The Covid-19 pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty, financial stress, and concerns about contracting the virus or inadvertently spreading it to someone else (Guessoum et al., 2020; Zvolensky et al., 2020). With these heightened concerns, comes increased stress (Tull et al., 2020; Zvolensky et al., 2020). People affected may have experienced depression, some for the first time (Tso & Park, 2020).
In Victoria, the rules imposed on the community by the Government under stage 4 restrictions have felt ominous and over-bearing particularly with the introduction of the curfew, the 5-kilometre radius movement zones, and restrictions on work for certain industries (Broadsheet, 2020; State Government of Victoria, 2020).
During times of feeling down and unsure, it is common for people to adopt a stooped, closed posture as a protective mechanism from a threat (Peper et al., 2016; Veenstra et al., 2016).
Stooped postures can also perpetuate a person to recall negative thoughts and may make it difficult for the person to think positively (Peper et al., 2017; Veenstra et al., 2016). The term ‘Things are looking up’ perhaps align with this (Peper et al., 2016).
A person who sits upright with their head in alignment and chest lifted is more likely to think positive thoughts (Miragall et al., 2020; Peper et al., 2016; Peper et al., 2017). Correcting posture may be a useful intervention for improving mood and well-being for people experiencing mild to moderate depression (Miragall et al., 2020). This could be helpful for many people who feel down about the pandemic and are needing a more positive mindset to go back to work or to find new Covid-safe ways to move forward.
When facing long lasting threats, people can feel tired with constant stress leading to fatigue Peper et al., 2016; Wilkes et al., 2017). Upright postures create more energy than stooped and skipping whilst smiling (it is hard to not do both) increase energy than walking alone (Peper et al., 2016; Peper et al., 2017; Wilkes et al., 2017).
Big, expansive postures are associated with pride, confidence and positive thoughts compared to closed, slouched postures which are associated with lack of confidence, helplessness, hopelessness, and negative thoughts (Miragall et al., 2020; Peper et al., 2017; Tedx talks, 2012; Veenstra et al., 2016).
Adopting a broad, upright, power posture for 2 minutes can decrease the stress hormone, cortisol and increase testosterone levels in the body (Peper et al., 2017; Tedx talks, 2012). People who interact with people who have upright postures, find these people more engaging (Tedx talks, 2012). Those who slouch, convey a lack of confidence and are less attractive to people (Tedx talks, 2012). This may be important to consider prior to a job interview (Tedx talks, 2012).
Breathing is easier for people with upright postures as the diaphragm has more room to move downwards to allow for deeper breathing which can have a calming effect (Peper et al., 2016; Peper et al., 2017; Veenstra et al., 2016).
Correcting posture can help ward off depression and fatigue by simply sitting upright rather than slouched (Miragall et al., 2020; Peper et al., 2017; Veenstra et al., 2016; Wilkes et al., 2017). Interestingly when slouched, a person needs to engage more brain activity to think positively than when sitting tall (Peper et al., 2017; Wilkes et al., 2017).
During the pandemic, many people may be spending more time on devices such as phones, tablets and PC’s and it is likely many people slouch whilst using these which could perpetuate depressive symptoms especially if accessing negative news related to the pandemic (Guessoum et al., 2020; Peper et al., 2017). Regular breaks from the devices, but also adopting upright postures could be a key to minimising this affect (Guessoum et al, 2020; Miragall et al., 2020; Peper et al., 2017; Veenstra et al., 2016).
Rational thought and clear thinking may be affected by poor posture as in survival mode, under threat, it is common to blank out whilst concentrating on running away from impending disaster (Peper et al., 2016).
Everyone feels down but it is usually a temporary feeling (Peper et al., 2016). When feeling depressed or negative, acknowledge the feeling and let it be ok to feel that way but remind yourself that the feeling will pass and not be constant (Peper et al., 2016). This may be a helpful tool to managing a low period. This also leaves the future free for opportunity and hope.
Check in with your posture, lift your chest and head up, think of something that makes you smile and smile even if you do not feel like it (Veenstra et al., 2016; Wilkes et al., 2017). Get up, move around, throw your arms up in victory (Tedx talks, 2012). Hold that power posture for a least two minutes and then go find your Covid-normal (Peper et al., 2016; Tedx talks, 2012)! We do not know what the future holds but we will be so much better tackling it with our heads held high (Veenstra et al., 2016; Tedx talks, 2012).
Correct posture can help everyone, but those with severe or clinically diagnosed depression will need support from their medical team (Miragall et al., 2020; Veenstra et al., 2016). This advice may be helpful for people living through the current Covid-19 pandemic who are feeling symptoms of mild to moderate depression and are not usually affected (Miragall et al., 2020; Veenstra et al., 2016).
An important note: If you find your negative thoughts perpetuate and you lack the ability to feel hopeful, seek help from your G.P. and or reach out to organisations such as Beyond Blue (Beyond Blue, 2020; Lifeline, 2020a). It is important to seek help if you are feeling down (Lifeline, 2020a). The community needs to support each other as we ease out of lock down and find a safe way to interact whilst at work and play (Lifeline, 2020b).
Helpful links to support this article:
Ted Talk – “Your body language may shape who you are” – Click here to watch Amy Cuddy’s presentation.
Beyond Blue – Telephone 1300 22 4636
Lifeline Australia – Telephone 13 11 14
Beyond Blue. (2020). Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service. https://coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au/
Broadsheet. (2020, September 08). Opinion: This Is What It Feels Like To Live In Melbourne Right Now. https://www.broadsheet.com.au/national/city-file/article/what-it-feels-live-melbourne-right-now?fbclid=IwAR1dPCfxo5nAghcltn_4edAWd-EsdYPGCrz2nOwNl2BhJaM1hcxo8fd0DKI
Guessoum, S. B., Lachal, J., Radjack, R., Carretier, E., Minassian, S., Benoit, L., & Moro, M.R. (2020). Adolescent psychiatric disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. Psychiatry Research, 291. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113264
Lifeline. (2020a). Stress and overwhelming feelings. https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/information-and-support/stress-and-overwhelming-feelings/
Lifeline. (2020b). Mental health and wellbeing during the Coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak. https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/information-and-support/covid-19/
Miragall, M., Borrego, A., Cebolla, A., Etchemendy, E., Navarro-Siurana, J., Llorens, R., Blackwell, S.E., & Banos, R. M. (2020). Effect of an upright (vs. stooped) posture on interpretation bias, imagery, and emotions. Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 68(2020), 101560. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2020.101560
Peper, E., Booiman, A., Lin, I., & Harvey, R. (2016). Increase Strength and Mood with posture. Biofeedback, 44(2), 66-72. https://doi.org/10.5298/1081-5937-44.2.04
Peper, E., Lin, I., Harvey, R., & Perez, J. (2017). How Posture Affects Memory Recall and Mood. Biofeedback, 45(2), 36-41. https://doi.org/10.5298/1081-5937-45.2.01
State Government of Victoria. (2020, September 28). Coronavirus (Covid-19) roadmap for reopening. https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-covid-19-restrictions-roadmaps
Tedx Talks. (2012). Your body language may shape who you are: Amy Cuddy at TEDxUCD [Video]. Youtube. https://youtu.be/Ks-_Mh1QhMc
Tso, I.F., & Park, S. (2020). Alarming levels of psychiatric symptoms and the role of loneliness during the COVID-19 epidemic: A case study of Hong Kong. Psychiatry Research, 293. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113423
Tull, M.T., Edmonds, K.A., Scamaldo, K.M., Richmond, J.R., Rose, J.P., & Gratz, K.L. (2020). Psychological Outcomes Associated with Stay-at-Home Orders and the Perceived Impact of COVID-19 on Daily Life. Psychiatry Research, 289. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113098
Veenstra, L., Schneider, I.K., & Koole, S.L. (2016). Embodied mood regulation: the impact of body posture on mood recovery, negative thoughts, and mood-congruent recall. Cognition and Emotion, 31(7) 1361-1376. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2016.1225003
Wilkes, C., Kydd, R., Sagar, M., & Broadbent, E. (2017). Upright posture improves affect and fatigue in people with depressive symptoms. Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 54(2017), 143-149. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2016.07.015
Zvolensky, M.J., Garey, L., Rogers, A.H., Schmidt, N.B., Vujanovic, A.A., Storch, E.A., Buckner, J.D., Paulus D.J., Alfano, C., Smits, J.A.J., O’Cleirigh, C. (2020). Psychological, addictive, and health behaviour implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 134. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2020.103715