How coronavirus is making people feel less depressed

People are reporting a silver lining of the frightening global pandemic.

4/7/2020 3:14:00 AM

Have you noticed your mental health improving during the coronavirus pandemic?

People are reporting a silver lining of the frightening global pandemic.

, points out:"At a time when there is something that is so consuming of our minds - such as a world pandemic - people are likely to be more preoccupied with their physical health than their mental health. I would say that there are probably less searches around depression probably because our focus is simply elsewhere."

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It's very likely that some people are just googling coronavirus symptoms instead of depression ones, hence the drop. But it's also true that there are others - like Jasmine - who have noticed a considerable improvement to their depression since the health crisis unfolded.

"I guess because a global pandemic is actually something to feel depressed about, I don't feel guilty or stupid about my feelings for the first time in a long time," Jasmine explains."It's almost like the whole world is feeling the way I feel when something minor happens - like if I'm not invited to an event with friends - but now we're all feeling that way about something that actually deserves worry."

This is a rationale that Chartered PsychologistDr Rachel Allansays is quite understandable."The experience of feeling depressed can be worsened by secondary feelings of guilt or shame about feeling that way, especially if life looks 'good' from the outside for that person," she explains."When we feel we have a good reason for feeling low, we may be less likely to judge ourselves for how we feel."

During the COVID-19 crisis unprecedented levels of fear have been presented to the whole world, so it's totally acceptable to feel down, or worried, or stressed. And that's a message mental health professionals are eager to remind us of - because we don't need the guilt of feeling bad as an extra load to carry.

"Experts, quite rightly, seek to normalise feelings of distress, fear and sadness around what is happening, because these are completely natural responses in light of what is going on. Normalising distress can reduce some of those secondary emotions that go with feeling low," advises Dr Allan.

One of the things about depression is that it can make people feel isolated. But as coronavirus has become an experience shared by everyone - panic, despair and all - a newfound sense of community has arisen. And it's this that has proven beneficial for mental health.

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"I often feel quite alone in my depression because it's all related to my personal circumstances and brain chemistry," Fiona Thomas, a 33-year-old writer and author of,admits."But now everyone is living this somewhat shared experience, and we all feel sad and anxious on some level. I think, in a weird way, this has levelled the playing field and built an instant sense of understanding between everyone."

This is a completely normal thought process for anyone who has a tendency for low moods, according to Dr Allan."Feeling low is often accompanied by a sense that, while we are struggling, everyone else is out there living life to the full and having a great time. This illusion is reinforced by things like advertising, and the filtered pictures of their lives people post on social media," the psychologist says.

"A pandemic affects us all; we are all feeling vulnerable and exposed, regardless of how much good we have in our lives. When we feel low, we are drawn to making negative comparisons between our own lives and lives of others. But when we are all vulnerable, we are more likely to see our shared humanity," Dr Allan explains.

"Coronavirus has levelled the playing field and built an instant sense of understanding between everyone"For Fiona, having the shared experience of the pandemic has led to an increase in two-way emotional support."I can offer reassurance to others and they have done the same for me. I guess I feel a constant emotional support coming from my friends and family which has really boosted my mood," she shares.

, anotherCosmopolitanreader, says her depression has felt lighter in recent weeks because the pandemic has allowed her to reflect on the harsh way she's been treating herself all this time by being in a permanent state of crisis."My brain works in crisis mode

all the time," she says. Seeing other people in anguish has helped Ana to recognise her"own negative emotions", and has given her the perspective to go a bit easier on herself."The coronavirus crisis has taught me something major: It's allowed me to see the deepness of my own pain," Ana shares."Although it is a bad time for the world, I do see the light at the end of the tunnel. And if there is a light for the world, then there is light for my depression, too."

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Michael Hulchanski / EyeEmGetty ImagesGaining this kind of understanding into your own thought cycles and emotional patterns is invaluable in working your way out of them, says psychologist Dr Allan."When we are depressed, we get easily caught up in negative thought patterns, and can become negatively focused on negative thoughts about ourselves. This painful cycle can be broken if we can find a way to have some compassion for ourselves and our suffering. Compassion, and being gentle with ourselves, is a powerful antidote to self-criticism and shame," she explains.

Mental health is a complex thing, and is as unique to each individual as their fingerprint. Which is precisely why other people are reporting feeling demonstrably worse during the coronavirus lockdown - not better."It is entirely natural to feel low, sad, anxious and fearful at the moment"

"My depression has got worse," sharesLaura Wilson, 25."I have always felt anxious about uncertainty, and of course this is one of the most uncertain times for all of us. We don’t know what’s going to happen or when this will be over, and things are changing every day." If she stays off of social media and stops reading so many news articles, Laura says manages to distract herself from feeling so low, but if she falls back into that pattern it triggers those same feelings for her.

And if you are one of the people whose depression is feeling darker during this time, there's absolutely nothing wrong with you, reminds the doctor."It is entirely natural to feel low, sad, anxious and fearful at the moment. We are facing threatening and uncertain times, and dealing with significant limitations on things we may usually take for granted like our health, our freedom, and our physical relationships," reassures Dr Allan.

CosmopolitanUKThere are things you can do to improve your mental health, however. Things that, hopefully, won't feel like a mountain to climb. Read more: Cosmopolitan UK »

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