Most of us have been living under safer at home orders for over a month now. You only have to read recent posts from your friends on Facebook to understand our emotional response to stay at home orders along with our sense of danger varies widely from person to person. Yet, even if you’re completely healthy these orders can have negative effects. For those with migraine, negative thoughts that cycle into depression and anxiety can trigger more frequent attacks. While it’s the first time any of us have ever experienced anything like this, it’s not the first time the world has dealt with quarantine. We need strategies to help us deal with feeling depressed while confined to home. Previous studies have shown a variety of emotional effects from mandatory stay at home orders which includes:
- Aches and pains
- Changes in eating habits
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Emotional and Physical exhaustion
- Impaired cognitive abilities
I will admit I’ve experienced moments of many of those effects myself. Two weeks into our stay at home orders my mom (who lives alone) fell. She called me through her Alexa crying. I knew she was in pain, but I didn’t want to call 911. The thought of her going to a hospital in the middle of this pandemic felt like a bigger danger than getting her up and keeping her home.
With support from family, I did call 911 and I’m so thankful I did. It turned out she had a series of small strokes which caused her leg weakness (and the fall) and she broke her leg. The feelings of sadness, helplessness and lack of control because I can’t physically be there for her (due to COVID no visitation rules) have been at times overwhelming. Truly the saddest part of this pandemic are the families that are experiencing the loss of loved ones because of COVID-19, along with a thousand other health conditions, who are unable to be side by side.
Understanding the effects of new stressors like the one I mentioned above along with so many more created by the pandemic like loss of income, worrying about finding food and supplies for your family and even just developing new routines are important. They can lead to a cycle of depression and an increase in migraine attacks. Depression can alternate sleep schedules and change your eating habits steering you away from your protective diet which can all spell out disaster for those with migraine.
We’ve known for a long time that pain creates pain. Pain that starts slow can grow into widespread body aches and move on to a full on migraine attack. These stressors can also lead to a downward spiral of negative thoughts and emotions making everything feel more challenging.
12 Ways to Cope
There are many strategies you can try to ensure your resilience and to help you manage your symptoms and avoid feelings of isolation even now with so many social restrictions placed upon us. Here are 12 tips to help you cope with depression and improve your quality of life.
1- Boost your B vitamins, zinc and foods rich in omega fatty acids
These nutrients not only good at preventing and providing protective factors against migraine they also provide an important role in stabilizing your mood. Deficiencies in zinc and in B vitamins such as B12 and folic acid can trigger depression. Foods high in B vitamins include meat, eggs, dark leafy vegetables and fruits. Foods high in Omega fatty acids include fish and flaxseeds. If you’re considering supplements, I use Pure Encapsulations B Complex Plus and Zinc.
2- Lean on your support system
Confide in a clergy member, ask a loved one to check in on you, call or email an old friend, get a workout buddy to go on evening walks with. Staying connected to other people, especially your favorite people can make all the difference in your outlook on the world. Our tendency is to withdraw and isolate and quarantine can make that easy for us so don’t let it! Start a facebook group chat with a group of girlfriends who lift you up. Share funny jokes and stories of good things that have happened. Help each other locate the hard to find supplies right now to give yourself purpose.
3- Make your bed
It’s a small, positive step you can take to feel productive and start your day by lifting the fog of depression. Sleep and mood are very closely related. Creating a healthy ritual around sleep can help to improve both your quality and quantity of sleep.
4- Make a plan for the day
Push yourself a bit to do things even if you don’t really want to. Plan to pay your bills, clean out a closet or spend time relaxing by the pool. Schedule them or make a check list so you can cross items off the list as you go if you have to. Following through with plans can boost your energy and make you feel happier and healthier.
5- Manage screen time and media exposure
Avoid taking in too much talk and negativity surrounding the virus and all of the unknowns that come with it. Seek out news from only trustworthy venues like the CDC and The World Health Organization. Once you get the information you need, move on. Rather than taking in screen time consider starting a joy journal to focus on the positive experiences that you notice and hear about during your day. There are so many great stories coming out of this time of uncertainty in our lives. Have you seen John Krasinski’s Some Good News series on Youtube? It’s so great, if you’re going to spend some screen time, it’s a nice way to do it! I also enjoy watching standup comedians on Netflix to help get out of a funk.
6- Put on some of your favorite music
Music is amazingly powerful and particularly effective in uplifting your mood. It’s also a wonderful way to express your feelings through music. It is an official mode of therapy and even has its own American Music Therapy Association. If you can drum up enough energy, get your blood flowing through dance as well. Try a happy mood lifting playlist on youtube or Alexa.
7- Stick to your migraine diet the best you can
As someone with migraine you understand that what you eat has a direct result on how you feel. When you eat well you feel well. It’s easy to slip into eating foods high in sugar and carbs but resist that urge and do your best to stick with your chosen diet that helps to protect you from an increase in attacks. If you haven’t considered a migraine diet look into Charleston, Heal Your Headache or Keto.
8- Sit in the sun
A stress hormone called cortisol surges through your brain during times of challenge like the current pandemic. The sun has a way of making you feel relaxed and energized at the same time reducing your cortisol levels. If you can’t get outside try increasing the amount of natural light in your indoor space.
9- Stick to your routine
Depression can make it difficult to take part in simple daily activities and to take care of yourself. But, completing routine tasks can help you feel a sense of accomplishment which is important in suppressing depression. Get out of your pajamas, take a shower, do your hair and put on a little makeup. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Eat meals on the regular and avoid skipping them or eating at odd times of day. Sticking to a daily routine can help you stay motivated throughout the day.
10- Try online therapy sites
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help eliminate the cycle pattern of negative thoughts. There are many sites available online like Talk Space and Better Help where you can talk with a licensed professional, therapist from the comfort of your own home.
11- Take a walk and consider bringing your camera with you
If you try no other strategy try this one! Just being outside surrounded in nature has a way of uplifting your mood, It’s known as ecotherapy or nature therapy and it’s backed by research. I was feeling particularly helpless recently and on my walk I spotted a family of Great Horned owls. It was so exciting because I’ve never seen them in nature before that I felt joy in the midst of the helplessness and my improved mood lasted all day. Exercise is also one of the most powerful depression fighters and is also backed by research proving active people are less likely to feel depressed. It can also help to reduce feelings of fatigue.
12- Take care of something or someone other than yourself
So many people have adopted or fostered pets during this pandemic. Pets can bring joy and companionship to your life and help you feel needed. Feeling needed and a sense of purpose is one of the best remedies for depression. You can also consider something out of the box that takes less commitment than a dog or a cat like raising butterflies. Butterflies are rapidly losing habitat in our country and are making endangered species lists. Visit a garden center to purchase a few of their host plants and plant them in your garden. This will raise your spirits by getting your hands in the dirt outside in the sunshine and it’s so delightful to know you’re helping another creature.
When To Get Help
Depression can drain your energy making it difficult to follow through with the strategies listed above. If you’ve tried many of them or you just can’t bring yourself to do them and still find yourself sinking, it’s time to consider professional help. Depression can be treated and you don’t have to go through it alone. The best news is that many of the medications that are used to treat depression also help to prevent migraine. So if you need help please reach out to your doctor.
To Get More Help and Information
SAMSHA- Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP for more information check out their website.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline– 1-800-273-8255 Offers free and confidential crisis support for suicide prevention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Their website is loaded with advice and resources.
Migraine Strong Facebook Group- “When you can’t look on the bright side. We will sit with you in the dark” Alice in Wonderland
This is a great article that includes resources for those that are in danger or suffering from abuse while in quarantine.
And another if your children are in danger of suffering abuse during the quarantine.