2020 is shaping up to be quite a year. We're afraid to fly, visit the doctor's office, or get a haircut. Social distancing rules separate us from our family and friends. The economy is running off the rails, and we're worried about losing our jobs. How can we in the LGBTQ community preserve our sanity and ward off depression and anxiety?
You knew this one was coming. Spending all day on your couch is no good for your mental health. You have to get out there and move! The research is clear: physical activity improves mood, reduces anxiety, and makes you feel better.
The trouble is that many folks with depression often lack the motivation to exercise. It's tough to get started. I like the way Dr. Korb describes exercise in his book, The Upward Spiral. Just start with something, even if it's only one pushup a day. If you need to, give yourself a reward after you exercise. For example, tell yourself that you'll watch your favorite show or eat that cup of chocolate ice cream in your freezer only after you take a walk. Pretty soon, you'll find your motivation and start looking forward to going outside. You won't have to bribe yourself anymore.
Not sure what to do when you exercise? Try hiring an online personal trainer. They're affordable, and they'll create customized workout plans that you can do at home. Alternatively, you can watch some free exercise videos on YouTube. Why not use this time to learn a healthy new habit, like tai chi or Quigong? If you prefer to exercise with others but can't go to the gym, try a social distancing walking or hiking group. Grab a bunch of friends and jog together while maintaining a 6-10 foot distance.
We're all quarantine cooks now, which means we have the power to take charge of our nutrition. Take advantage of this opportunity to rethink how you eat.
A major study found that a Mediterranean diet can kick depression to the curb. Folks eating the Mediterranean diet felt happier, and the benefits lasted long after the study ended. Here's how you do it. Feast on veggies, olive oil, tree nuts, fish, and turmeric while avoiding sugar. You'll look and feel better. Munching on those healthy veggies will boost your energy and reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and wrinkles.
Visit friends online:
As humans, we're social creatures. The isolation makes us feel anxious and depressed. Since we can't go out to our usual coffee shops and bars, we need an alternative way to maintain our social bonds. Thankfully, tech makes it easy. Put away your dating apps and give Houseparty and Netflix Party a try. With Housparty, you can group chat and play online games with your friends. Netflix Party makes it easy to have movie nights even when your friends are far away. Your movies are synchronized, so you're watching the same thing at the same time. You can even share snarky comments in the sidebar.
The rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide are higher among the LGBTQ community than the population overall. LGBTQ kids and adults often struggle with a history of trauma and abuse. Many members of our community need the help of an experienced mental health professional. Unfortunately, the coronavirus and resultant quarantines choked off access to most in-person therapy visits. The doors slammed shut. Once the lockdowns are lifted, I suspect that most folks will continue to avoid clinics out of fear of the virus. Thankfully, there is now an alternative to in-person therapy visits: telemedicine.
Telemedicine, also called telehealth, is a convenient way to visit your physician or therapist from the comfort of your home. Wear your PJs and favorite fuzzy slippers while you chat with your mental health professional. There's no driving, parking, commute, or risk of disease. Once people try it, many folks find they prefer the ease of virtual visits over going into the office.
There's a good chance that your therapist will see you online. If not, it's easy to find a therapist who will. Talkspace will help you find an LGBTQ-friendly therapist. You can also check out the virtual therapist database from Psychology Today.
Our entire community is suffering from the coronavirus. We've seen a surge of calls to suicide hotlines, and anxiety is through the roof. We need to support one another. Please, call your friends, family, and neighbors. Send them a card or some groceries. Let them know that you care. You have the power to help someone feel less alone and isolated. Let's share the love; we're all in this together.
Gregory Charlop, MD is the author of Why Doctors Skip Breakfast: Wellness Tips to Reverse Aging, Treat Depression, and Get a Good Night's Sleep. He runs a telemedicine wellness clinic based in Beverly Hills, CA. Reach him at GregoryCharlopMD.com