It’s hard to imagine that there’s a person who hasn’t suffered some anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anxiety does serve a purpose: it’s meant to protect us from threats by preparing us to respond to a crisis. It becomes a problem when we feel paralyzed by the need for assurance that we’re safe. Some people can tolerate discomfort and manage their anxiety, while others may be having trouble coping.
How do you know if anxiety has become a problem for you? The answer is different for everyone. It’s normal to be anxious when life has dramatically changed, and our health and welfare are both threatened. It’s reasonable to be anxious about that, and anxiety can bring symptoms like chronic worry, restlessness, insomnia, feelings of dread, tense muscles, irritability, and a fight response. You might feel sad or hopeless, or panicky and overwhelmed. Consider this: trying to figure out if your anxiety is a problem can actually make you feel more anxious. The best approach is to prioritize taking care of yourself and your mental health, being open to the idea of asking for help if you need it. Here are some thoughts on how to do that:
Limit your exposure to stressful information. Yes, it’s prudent to keep abreast of the facts regarding the pandemic. However, staying too plugged in will almost certainly result in heightened anxiety. Get your information from trustworthy sources, setting boundaries as to exactly how much information you consume. If this means disconnecting from social media, it may be worth the peace of mind.
Focus on what you can control. Certain things are within your control, like sticking to the recommended preventative measures. You might also prepare an emergency kit and stock your pantry with shelf-stable foods. Do these things calmly, making sure not to let yourself spiral into panic.
Give your anxiety 15 minutes, then set it aside. Write down your worries, taking the full 15 minutes, and then go do something else. You might try guided meditation to quiet your mind. Remember, you don’t have to act on your anxieties, and sometimes the very act of writing them down can help you release them.
Stay connected to other people. This may take some creativity, but it’s important to avoid the isolation that can result in even more anxiety.
Seek the help of a professional if you need it. It’s surprisingly easy to get help from a therapist these days. Many mental health professionals are offering telehealth visits, preventing the anxiety that comes with having to physically go to an appointment.