Fatigue, Doldrums, and Depression: Situational vs. Clinical

Simple Not Easy Are You Awake

More than eight months into the Covid 19 pandemic, many of us have begun to feel worn down mentally and emotionally. Even for those who have avoided serious illness, supporting the well-being of colleagues, friends and family – in addition to ourselves – requires consistent
time and effort. Working at a distance has many advantages, but also may generate additional stress during the workday, and for some, the school day as well.

Managers have cause to be concerned that some staff are in danger of feeling overwhelmed. Instead of micromanaging team members, many have chosen a “positive psychology approach,” offering encouragement to staff to improve self-care as a primary means of sustaining personal health as well as attending to professional opportunities and challenges.

A recent article by Catherine Powers-James Ph.D (https://www.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/
), lists seven strategies that are practical and effective for coping with the pressures of the pandemic:

  1. Understand that your feelings are normal.
  2. Reframe your thinking.
  3. Redirect your attention to what’s possible.
  4. Don’t underestimate the the value of a simple routine.
  5. Step up your self-care efforts.
  6. Know your red flags.
  7. Remember that everything is temporary.

Dr. Powers-James’ article provides a remarkable resource to all who adopt her approach. It is more than worthwhile to explore the suggestions in this article and to also see “Covid-19 blues vs. depression: how to tell the difference,” by Molly Adams. That article, also based on Dr. Power-James work, (https://www.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/covid-19-blues-vs–depression–mood-disorder-how-to-tell-the-difference.h00-159385101.html?intcmp=Highlights8_COVID19fatigue_09252020) describes in more detail the “red flags” which are signals that mood changes have become intense and long-lasting enough that professional help can be useful in changing the pattern.

It is very important to understand the difference between “situational depression,” which we all may experience in the era of Covid 19, and what mental health professionals call “clinical depression.” Research has shown that individuals experiencing longer lasting bouts of being stuck in depression (two weeks or more) often respond positively to a combination of medication and talk therapy. During recent months the use of “telemedicine visits” has become much more common, making professional advice more readily accessible through digital means.

When intense situational pressure is the issue, another way to obtain relief is available through a process called CoreSelf Mapping (CSM). CSM is based on your brain’s ability to navigate between locations – even in times of high stress – on a simple map that looks like this:

Neuroscience has shown that we have a GPS capability “wired in” to our brains that provides the answers to these questions: “Where am I on this map right now?” “Where do I want to be?” and “How do I get there?” For instance, in the diagram above, the outside circle represents the rim of your defenses, where you go to take protective action.

Imagine being cut off by a reckless driver in heavy traffic and the emotions that would occur as you recover from that dangerous situation. Part of you might feel the Rim emotion of anger, wanting to yell at the other driver; another part of your mind might want to be anywhere else at that moment to escape this threat. Another part could imagine contacting the police to report the offending driver which would “rescue“ others from potential danger. All of these emotions, however intense they are during the time of danger, demonstrate the ways that your mind works quickly to protect you.

Simple. Not Easy - Where am I going?

Now imagine being off the highway, breathing more easily, slowing down, and taking the time to look at the circle map above. You can feel yourself naturally moving in the direction of the arrow toward the Core circle, a place in which you can decide how to take care of yourself and move forward safely.

CoreSelf Mapping offers you an eight-step process (this article shares step 2) that moves you closer to being centered and confident of your best next steps, whatever your starting position in any situation.

You can explore this process at www.SimpleNotEasy.org that outlines the process and benefits of CoreSelf Mapping professionally and personally, especially during this Covid-19 era.