As the months of Covid-19 stretch on, with no end in sight, more and more people are asking me to identify the most common stressors that can lead to depression during the pandemic.
We are in unprecedented times and our lives have changed completely. Things that we used to take for granted are no longer a part of our lives and things as they are now often feel uncomfortable and unnatural.
If you can identify stressors that can lead to depression, you can learn how to manage those stressors to help you manage your moods before they get the best of you.
Here are the 5 most common stressors that can lead to depression during the pandemic.
#1 – Fear of the future.
This, I believe, is the most common stressor that is leading to depression these days.
As I write this the election rages around us, many states in the west are on fire and Black Lives Matter protests are still scattered around the US. On top of that, winter approaches and cases are mounting every day. No vaccine is in sight and Covid is dividing America even further across party lines.
We wake up every day, not knowing what the future holds.
Fear for the future and the hopelessness that it engenders causes depression in a way like none other. Not knowing what tomorrow looks likes worries us. What life will look like for our children, whether toilet paper will disappear again, whether the current weather patterns will worsen, all these things makes us anxious and fearful and depression can follow.
So, as you question whether you are depressed, take into consideration that this fear of the future is our baseline right now so things that are common stressors that can lead to depression are magnified during the Covid-19 crisis.
#2 – Lack of ‘me’ time.
This is a big one for me. Time by myself.
Until the pandemic, my boyfriend and I were living a quiet life together in the woods of New England. I had escaped my NYC apartment, where I had lived alone for years, to live with him. I was nervous about living with someone again but it ended up being fun. I worked from home, alone all day because he was working. I had my alone time and then there was time for us.
And then Covid hit. Within weeks one of his kids moved in with us. And 7 months later he is still with us. He lost his job and his social life dried up so he was home 24/7. I literally wasn’t alone in my home for 5 months. I thrive on alone time and the lack of it is driving me, it feels like literally, insane.
Are you one of those people who needs time by themselves? Many of us do. Even if it’s just the car ride to or from work, time by ourselves helps us recharge our batteries. For many of us, our batteries are on empty, especially if the co-habitants of our houses are under the age of 10.
If you are struggling with empty batteries, I would encourage you to do whatever you need to do to spend some time by yourself. I have been closing my TV room door and doing yoga, taking walks, working in the garden, writing my blogs from my bedroom and sometimes just driving nowhere. None of those things completely charge my batteries but they are doing a nice job of keeping them charged enough so that I don’t drive off a cliff.
#3 – Not enough time with friends and co-workers.
I have a client who has been really struggling recently. As we talked it through I realized that she is really missing her co-workers. She had worked closely with the team for years and not being in their physical presence was wearing on her. To have them there one day and gone the next was something that she was really struggling with.
Similarly, another client, one who thrives on being with people, is really struggling because her core group of friends have left the city. They were all in their mid-twenties, living the life in the city, and they all lost their jobs and headed home to their families. She had done the same and they were all Facetiming but it just wasn’t the same.
If you find that you are missing your friends and co-workers, try to make an extra special effort to figure out a way to see them. I know that it can be a challenge but there are ways. Picnics, walks, outdoor movie watching etc. All of these things can be done to allow you to spend time with people who feel you and help alleviate the depression that might be caused by the pandemic.
#4 – Anxiety about public spaces.
One of my closest friends fled San Francisco in March and is now living in her house in a small town in Vermont. She has been there since March and rarely leaves. She is worried about Covid to the extent that it has made her fearful of leaving her home.
For most of our lives, we have taken public spaces for granted. Running to the grocery store or the mall or a movie is something we used to do without thinking. Doing errands on a Saturday morning was once a family affair.
Now, we don’t go out unless we need to. When we do, we don masks and carry hand sanitizer. One person goes into the store while the others wait in the car. Everyone in the store is wearing a mask and standing 6 feet apart. If they aren’t, we feel anxious.
Common stressors that can lead to depression during the pandemic include this fear of public spaces. Not feeling safe anywhere other than our house makes us sad. It makes us anxious. It makes us worried. It makes us depressed.
Know that, if you are struggling with fears of public spaces, you are not alone. If these fears are causing you to feel depressed, get someone to help you do the things that you need to get done out there in the world so that you can manage your anxiety.
#5 – Less physical affection and romance.
I remember in March everyone was talking about Covid babies, babies that would be born 9 months after the pandemic began. Ironically, Covid babies aren’t a thing. Why? Because Covid is making it so we touch each other less.
Because Covid is transmitted by physical proximity, people just aren’t touching each as much other anymore. Of course, many of us have our pods of people who we interact with, and hopefully hug, but the bigger world isn’t accessible to us. Hugging someone you haven’t seen in a while, or even shaking their hand, isn’t an option anymore.
And, if is there is one great natural depressant, it’s physical touch. Hugs, holding hands, kissing – all these things make someone feel better. Not having those things, instead touching elbows, is making many of us depressed.
Furthermore, romance is, in many ways, out the window. Many of my clients are meeting people online. They are getting to know each other through FaceTime but, if and when they choose to meet, there is little or no physical contact. And without physical contact, romance is difficult. Especially new romance.
I don’t mean sex but I mean that initial jolt that you get when you hug someone hello. Or when your hands touch. Or when you brush up against each other walking down the street. Those things aren’t happening now. Dating is more Victorian, as if we had a chaperone who was measuring the space between us to ensure that it was ‘proper.’
Lack of romance and physical touch are very common stressors that can lead to situational depression during the pandemic.
I am guessing that if you are reading this article you are struggling with depression and wondering why.
There are many things that are in play right now that are making a lot of people depressed. Fears for the future, absence of contact with people, reduced time alone, anxiety about public spaces and the need for physical contact are all things that can drag people way down.
That being said, it is very important that you pay attention to your depression. Follow the suggestions that I made above if you think they might be helpful. If, however, you find your depression getting worse, that it is impacting your life, your work and relationships, then it’s time to talk to a doctor.
Depression can get worse if it is not managed properly. Talk to your primary care doctor right away if you feel like yours is worsening and making your life a difficult one to live.
Good for you for taking the time to identify the most common stressors that can lead to depression during the pandemic. We have a long road ahead and knowing how to manage your mental health will help you come out the other side intact, ready to full live again.
You can do it!
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.