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Sharp Health News

Finding a silver lining during the pandemic

March 3, 2021

Dramatic light behind large clouds over a forest.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress in all areas of life. For some, the hardships caused by the pandemic have been profound and traumatic. For those living with mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder, it can be much more difficult to cope.

More than 1 in 5 U.S. adults will experience a mood disorder at some point in their lives. People with mood disorders have problems managing strong emotions such as depression, anxiety, mood swings and anger. Extreme stress from a catastrophic event can exacerbate their condition and compromise their ability to deal with routine activities such as work and school.

Sharp Grossmont Hospital offers an intensive outpatient group therapy program designed to help these individuals. Psychologist Dr. William Brock leads one of the groups, which uses a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approach to managing moods and emotions.

"At the heart of CBT is the idea that our emotions and moods are the result of what we think and believe about all the events around us," explains Dr. Brock. "When we experience depression or anxiety, we can examine our thoughts about events and work to manage them so we can have a happier result. In the program, we work with our clients to help them pause, become mindful of their thoughts, and identify more helpful ways of thinking."

Focusing on the positives
Finding a silver lining and things to feel positive about - even in the most difficult situations - can have a profound impact on mental health and one's ability to cope. Patients in Sharp Grossmont's mood disorders program shared how it has helped them keep a positive mindset during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • "The mood disorder group has taught me to look at my own thinking and not catastrophize. Even during the pandemic, we can balance the bad news with a positive outlook."
  • "When I start sliding into depression, I have learned to distract myself with something different, such as going for a walk. That helps change my mood and then I am more able to handle the stressful stuff later."
  • "The pandemic has given me an excuse to take better care of myself. The program taught me to value my own self-care. I pay more attention to my nutrition, sleep and exercise. That helps me feel better."
  • "I started meditating and it has helped me manage my anxiety much better. Now I worry less and I am not so prone to react negatively to stressful things."
  • "The pandemic has really hit my family hard. Thank goodness I have learned how to accept the negative stuff in life as well as the positive. After all, it is all part of our lives."
Patients also shared some upsides of the pandemic that they have discovered in their own lives:

  • "Even though the ways I communicate with family and friends are different, I find that I am more focused on the quality of my communication and on maintaining positive relationships."
  • "The pandemic has interrupted 'life as usual' and given me a chance to step back and reevaluate my life, my goals and my relationships."
  • "I have more time for myself. Instead of being bored, I am using this time for rest and self-reflection."
  • "I love that there are fewer people out and about, and even less traffic. I can get out and enjoy nature more while staying safe."
"The world has changed, and it happened quickly," says Dr. Brock. "Doing our best to accept the new normal and adjust our thinking can change our outlook and improve our mental health. Seeking out positives even when times are tough can help us do this. Perhaps in some way, the COVID-19 pandemic can provide an opportunity to learn to respond to challenges with flexibility and compassion."

Learn more about Sharp Grossmont Hospital's intensive outpatient group therapy programs.

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