Long COVID Self-Management - Dealing with Low Mood
Some people may find it particularly hard to adjust to losses or changes in function. The more people lack control of the events that happen to them, the more they get the sense that they are not very effective. Feeling ineffective can cause people to stop trying and to decrease activity levels. This can lead to low mood and, in some cases, depression.
When people are feeling low or depressed, they may lack the energy, motivation, or interest to engage in activities. They may withdraw from friends and no longer engage in activities that used to make them feel good. They may miss out on positive experiences, connections with others, and feelings of accomplishment or mastery. These changes, in turn, can further negatively impact mood, leading to feeling guilty, ineffective, or even like a failure. These further feed a low mood.
Ways to Cope with Low Mood
Change your Behaviour
Monitor Your Activity Levels
Record (using the Activity Log from the Fatigue Management page) what you are doing throughout the day (i.e., zone activity for morning, afternoon, and evening) and rate your mood on a scale of 0 (very low) to 10 (very good) for each period. This helps you to see patterns between your activity and your mood. What activities are associated with your lowest mood? Your highest mood?
Increase Activity Level
Think especially about activities that make you feel happier and good about yourself. It can be hard to increase activity level when you feel like withdrawing, but this is one of the best ways to combat low mood. Although you may not feel better right away, increasing activity levels gives you the opportunity to experience pleasure and/or feel a sense of accomplishment or mastery.
Commit to Small Goals
Develop small, realistic, time-limited goals to help you succeed. It is important to set small, achievable goals for yourself to boost your mood. When goals are big, they can seem too overwhelming to approach. Breaking down big goals into smaller, achievable goals helps us to stay motivated. If you are having trouble getting started, commit to working on something for a short period of time (e.g., five minutes).
Physical activity can increase production of endorphins, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters.
Connect with People
Humans are wired to be social! Spending time with people you like and who inspire you helps you to become more resilient and can boost your mood. It can help you feel connected and valued. Engaging with others also helps you focus on the moment, rather than think about things that happened in the past or could happen in the future.
Being thankful and returning kindnesses can benefit your mental health.
Laughter triggers signals in your body that help improve both your physical and mental health.
Spend Time Outside
Spending time outdoors in nature has a positive impact on mental health.
Ask for What You Need
Because you may not feel like being socially connected when your mood is low, let family and friends know that they can help by reaching out to you during your recovery.
Change Your Thoughts
Compassion lowers your blood pressure, heart rate, and makes you feel more at ease. What do you need to say or do in this moment to feel well?
Give Space for Positive Thoughts
Although it is important to acknowledge and process negative feelings, it is also helpful to spend time focusing on something positive or happy. Focusing on something positive daily, even for short periods, can change your mood. When you are in a good mood, you are more likely to notice the good things happening around you. What are three things you are grateful for today? They can be big or small!
Identify Unhelpful Thinking Styles
When mood is low, we often engage in many unhelpful thinking styles. For example, we may:
- Use a negative filter for information, noticing our failures but not recognizing our successes.
- Disqualify the good things that have happened.
- Jump to conclusions about what others are thinking or what will happen in the future.
- Use words like “should” or “must”, which can make us feel guilty and like we have already failed.
- Use all-or-none/ black and white thinking, where you think in extremes (e.g., you are either a success or a failure).
- Overgeneralize and see a pattern based upon a single event.
- Blame ourselves or take responsibility for something that wasn’t our fault.
- Although these thinking styles are NORMAL, they are not always HELPFUL. Practice recognizing unhelpful thinking styles and generate alternatives to those that do arise!
For assistance COPING WITH CONFUSING OR FRIGHTENING MEMORIES OF YOUR HOSPITALIZATION, visit the Coping with Confusing or Frightening Memories of your Hospitalization.
When to Ask for More Help
Anyone can reach out for help during any part of their recovery process, but certainly consider talking to a doctor or mental health practitioner if you have anxiety or mood symptoms that remain intense, even after several months, or if your psychological symptoms interfere with your ability to engage in other aspects of your life (e.g., working, parenting etc.). If you have thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else, or need immediate assistance, you can call 911, go to the nearest emergency department, call crisis line 211 or go to the website for more information by visiting Mental Health Services, Government of Saskatchewan.