New Year’s is a time that’s ripe with an air of optimism and excitement about the future. For the millions afflicted with depression–about 4% of the world population–this time of year can further the disconnect they feel from loved ones, deepening the perception of isolation (not to mention the added stress of Covid-related quarantines).
While there’s no magic to be found in the stroke of midnight that will miraculously cure the negative feelings caused by depression and social isolation, there is power in the symbolism of the fresh start that the new year brings. If you’ve found that sadness, hopelessness, and lethargy have interfered with your ability to maintain your personal, professional, and romantic relationships, here are a few tips that will help put those feelings in the past to make 2022 your best year yet.
8 Ways to Overcome Depression and Social Isolation
- Create a routine and stick to a schedule
Structure is one of the most helpful things a person can do to manage an unpredictable mental illness like depression. This mood disorder can sap your motivation, causing you to neglect both the things you used to enjoy, as well as the responsibilities necessary to meet your basic needs. Establishing a routine (and sticking to it) will help get you through depressive episodes by allowing you to run on autopilot. It also saves you from the mentally arduous tasks of decision-making.
- Exercise Regularly
Physical activity triggers the release of a bunch of feel-good chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, several of which are the precise neurotransmitters that are associated with the cause of depression. Exercise is a natural way to provide yourself with mood-boosting effects that can be just as effective as antidepressants (Is there anything that exercise can’t fix?).
- Opt for non-traditional communication
Feelings of depression and social isolation can cause you to put up walls between yourself and your loved ones. This only serves to further those feelings, creating a negative feedback loop that puts you deeper and deeper into your perceived hole.
As inherently social creatures, it’s vital to maintain positive connections with other humans. However, depending on the severity of your depression, the thought of getting dressed, going somewhere, and meeting with someone can seem overwhelming. Instead, find other lower-effort means of staying connected that won’t leave you feeling drained or dreading the interaction. Video calls, phone calls, or even old-fashioned letters can allow you to be social on your terms.
There’s also the possibility of finding community outside of your circle of family and friends. You can join a forum for a topic you’re passionate about, play multiplayer games, or engage with others on social media.
- Pamper yourself
Self-care is a mantra that gained a lot of traction over the years. In today’s busy always-on-the-go society, the importance of carving out time for one’s self has never been more apparent. This can look like buying nice candles, getting massages, having a cup of tea, or turning your phone off and reading your favorite book. Give yourself permission to relax and your mental health will reap the benefits.
- Get creative
Find some means to express yourself and excite your curiosity. It can be through traditional mediums such as art or music, or practical endeavors such as cooking. Creative endeavors allow you to channel your feelings outward, a cathartic release that can leave you feeling less emotionally burdened.
- Be compassionate to yourself
It’s important to remember that depression and feelings of isolation are not a choice. Mental illnesses are not reasonable, rational, or predictable. No matter how much one prepares, there will be times where your feelings get the best of you and can cause you to act in ways that cause distress later down the road. Beating yourself up for setbacks and mistakes will only further your negative thoughts. Give yourself grace and understand that there will be good and bad days.
- Eliminate unnecessary stress
If your mental health feels like it’s deteriorating, learn how to prioritize yourself starting with minimizing the stress in your life. This will require learning to say “no”, turning down invites, and excusing yourself from commitments you previously agreed to. It means knowing when to ask for help, and feeling okay recusing yourself when you need a break. While some stressful elements of life may not be something you can bow out of (like work), eliminating the ones you can control is crucial to maintaining a healthy balance.
- See a mental health professional
If you’re experiencing depression and social isolation, talking to a professional can be tremendously helpful in processing your various emotions and giving you a better understanding of how to work through them. They can also advise on proper coping strategies and prevent you from falling down the rabbit hole of substance abuse or some other detrimental outlet.