Anxiety in the Times of COVID-19

With the threat of COVID-19 around the corner, why are you feeling more anxious than normal? There are so many reasons why the current state of the world is best labeled as anxiety – and for a reason. During this time of social distancing and the new world of take-out only restaurants and school closures, you may be wondering why you’re on edge.

It’s obvious after reading even a few of these possible reasons for anxiety with COVID-19.

  • Loss of physical closeness, lack of hugs, handshakes, close personal distance, loss of in-person contact with older or immune-compromised friends and relatives.
  • Loss/Lack of routine like gym and restaurant closures, everyone working from home (which can disrupt a routine for a home worker too), schools shutting down and leaving children at home with working-from-home family members.
  • Cancelling of major events (or hell, even minor events with over 10 people), work travel plans, vacations, and more.
  • Lack of normal items available in grocery stores like hand wipes, hand sanitizer, and even toilet paper. An anxiety that specialty-diet people cannot get the right food that won’t make them sick due to panic buying from the general population.
  • Increase in online communications inciting a panic mindset including photos of empty store shelves, people in masks, fights breaking out at Costco.
  • Increase in media coverage, a 24/7 news cycle that can trigger anxiety and panic.
  • Complete government poop parade – with lies and misinformation coming from the top, not knowing who or what to trust with accurate information (outside of CDC/WHO).
  • Conspiracy theorists who do not trust the government in outrage over closures, bans, etc.
  • Lack of tests available, leaving people feeling like they may be contagious or fearful that a cold/flu is actually COVID-19.
  • Bloggers and influencers with no medical background peddling things that are ineffective against viruses, not practicing social distancing.
  • Underlying anxiety disorders like eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, panic attacks, etc.

It’s easy to see why so many of us are in a heightened state of anxiety without any answer on when it will get better.

My Personal Struggle with Anxiety

I, for one, and really struggling right now. My compulsions are getting worse and my panic attacks are always right around the corner. While I’m on medication, I’m also taking other medication made only for panic attacks more regularly to help keep anxiety at bay.

My anxiety actually incites my IBS and god knows ain’t nobody has enough toilet paper right now for that.

It’s a struggle – but I already know I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder and have pharmaceuticals and therapeutic coping mechanisms. I can’t imagine how it feels to be like this without them. Sadly, because of the stigma of mental illness in this world, I bet a lot of you out there are living in secret shame about your mental health.

I urge anyone struggling with a panic or anxiety disorder (including eating disorders, OCD, hoarding, etc.) to get in touch with your general practitioner or specialist therapist in your area to discuss your treatment options. I know it’s hard right now because we don’t want to occupy space at a doctor’s office when they need to be seeing physically ill patients – so try emailing with your physician to establish a time to come in that works best for them. If you can’t locate a therapist in your area, consider online apps like Talkspace.

Easing Anxiety

Mindfulness: Practice deep breathing every hour. Set your watch to remind you to get those shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and actually take a breath. If you need more help with mindfulness, try apps like Headspace or Calm. I’m not much good at meditation, but these apps might help you with that as well.

Be Honest: Open up to your friends or partner about your anxious thoughts. Sometimes just saying your problems out loud may take some burden off your shoulders. And please, know you’re not alone in this time.

Communication: Often those of us with anxiety are used to social distancing. We’re embarrassed by our conditions and it’s just easier to hide them. Sadly, this just makes us feel more isolated. Use Skype or Facetime to arrange chats with your friends and family from a safe distance. Use Nextdoor to communicate with your neighbors. Use Facebook to connect with old friends!

Laughter: Laughter is the best medicine, next to Xanax of course. (bah dum ching). I find that by engulfing myself into a funny movie, epic fails on YouTube, or stand-up comedy specials, I can temporarily escape anxiety. With streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu – you have a world of laughs at your finger tips.

Exercise: Yes, your gyms are shut down right now, but what about free online classes? A free YouTube account gives you access to an incredible wealth of at-home fitness classes. Try something new – dance classes, yoga classes, barre classes – anything to get your moving. Not into dancing? Take a walk outside.

Anxious is the New Normal

Listen, I have no idea when this thing will blow past us. I know that many amazing people are working on vaccines and therapeutics. And that’s all we can hope for is to flatten the curve to help people who really need it to secure hospital beds. And until this is over, we have to practice social distancing, and still attempting to maintain sanity and healthy mental states. Sometimes, especially from a state of panic, this all feels utterly impossible and overwhelming. But we’re quite literally all in this together. I wish you the best possible health – physical and mental – while we all navigate this new normal together.

Comments: 2

  1. Chelsea W. March 17, 2020 at 9:04 pm Reply

    Erica, you rock. Thank you for all of this. ❤️

  2. Maureen March 18, 2020 at 11:56 am Reply

    Thank you for the common sense in the midst of this chaos. I’ve had anxiety issues since I was child, been being treat for the last 20yrs.
    These tips are really helpful and a much needed reminder. Thank you! ❤

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