Prolonged isolation can easily lead to feelings of loneliness and even depression. Situational depression is a term that is used to describe symptoms of depression that are triggered by stress. It is usually triggered by a traumatic event, sudden stress, or major life change.

The pandemic and resulting social distancing orders fit all three of those triggers.

Especially for those who live alone, the stay at home orders mean a continued period of seclusion that creates an intense feeling of isolation and loneliness. Both of which are precursory factors to depression.

Symptoms of situational depression include:

  • Feelings of low mood and sadness
  • Tearfulness; frequent bouts of crying
  • Hopelessness
  • Poor concentration
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of pleasure
  • Withdrawing from normal activities
  • Loneliness or social isolation
  • Thoughts of suicide

There are certain factors that may increase the risk of situational depression. These include:

  • Having an existing mental health condition
  • Past childhood stress and trauma
  • Experiencing multiple traumas or stressors at the same time
  • A family history of depression

Take this short quiz to see if you might be suffering from situational depression: 

Check any of the following that you have experienced most days for longer than two weeks:

  • I'm feeling sad or irritable
  • I no longer enjoy the things I once enjoyed
  • I feel guilty and/or worthless much of the time
  • My sleeping patterns have changed
  • Sometimes it feels like I am moving in slow motion or moving too fast
  • My eating patterns have changed
  • I think about death a lot and/or have wanted to die
  • I have little energy and/or feel fatigued
  • The future seems hopeless to me
  • I have trouble thinking clearly and/or making decisions

Now respond to these questions with a check mark for a ‘yes’ and leave blank for ‘no’. 

  • These symptoms are affecting my ability to work.
  • These symptoms are interfering with my relationships (parenting, friends, spouse/partner).
  • I have noticed that my health is suffering (weight loss/gain, sleep changes, lack of exercise).
  • My finances are negatively affected by these symptoms
  • I am isolated and withdrawn emotionally and/or socially

If you checked four or more boxes in the first set of statements, and one of more in the second set of statements, please reach out to us to make an appointment.

Coping With Situational Depression

Sometimes situational depression resolves on its own as time passes. But those who have good coping skills and adequate self-care and social support are often quicker to recover.

One helpful strategy to cope with isolation is to put energy toward solving a problem. No matter what sort of stress you are dealing with, looking for things that you can do to improve the situation can help keep you focused on the future. Analyze the situation, consider solutions that might help make things better, and then work toward achieving those goals.

This approach also keeps you focused on the aspects of the situation that you can control, rather than dwelling on the things that are out of your hands.

Strategies that may help you with situational depression are: 

Establishing a new routine – Having a predictable routine can be helpful in times of uncertainty. Many of our daily routines have been disrupted due to COVID-19. Create a new normal with some practical and enjoyable tasks to build positive momentum.

Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet – A well-balanced diet provides the right vitamins, minerals and nutrients to keep the body and mind strong and healthy. Eating well can also aid in the prevention of a variety of diseases and health problems, as well as helping to maintain a healthy body weight, providing energy, promote better sleep, and a general feeling of well-being.

Engaging in regular exercise – Regular exercise and movement helps release built-up fight-or-flight energy. Using bigger muscle movements can help release this energy so you feel calmer. Also, exercise releases endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals in the brain. Try jumping jacks, pushups, walking, running, chopping wood, swimming or lifting weights. Even cleaning the house or moving heavy boxes are good big-muscle exercises. Stretching and yoga also are helpful in reducing stress.

More strategies to cope with isolation:

Tackle that list of things you want to accomplish at home – While it's difficult to get started on a project when coping with isolation, the satisfaction of making progress on something that's been staring you in the eye is a measurable benefit to your mental health. You don't have to do a full home remodel, something as simple as organizing your silverware drawer can boost your mood for hours.

Starting a new hobby or recreational activity – Other ideas include making a list of projects that you have wanted to accomplish, reading inspirational writings and journaling to record your thoughts, hopes, emotions and concerns.

Talking to friends and family – Reaching out to loved ones is important and can be done through phone calls, texting, emailing and video calls. Consider hosting virtual meetings with your loved ones. Human connection can lower stress and anxiety levels, and build camaraderie.

Look for the good –  Good and bad are a part of life, and often a part of each moment. Intentionally look for and recognize the goodness of life. Whatever thoughts we feed are what grow in our emotions so will help to be purposeful with our thought patterns.

Reach out for help – You do not have to go through this alone. Everyone is in this together, we are all dealing with a situation that we have not faced before. If you feel alone, don't be silent. Instead, reach out to a friend or health care professional.

People often find significant benefit to speaking to a professional counselor who can offer strategies for coping and recovering from situational depression. Don't fight it alone… reach out today to schedule a virtual consultation.