'We are in a Catch-22 situation' - Dealing with depression and anxiety during lockdown

The two-week extension of what would have been a three-week lockdown could be a daunting reality for some as they are confined to their houses, unable to see loved ones, or interact with the outside world. This is especially so for people who suffer with mental health issues.

READ ON HEALTH24 | Dealing with depression

Dr Colinda Linde, a clinical psychologist who uses cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) to provide rapid solutions for anxiety, panic and sleep disorders, says the unprecedented nature of the global pandemic, as well as the lockdown, could create a sense of shock in some people.

"No one likes having their freedom of choice or of movement compromised, and even the word 'lockdown' sounds like something you wouldn’t want to be part of.

"But we are in a Catch-22 situation, where the alternative is risk for ourselves and others, in terms of health. The pandemic, as well as lockdown, are both experiences we have never had, so it has been a shock that we have had to come to terms with and find ways to manage," Linde said.

For people with anxiety or depression, the pandemic can be scarier than the lockdown, she added.

READ ON HEALTH24 | Dealing with anxiety disorders

"For some, they feel safer being at home, and it will be an adjustment leaving home again. Either way, people in lockdown on their own, or without support, are going to struggle most.

"Depression is characterised by negative interpretation of things, so it is likely that depressed people living alone and on lockdown will stay in bed without having a reason to get up, and tend to fixate on the negative news.

"In the case of anxiety, not being able to get out and exercise, and also a fixation on the negative (frightening) news will be problem areas," she said.

Not in control

For many, the lockdown feels as though they are not in control of their own actions and is accompanied by a constant worry over things, like physical distancing or that someone we love will become infected with Covid-19, Linde added.

She said she had observed that the beginning of the lockdown was met with more acceptance than the extension, because people were processing what life would be like under these new regulations.

"Once this wore off, also amid fears of losing jobs and salary cuts, also being forced to use annual leave for the lockdown period, frustration and fear set in," Linde said.

Part of this frustration was cabin fever as households tried to deal with the struggles of staying at home.

"Most people do not have the space at home to be able to manage everyone being home at the same time for weeks on end.

"The extension of the lockdown for another two weeks has made it more real, and it was announced on the eve of two weeks, so it was basically starting 21 days all over again. For people who were counting down the days, it was especially difficult to get their heads around 'starting 21 days again'," she said.

For those who might be experiencing some mental distress at the reality of another two weeks under lockdown, Linde has provided some nuggets of advice.

Virtual tours

"Your body and mind are not the same thing, so if your body is obliged to stay at home, it doesn’t mean your mind is. For example, you could be sitting on your couch right now, with your mind anywhere else on the planet or even the moon."

Letting your mind experience the outside world could provide some relief, she says.

"We can focus on the mind, and letting it travel beyond lockdown – virtual tours online, an inspirational group to follow or connect with online, considering what hidden gifts and insights there may be in this situation."

Linde suggests focusing on what is happening right now and what is real.

"The most important thing to do is to keep it real, as in deal with what IS, right now, instead of the spiral of catastrophising that’s happening around us.

"Try to stay realistic, and reality-test the situation: what are the actual facts, from a trusted source? What are the risk factors I face and what is the risk from and to those around me? Then focus on a plan for dealing with each, and if you are looking online or discussing options with others, keep it focused on the solution and not the problem.

"There is a download called 'anxiety & worry tips', explaining these methods in detail on my self -help CBT site www.thoughtsfirst.com and I have made it available for free."

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