I want to talk a bit about mental health today. A lot of people with chronic illness deal with depression and anxiety. During this Covid-19 post-lockdown period, a number of previously mentally healthy people have been also dealing with feelings of anxiety and depression because of their time in isolation and the different experiences this may have brought for them. While there are many different reasons for people to become depressed, there are some proven ways to combat it. The way I’d like to talk about today is behavioral activation.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am currently doing my a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology. Last month I took a course on Cognitive Behavioral interventions. Though I am not planning on specializing in CBT, I do find that a lot of the empirically supported interventions are worth integrating into my future practice. Anyway, I’ll digress. What is behavioral activation? BA is an intervention that suggests that doing something you enjoy and/or are masterful at and/or provides social interaction, will decrease your depressive symptoms and ultimately make you feel happy. Before you start to laugh, as I have mentioned, there is a lot of evidence (which I’ll link below) that supports this treatment for depression, including severe depression. If you find you’re feeling more depressed at a certain time of day, that is when you should schedule activities for. Remember, they need to be something you enjoy (or previously enjoyed before depression) or something you’re good at. So, for example, if from 3-5pm every day you feel really depressed, but you like to be outside and walk, then that’s the time you should do it.
Here’s something I noticed during lockdown. Most of the people I know who sat at home and did nothing – just watched Netflix all day or played video games – felt depressed. I volunteer at a crisis text line and a lot of the texters felt the same way by just doing those things – movies and video games. Now, I have nothing against movies and video games and they can be things you enjoy, but not necessarily when it’s all you do all day every day. Those of us who kept busy (I studied, exercised, meditated, did my 30-day self-care challenge, walked, learned a new language, etc, etc.) did not feel depressed. Kind of interesting isn’t it?
Lockdown era city hike.
My suggestion is that if you’re feeling depressed, try to start scheduling some activities for yourself, or now that lockdown is winding down, start to see some of your friends again. If you’re severely depressed, I do suggest finding a therapist to help you as well, but don’t be surprised if one of the things they suggest is behavioral activation! Of course, for anyone with a chronic illness, we may not be able to do ALL of the things we could before, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you enjoy or are good at. Take a look at what you can do and go from there.
Here are some articles surrounding the efficacy of it.