yourself a bit more.