Depression & Managing Stress during the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Stick with your treatment plan
  • Maintain perspective and recognize that this situation is temporary
  • Keep stress levels low through self-care

Content provided by the University of Michigan Depression Center

How do you manage your depression in the face of uncertainty? Are there further actions that you might consider taking to better manage symptoms in the COVID-19 pandemic?

Stick with your treatment plan and be prepared

Though your routine has likely changed, it’s very important for you to continue following your treatment plan, including medications. Monitor yourself for new or worsening depression symptoms as a result of stress or feelings of isolation due to COVID-19.

Outpatient clinics are evaluating how best to serve everyone and are dedicated to the health and safety of all—staff and patients. For your next appointment, check the website of the clinic to find out if a policy for visits is in place. If you call by telephone, expect a wait time. Send an email to the clinic or a message through the patient portal. Find out if your provider offers the option of a telephone or online interaction.

Be sure that you have refills of your medications. Talk with your family or a close friend about your plan to stay well and healthy. Ask them to be a part of the strategy. The current challenging times may be with us for a while.

If you become depressed or your pandemic concerns become difficult to manage: Contact your provider immediately and, if possible, include your family or close friend. Ask about additional medication to treat your symptoms, and also ask about options such as urgent or emergency services, as well as the risks of going to  the local emergency department.

Remind yourself that this situation is temporary

The COVID-19 pandemic can feel all-consuming and endless at times. Try to maintain perspective and remember that COVID-19 is a serious but temporary disease. Medical and public health experts are working around the clock to better understand and contain the virus, treat people, and develop a vaccine. Remind yourself that like other outbreaks in our history, this situation will also pass.

Keep your stress levels low

In the meantime, do your best to manage stress by practicing self-care, engaging your support network, and limiting media exposure.

Creating and maintaining a daily routine will help you cope with this new, unpredictable situation and make you feel more in control. Carve out blocks of time for self-care activities such as making nutritious meals, stretching, going on walks outside, and practicing breathing exercises and other helpful techniques. You should also prioritize staying connected with family and friends through regular phone calls and relaxing.

During this challenging time, your distress, mood, and anxiety may vary quite a bit and can be difficult to monitor on your own. If you have a computer, tablet, or smartphone, you may consider using an app or online program that can help you track your mood, manage symptoms, or reduce stress. Some examples of apps and other online methods to help you manage your depression are available on the Depression Center Toolkit.

If you are finding the news distressing, do your best to limit your news consumption to a few specific times during the day (e.g. about 15 minutes a day in the morning and 15 minutes a day in the evening) for key practical information. Tune into trusted sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), or your state health department. Avoid watching or reading news on social media where information can be exaggerated or incorrect.