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Dealing With Depression While Self Isolating

Dealing With Depression While Self Isolating

Over the last few weeks, life as we know it has changed completely. As we adjust to our new normal, we’re starting to think about and envision how our futures have changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. One of the most profound changes has been social distancing and self isolating to help slow the spread of the virus. We’re currently all being tried and tested in ways we never have. However, for those who suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts this time can be all the more difficult, especially because being social and spending time outside is a huge part of coping and dealing with depression. Part of what takes such a toll on people whether or not they’re suffering from depression or another mental health condition is that self isolating goes against the primal human instinct to make connections with other humans. 

Although in-depth research on the psychological effects of social distancing during a pandemic is limited, a scientific review released on March 14th by the Lancet has shed some light on the effects. This review evaluated 24 studies that examined the psychological outcomes of being quarantined during various outbreaks including SARS, H1N1 flu, and Ebola in the early 2000s. Most of the studies showed that quarantine and self isolation had both short and long term negative effects on mental health including post-traumatic stress symptoms, insomnia, emotional exhaustion and increased substance abuse. Factors such as quarantining lasting longer than 10 days, poor information and lack of access to necessary supplies and telecommunication services increased the risk of psychological issues during quarantine (S.K.Brooks., R.K.Webster., L.E.Smith., L.Woodland., S.Wessely., N.Greenberg., et al. March 2020). Another study conducted in 2004 looked at 129 Toronto residents who were under quarantine during the SARS epidemic. This study found 28.9% experience post traumatic stress disorder and 31.2% experienced depression symptoms (L. Hawryluck, W.L. Gold., S.Robinson., S.Pogorski., S.Galea., R.Styra., 2004).  Manhattan-based psychotherapist Emily Roberts said “isolation is so devastating to our own mood because we’re left stuck with our own thoughts…if you rely on therapy which requires you getting out of the house, it’s going to be very hard to motivate yourself to get the help you need..there’s so much of an urgency to disconnect it creates a lot of fear with people.”

If you suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts, here are some things that might help you while self isolating:

  • Keep in contact with loved ones: If you live alone, try calling or video chatting with some family members or friends daily. If you live with family members, try playing a game, cooking a meal or do some yoga together. Keeping in contact with others as much as you can during this time is extremely important.
  • Engage in activities that bring you joy: Binge-watch your favorite shows, buy a coloring book and spend some time doing that, try baking or cooking your favorite meal. Try doing these things even if you aren’t in the mood and if all you can manage is to change or take a shower..that’s okay too.
  • Exercise and move as much as you can: Even though the gyms are closed, there are still many ways you can stay active. Many gyms and yoga studios are offering online classes (you can check out a full list in our other blog post here). Go for a walk or try exercising outside if you’re able.
  • Redirect negative/unhelpful thoughts: It’s easy to fall into a wormhole of worst-case scenarios during times of crisis or tragedy, but this will end up doing more harm than good to your mental health. If you’re feeling depressed, write a list of things that make you feel better and then do the ones you’re able to do right now.
  • Limit social media and screen time: Constantly checking social media and news outlets for updates is an easy way to fall into a spiral. Try limiting the amount of time you spend reading updates, or set up a news alert on a device and only read about the virus when you receive updates.
  • Journal: Journaling is a great way to work through thoughts or emotions on paper. If you’re new to journaling or need some inspiration, check out these 55 journal prompts for dealing with depression. They include things like “write down 3 things you achieved today”, “what would you say to a friend who is suffering from depression?”, and “what are some things you need to forgive your younger self for?” You can find the whole list here.
  • Talk to your therapist: If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, schedule an online counseling appointment with one of our licensed therapists. Although our in-person services are currently suspended, we’re utilizing our online Telehealth or Tele-therapy services. You can request an appointment here.


These are hard and uncertain times, it’s important to remember to be kind with others as well as ourselves. 


COVID-19 Resources:




Brooks, S. K., Webster, R. K., Smith, L. E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Greenberg, N., & Rubin, G. J. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. The Lancet, 295(10227), 912–920. Doi:


Hawryluck, L., Gold, W. L., Robinson, S., Pogorski, S., Galea, S., & Styra, R. (2004). SARS Control and Psychological Effects of Quarantine, Toronto, Canada. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 10(7), 1206–1212. doi: 10.3201/eid1007.030703