MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: Keeping your mood up – even during COVID-19
When I was younger Depression was a major part of my life and, all too often, it even prompted thoughts about suicide. However, at this point in my life, I am so glad I am alive and that I can share some skills with others that might help turn things around just as they did for me. These can be helpful if you are feeling depressed or anxious because of the pandemic we find ourselves in or because of any other challenging life circumstance. I keep reading the news where there is talk about the toll COVID-19 is taking on mental health and I want to help change this for people.
So how can you change the way you look at things? If you take the same event and you look at it from a different perspective it can suddenly look very different. Just as an example, this past Friday night at about 6:30 p.m., just as I was about to prepare dinner, the power went out in my neighborhood. While the power company anticipated it would be back at 9 p.m., it was actually 1130 when the power was restored. I could have allowed myself to get terribly upset – here it is getting dark, I have to make different dinner plans, I have to light the house with candles, I can’t watch TV or cruise the internet or read a book – or even go out in public, due to the pandemic. Instead of going into a very negative emotional state of anxiety, anger or depression, I made a conscious effort to shift my thinking. I thought about what it must have been like for people before we had electricity. I thought about how candles and firelight were the only sources of light at night and warmth around the clock. Then I thought about the trip I took to Africa where I visited a place that still lived that way.
As I thought of these things, I found myself so grateful for what I do have and this moved my thinking to appreciation of electricity, and all its benefits, instead of being angry I did not have it in the moment. I thought of our ancestors and how much more we have than they had, and I was thankful that the power outage reminded me of those things. Even though it may temporarily be difficult, we can take a few minutes to reframe our frustration and it can change our mood for the better. We can be upset about a lost job, or be happy we are alive and breathing. We can be upset at the 6-foot distancing requirement, or be glad that we have that protective boundary. We can be frustrated at having to stay home or we can be grateful for all the things we can do in our own space. Even if we have to do this over and over in the same day, it is a worthwhile exercise. It’s your choice whether you look at events and see only negatives, or whether you seek out the positives, which would certainly be more beneficial for you and your own mental and emotional health.
Dr. Judy Cook is a retired Psychiatrist with extensive experience as a Public Speaker and Bestselling author, who lives in Sherman, Texas. Read a variety of her behavioral health articles on www.godrjudy.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.