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Depression can cripple your motivation, connection, and productivity. The black cloud can keep you in bed, stifling important work and meaningful relationships — and right now, when the whole world seems to be feeling waves of depression, anxiety, and fear thanks to COVID-19. If you or your partner have a history of depression it may be more difficult than ever. When we’re depressed, it can be very difficult to see a path back to health; it can be difficult to connect with our partner or support them. If our partner suffers from depression, it can be difficult to know the best way to love them and build them up. It’s important to develop a scaffolding for recovery, and understand the process, so that we can come back to a place of mental health more quickly — on our own and with our loved ones. Here are some great steps to give you some positive momentum; if you or your partner suffers with depression, work through these steps together.

1) Seek help. Talk to someone. Don’t deal with this alone! And don’t rely on your partner to be your only source of support. That can be wearing on both of you; make sure you reach out to friends, family, and if you’re comfortable, a therapist. We’re offering free weekly counseling sessions right now to those affected by COVID-19 — reply to this email if you’re interested.

2) Feel the feels. Name your emotion. Daniel Seigel says “Name it to tame it.” Sometimes we’re in a really dark space because we’ve never just claimed we’re in a dark space. We try and deny or ignore it. The more we stuff it down, the worse it becomes! So often depression is a lack of emotion, not experiencing a negative emotion. Let yourself experience the pain you need to heal; speak it to your partner, and if you’re that partner, don’t judge. Simply hold it with them. 

3) Get moving. Physical movement can feel incredibly difficult during this time, but if you can manage it, it’s been scientifically proven to help with mood. Even if it’s only a small shift, every bit counts. Start small: just get out of bed. Encourage your partner to join you for walks; moving together helps the process. You don’t need to chase a runner’s high on your first attempt, but it’s waiting whenever you’re ready. Double points if you can combine it with the next one: 

4) Get some sunshine. In the PNW we just don’t get enough light. So using full-spectrum lights in your home, getting outside whenever it’s even a little sunny (of course while staying safe and social distancing), and taking Vitamin D supplements can make a real difference. Everyone in this area is Vitamin D deficient, which means we all have at least a lowkey amount of seasonal depression — so get that sun!

5) Get social (from home). It’s tempting to isolate ourselves in this time — and for many of us, it’s required. But even at home, we can also push our partners and housemates away. Unfortunately loneliness will only exacerbate the problem. Even if it’s just taking extra time to connect to your spouse, your family, or your roommates — sharing this journey and pain can help to lift the load. Let someone else help you. Consider video chats and other online tools to connect to others as well — take the opportunity to see a good friend’s face!

6) Join a support group! There’s an incredible program in our area called Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. If you experience depression, their weekly support groups can be a huge help and encouragement. In person support groups are suspended for the time being, but their websites will still have resources for you to reference; online support groups can also provide a huge relief. You’re not alone. 

7) Talk to your doctor. There is absolutely no shame in getting medicinal support for depression; in many cases it’s essential. Consider chatting with your doctor or therapist about what options are available to you and whether it’s a right fit for your needs. 

When you love someone with depression, and you see them going through this, oftentimes they can’t do these seemingly simple tasks for themselves. You might need to be the one to make the call to the doctor, to log on with them to therapy, to offer Vitamin D. Just make sure to take care of yourself, too — get counseling, support, and stay healthy while you provide this loving care. Attune as much as you can to them as well as to your own needs —  remember to secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.

And as another reminder, we want you to know we are here to help. We still have some slots available for free weekly counseling for the duration of this COVID-19 crisis for anyone directly impacted by the virus. Please respond to this email if you’d like to sign up.