“After a month or so, if we’ve brainstormed at least one thing they need to get back to doing and there’s still no motivation or change in their mood, that’s when I’m saying, ‘This can’t continue,’” Matthews says. At that point, she suggests exploring further treatment, such as medication. It’s also worth reaching out to a doctor for general health screening to see if the way you’re feeling could be attributed to another health problem that’s potentially making you feel sluggish (like long COVID, if you’ve had the virus in the past).
Given that therapy or even a routine physical isn’t financially feasible for everyone, is it possible to self-assess whether you have depression? “It is, but you have to be really honest,” Matthews says, adding that this can be extremely difficult when you’re seeing the world through the thick veil of said depression. It may take an outside party, even if it’s a loved one, to help you realize you haven’t been acting like yourself in more ways than, I just don’t feel like playing tennis anymore.
Either way, both experts recommend getting proactive over assuming it’ll pass on its own.
This isn’t to suggest that you can gratitude-journal your way out of systemic dysfunction, as solely individualistic solutions won’t lift us out of this languor alone. “The culture hasn’t rebounded yet; institutions haven’t rebounded yet,” Bernice A. Pescosolido, PhD, a sociologist who has studied COVID-19’s mental health impact, tells SELF. “Right now, people are asking what the new norm is.”
All of that said, *life is happening to all of us right this minute*. You have the right to all the enthusiasm and joy that it has to offer, and there are ways to rediscover it. Here’s what experts suggest trying when you don’t think you’re depressed but want to get that bounce back in your step.
Reach out to people you trust.
Research has shown that lack of connection is bad for both your mental and physical health. Even if it feels like your social interaction muscles aren’t what they used to be, “we have to rebuild it—and we have the capacity to,” Dr. Kecmanovic says.
On that note, make a point to open up to at least one person you trust about how you’ve been feeling—and don’t wait until things feel dire. Matthews says not everyone is aware that they’re on the path toward a more serious mental health struggle. “Many times when people are depressed, they don’t even know that they’re running on empty.” When you have this conversation, try to be as honest as you can be. That might look like letting your friend or loved one know you’ve just been feeling a bit low, and asking for their support in a way that feels really meaningful to you right now.
Take a social media break.
You know in your heart of hearts that doomscrolling never helps. “Global issues are weighing heavily on people,” Matthews says. “The hope starts to erode.” If you can’t unplug completely, try to at least limit your exposure to your news feed. Consider tweaking the way you spend time on social media, reallocating that time to taking action in your community or volunteering around a cause that’s important to you, which will connect you to like-minded people—and helping others will likely boost your levels of hope and well-being, too.
Ask yourself if you need a new job or other big-ish change.
“I’ve seen many of my clients leave their job, or switch jobs, and in a week or two they’re back to their normal self,” Matthews says. Of course, this isn’t always an option for a lot of people, but this may be an opportunity to reevaluate other things—relationships and time commitments—that are draining your energy reserves. It’s really about considering whether there’s something in your life that’s truly making you miserable that you are able to let go of or walk away from.
Do something (even when you don’t feel like it).
Unappealing as it may sound, doing an activity that you usually find meaningful or pleasurable, even when you really don’t want to—and continuing to do it consistently—is the idea behind behavioral activation, a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) skill that aims to improve mood through behavior.