How To Creatively Deal With Coronavirus Anxiety And Depression: A Humanistic Perspective
Dr. Carroy (Cuf) Ferguson, Ph.D.
As a pandemic phenomenon, it is fair to say that one of the mental health effects of the unfolding coronavirus event is to cause many to feel lots of anxiety and sometimes depression. It is for this reason that I wrote an AHP blog article titled, “A ‘Stark Reminder’ About How We Are An Interdependent Species On The Planet: Side-Effects Of The Coronavirus Phenomenon.” The intention of that article was to suggest that no one is truly alone in dealing with the coronavirus phenomenon. This is a second article to address the coronavirus phenomenon from a humanistic perspective. From a humanistic perspective, the intention here is to suggest that beyond fear per se, ironically, we may also view the coronavirus phenomenon as a “world-wide urge” for us to creatively engage our human connectedness.
One of the effects of the coronavirus phenomenon, however, is what I will call coronavirus anxiety and depression. From a humanistic and mental health perspective, therefore, this is not a time for a politics of misinformation, misleading information, mixed messages, or gaslighting so that a public figure can appear to look good. Authentic and truthful information and consistent, fact-based meaningful communication is required by public officials at local, state, and federal levels to help people effectively manage anxiety and depression at individual and collective levels. This article, however, is not intended to provide medical information per se, but rather is intended to provide a humanistic perspective about how we might creatively deal with coronavirus anxiety and/or depression in the context of our desire/need also for self-care, human care and human connectedness. From a humanistic and mental health perspective, following then are some generic suggestions in that regard.
- First, it is important to recognize and to affirm that during this period of “social distancing,” social distancing only means physical distancing and does not mean “mental and emotional distancing.” You can creatively use your “stay at home time” to creatively connect or reconnect with old and new friends and/or family members via phone and/or the online video & audio platforms. As a species, we are social creatures, and our interdependent nature ultimately promotes self-growth and well-being at individual and collective levels, if recognized, allowed and nurtured.
- To deal with anxiety and/or depression that may flow from feeling isolated, online visual and audio technologies also make it possible now to connect both mentally and emotionally and to still have fun with one another. So, feel free to use creative thinking to connect with others for fun. Some examples might include things like: Organize a Zoom family reunion or an online friends & family party; set up Zoom card games or chess contests where you can see and talk with one another; Share your living space with someone you care about or potentially could care about, using FaceTime to show them around your home or apartment; Have a visual and auditory meal online with a friend or loved one or a potential other, where you can eat together & talk while seeing each other; Set up an online exercise partner; Have an online sing-along get together.
- For those who tend to look at or focus their consciousness on social media platforms, look for the many positive, human interest stories emerging on various social media platforms that speak to the nature of coronavirus-related human care and human kindness. These kinds of positive stories represent our human potential and reflect how we can and do allow our “better angels” to come forth and manifest themselves in service to humanity. You can also start your own social media “Well Being Campaigns” to promote individual and collective well-being activities and human connectedness.
- In terms of self-care, use this time to do some journaling and/or to work on some creative project(s) you have been putting off for some time, or create a schedule or routine whereby you do at least one thing a day that genuinely brings you joy. This is about an opportunity to connect more deeply and positively with your Self so that you can in turn connect more deeply and authentically with others in your life spaces (your personal, societal, & global life spaces).
- In terms of self-care and being mindful of social distancing, know that you can still go outside for walks or jogs or to get essentials for living, like food, medications, exercise/movement, etc. So, you need not feel like you are “caged” in your home space. This is about maintaining a healthy human connectedness to nature and your personal and societal life space environments.
- If you meditate, continue with that practice. If you do not meditate, a very simple breathing method to use when you find yourself feeling anxious and/or depressed is to put your right hand on your chest (or heart area) and your left hand on your belly button area. Then breathe in slowly to the count of four and breathe out slowly to the count of more than four. Continue until you begin to feel relaxed and/or centered.
- Specifically, in terms of anxiety and/or depression, recognize that typically anxiety tends to flow from fears about the future (what may or could possibly happen=”what if beliefs” about the future), whereas depression typically tends to flow from fears about the past (interpretations about what did or could possibly have happened=”what if beliefs” about the past). To combat coronavirus anxiety and/or depression flowing what “what if belief,” it is important to stay in the present, as much as possible. Take it one day at time, while realistically doing self-care and family care one day at a time. Make a self-care and/or family care list of doable things for each day and do them as much as possible without creating unnecessary anxiety and/or depression if things do not get done. Be playful with this list.
- It is important to realize that emotions follow the flow of what you are reasoning to be true, your beliefs. Beliefs are nothing more than thoughts reinforced by emotion and imagination. Beliefs, however, are not truths per se. In this light, it is important to arm yourself with “facts” about the nova coronavirus and the phenomenon itself as they unfold.
- In terms of authentic and truthful information, and meaningful communication, recognize that the medical profession has learned a great deal about this nova coronavirus (CORVID 19) and at this time is still in the process of learning more. So, do not focus your consciousness on myths flowing from or generated by the fear(s) of those not in the medical profession.
- In terms of authentic and truthful information, where and how you get your information, therefore, is important. But, to minimize the effects of the information in regard to anxiety and/or depression once you get the authentic and truthful information, do not dwell on the information 24/7. You may want to just check in perhaps once a day with “official sources,” but do not do so just before bedtime. Stress free rest and relaxation are important tools to creatively deal with anxiety and/or depression, and dreaming serves the purpose of rejuvenating you, if allowed. “Official sources” might include your State government’s website for health and safety information, guidelines, and updates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, the U.S. Surgeon General’s website.
- It is important to recognize that politicians, with no medical training or expertise, no matter what their societal status, are not necessarily the best sources for medical information. The coronavirus phenomenon is a medical phenomenon first, albeit with physical, mental, emotional, and economic effects, as well as effects on our individual and collective “spirit” as human beings.
- And, yes, in the spirit of self-care and caring for others, follow the basic guidelines of Do’s and Don’ts that have been widely presented: Do–Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub; Cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or flexed elbow when you cough or sneeze; Avoid close contact (at least 3-6 feet) with people who are unwell; Stay home and self-isolate from others in the household if you feel unwell; Don’t–Touch your eyes, nose, or mouth if your hands are not clean.
We are a resilient species on the planet, and we will get through this nova coronavirus pandemic. It is in the spirit of love for our individual and collective Well-Being that the above suggestions are offered. Be well and Stay well!