Depression can be experienced by anyone at any time and In post-lockdown U.S. depression and anxiety is soaring among adults and children. The health, social, and economic impact of covid-19 will be felt for generations. Being separated from friends and family, job loss, routines turned upside down, and lack of social life is enough to damage anyone’s physical health and mental wellbeing. But, it is possible to reduce stress and regain healthy sleep.
Covid-19 is a global traumatic event and despite the shared experience, isolation and loneliness have never been more prevalent in our society
Symptoms of Depression
- Lethargy, despite getting plenty of sleep
- Apathy and complete loss of interest in once-loved hobbies
- Hiding away from friends and family
- Weight loss
- Feelings of guilt
- Suicidal thoughts
Causes of Lack of Sleep When Going Through Times of Stress?
Disruption to Daily Life
Human beings are creatures of habit. We enjoy having a schedule of work, school, family, and social life. When our routines are interrupted by job loss, mandated school closures, mandated shopping mall closures. When we are unable to complete a simple task such as updating our address on our drivers' license, walk into a bank to cash a cheque, or sit in a cafe and enjoy a coffee. The harsh reality of such a massive upheaval to daily life can be triggering. Choosing to take a new job, moving to a new state or country, taking an exciting new college class, the personal choices you make in life are in your control. However, during the global upheaval that led to lockdowns. Personal choice was ripped away and replaced with mandated lockdowns and fines for noncompliance. A disruption to daily life that was sudden and brutal.
Anxiety and Depression
Disruption to daily life on a global scale, loss of control, and feeling trapped have caused depression to increase by 39% and anxiety by 42% in the post-lockdown U.S. While the physical symptoms of covid-19 have been getting the most airplay. Mental health and wellbeing have been put on the sidelines. Trauma has many faces and is a massive trigger to anxiety and depression. In the first months of the pandemic, 20 million Americans filed for unemployment, a level not seen since the great depression of the ‘30s. For many people, their job is more than a paycheque, it’s a component of one's identity.
Isolation and Loneliness During Lockdown
Covid-19 is a global traumatic event and despite the shared experience, isolation and loneliness have never been more prevalent in our society. Social isolation and lack of human contact are akin to torture for loving human beings. Elderly relatives being denied access to their loved ones, being asked to stay at home and not go outside unless it is necessary, avoiding neighbors and friends cause negative thoughts to take over. Loneliness has massive consequences on our physical health and mental wellbeing.
Family Life Interrupted
Family life is the foundation of American society. A strong family unit is a pillar that communities are built on. 42 states were put under stay-at-home orders or shelter-in-place in 2020 and affected over 300 million people. Many Americans have family overseas, or across the country, barred from travel, separation anxiety can be overwhelming. Families who are living under the same roof have not had an easier time, with parents working from home and school closures, having everyone at home all day every day is enormously distressing. For families living in smaller apartments with young children even more so.
Excessive Drinking, Eating, and Screen Time
After a tough day, you may want to improve your mood with a good meal, a glass of wine or soda, and a movie. But, during times of stress, it’s easy for typical comfort food and screen time to develop into unhealthy coping mechanisms. Children are spending an inordinate amount of time online, adults are binge drinking more. Alcohol-related deaths in the U.S are on the rise with around 95,000 American citizens dying from alcohol-related causes every year. Alcohol consumption is up 14% in 2020 compared to previous years. Getting control of your diet, alcohol consumption, and screen time could reduce stress and help you enjoy healthy sleep again.
How Does Stress Affect my Health?
Experiencing times of stress is a part of life and learning how to embrace it can be exhilarating. Facing a challenge head-on, remaining calm, and getting through the experience can help you to manage stress in the future. If you’re in a constant sleep-deprived state, your hours of sleep will not be restorative, this affects your physical health in several ways.
- Stress causes physical symptoms such as stomach ache, headache, high blood pressure, and panic attacks
- Stress causes enormous sleep challenges during covid-19, leading to insomnia and loss of REM sleep
- Unhealthy coping mechanisms and lack of human contact can lead to major depressive disorder
- Stress and anxiety can lead to loss of libido and intimacy with a partner
- Disease can develop in a body that is constantly stressed
- Stress can exacerbate current health issues such as asthma, heart problems, and blood pressure
- If stress is utilized, it can help you achieve life goals and keeps you alert for danger
Why Sleep is Important During Times of Stress
Pre-pandemic rates of sleep disturbance were between 14-25% but have since jumped to 41-56% of loss of sleep during the pandemic. During times of stress, your body will enter a fight, flight, or freeze mode as a way to cope with trauma. This is hugely taxing for your body and you may become exhausted easily, especially after an anxiety attack. It’s important to free your emotions and allow yourself to cry and beat a punching bag to release the energy if that will make you feel better. Bottling up stress or trying to handle it alone could lead to symptoms of depression, negative thoughts, and sleep disturbances. A prolonged lack of quality sleep disturbs your body's ability to restore energy, repair muscles, prevent illness, and reset your mind and body.
Take a walk in nature and enjoy fresh air every day, any type of exercise you enjoy will help you sleep well
Tips for Better Sleep and Depression Recovery
- Create and stick to a sleep schedule that fits your lifestyle
- Get out of bed when you wake up
- Avoid using electronics in the bedroom, make your bedroom a place for relaxation, sex, and sleep only
- Develop sleep habits that relax you before bed such as taking a hot bath or shower, gentle yoga or meditation, or reading a book
- Take a walk in nature and enjoy fresh air every day, any type of exercise you enjoy will help you sleep well and could help you to control your anxiety too
- Do something creative, write, paint, sew, bake, cook, restore old furniture. Using your creativity is a great way to alleviate stress during pandemic
- Ask for help from loved ones or seek medical advice from a professional, your doctor could be a good place to start
- Support groups are a great way to meet like-minded people in a host of age groups
- The American Academy of Sleep has plenty of resources on sleep medicine, recommended amount of sleep for pediatric populations, medically reviewed journals, and covid-19 guidance
If you’re experiencing sleep challenges during covid-19 or noticing your alcohol intake, screen time, and calorie intake have increased. Know that these are normal responses to stress and anxiety, you’re not alone. If your sleep durations have changed significantly, your sleeping much less than before, or sleeping much more, it might be time to ask your doctor to help you create some health plans to get you back on track. It may seem impossible but with a healthy body and mind you can get through any situation life throws at you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, take up a hobby and exercise that you enjoy, get plenty of fresh air, and enjoy nature. Small steps can lead to big positive changes in overcoming anxiety and depression.