February 18, 2021

If you feel depressed or anxious right now, you are not alone. In Washington, about three million people are feeling it too, and that number will likely go up in the dark winter months. To take care of yourself and the people you love, it helps to understand depression and anxiety — the symptoms, how to cope, and when to get help.
In this episode of the Washington State Department of Health behavioral health podcast on coping with COVID-19, Kira Mauseth, PhD and Doug Dicharry, MD discuss how depression and anxiety can show up during a disaster, and simple steps for managing those feelings.

Click here for podcast link and full article from the Washington State Department of Health. Some highlights below.

Recognizing depression and anxiety

Behavioral health experts see depression and anxiety as similar issues with different symptoms. Depression is a sense of hopelessness about the future, while anxiety is fear and worry about possible threats. While symptoms of depression and anxiety often overlap, it is important to understand both so that you can take steps to feel better.

In adults, depression can look like:

  • apathy (not being interested in things you usually like or need to do)
  • difficulty concentrating
  • changes in sleeping patterns
  • changes in eating habits
  • crying spells
  • dark thoughts, like hurting yourself or others

In children, depression shows up as:

  • irritability
  • loss of interest in family, friends, school, or other responsibilities
  • lack of motivation
  • sleep problems
  • sadness and crying
  • low energy
  • regressive behavior (acting much younger than they are)

Signs of anxiety in adults are:

  • inability to focus or being easily distracted
  • nervousness or irritability
  • trouble sleeping
  • stomachaches
  • a sense of impending danger or doom

Anxiety in children can include:

  • nervous habits, like nail biting or thumb sucking
  • increased clinginess
  • need for reassurance
  • frequent questions or worrying

Take small steps to feel better

It can feel overwhelming to face depression and anxiety, especially during a pandemic. But you don’t always need to make big changes to feel better. Adding some small practices each day can help reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.

Get some sleep. Having healthy sleep habits, also called sleep hygiene, increases our ability to cope. It also helps regulate stress chemicals in your body. Set a sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, and avoid looking at screens before bed. Routines are also a good way to bring comfort and stability to children during times of stress.

Show gratitude. Research shows that gratitude fosters positive emotions. Take a mental note of things or people in your life that you appreciate. Or, show gratitude by saying thank you to your support system or to essential workers in your community.

Notice the small stuff. Focusing on the good things can help you have a more positive outlook on life. Take note of the small good things in your life, like a sweet moment with your children or an especially good cup of coffee. Before going to bed, make a list of at least three good things that happened that day, which can help you wake up in a better mood tomorrow.

Build resilience. Resilience is the ability to recover from painful experiences. It can also help us cope with depression and anxiety. Practice these four ingredients to build resilience: purpose, connection, flexibility and adaptability, and hope. To learn more, read our story on becoming more resilient.

Notice how you feel and make small changes that feel manageable. Children’s moods often reflect those of their parents, so taking care of yourself also helps your family. Practicing these coping skills protects your wellbeing. It also helps you feel healthy enough to be there for your family when they need support.

It’s ok to ask for help

Everyone experiences depression and anxiety in different ways. It’s normal for some people to need more support than others. If symptoms make it hard to function normally, or if they last more than a few weeks, it might be time to get help.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you need help navigating depression and anxiety. They can refer you to a mental health provider or other resources. You can also call Washington Listens at 1–833–681–0211 to talk through any issues you’re dealing with and to get connected with local support. For more resources and strategies to help with depression or anxiety, visit our mental and emotional wellbeing webpage.

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