The side-effects of Pandemic Anxiety and coping with them
As the summer approaches, we mark the one-year anniversary of a worldwide lockdown aimed at curbing the coronavirus outbreak, which led to concerns around individuals’ medical health and wellbeing; since then, we continue to take precautionary measures such as regular sanitising, wearing a face mask, physical distancing and avoiding large crowds.
We experienced situations like never before– from staying indoors at all times, to panic buying, to surrendering leisure activities and ease of travel.
Whilst we continue to monitor the virus spreading across the globe over the past year, another pandemic has been silently brewing; a mental health pandemic.
The pandemic has also brought about uncertainty and instability for many, rendering them fragile and insecure be it financially or emotionally. The term “pandemic anxiety” has been coined to describe the distress we experience as a result of adapting to the “new normal”.
In fact, Medical News Today reported research that found Google searches for ‘worry,’ ‘anxiety,’ and strategies to cope with anxiety have increased during the pandemic, indicating that anxiety rates have shot up. From my personal experience, as a psychologist seeing clients in therapy, this sounds about right.
There’s a plethora of articles, online and offline, which provide insights on how to cope with anxiety. However, many don’t delve into the side-effects of experiencing anxiety, such as anger, sleeplessness and issues with focus:
1) Anger: Circumstances that feel like a threat can not only make us feel anxious but can quickly transform into a secondary and more outward emotion– anger. Both anxiety and anger are reactive emotions that root from a loss of control and the removal of choice and freedom; situations that lead us to feel trapped or helpless may make us feel anxious and angry.
2) Sleeplessness: Feeling troubled by financial, emotional, relational or even medical matters can lead to sleep disturbance. Moreover, the lack of boundaries or schedule– our own as well as our parents’, spouse’s, child’s –can lead to an upheaval of a healthy routine, leading us to compromise one entity we see as a luxury– sleep. Spending more time on screens, especially at night, has also been a driver of sleep deprivation.
Also read: Mental health services and its benefits at Mpower
3) Loss of focus: As we prescribe to a lifestyle of mindful actions and decisions (remembering to wear a mask, sanitising your hands regularly, choosing where to go/ what to do during the pandemic, deciding if a plan is considered safe, etc.), we are using our mental bandwidth to go through a mental check-list ensuring that we take the right action, taking the necessary precautions and are consequently on constant high alert. Things we carried out on autopilot now require considerable thought and risk analyses; this can eat into our capacity to attend to other aspects of our lives in an intensely focused way.
It’s evident that pandemic anxiety is making us angry, sleepless and unfocused. This is not only exacerbating our mental health, but also impacts negatively on our immunity and physical health. Here's how we can cope with the side-effects of anxiety
-To stay on task, use physical prompts such as a planner, post-its, to-do lists, shopping lists that will serve as reminders during the day and keep you on task.
-To enhance your focus, separate your work into smaller tasks; break your work down into simpler discrete tasks rather than trying to multitask, losing your focus and feeling like you haven’t achieved much.
-To implement a routine and place some healthy boundaries, set digital reminders e.g. sleep time, taking a break, limiting time on social media/ the internet.
-Take a break from social media, if you begin to feel anxious/ unsettled (or try a “digital detox”); limit your time on these platforms or allow yourself a specific time frame to browse through social media platforms.
-Distinguish anger from anxiety; understand what emotion/ insecurity you are really feeling that is masked as anger; think about what is affecting you at a deeper level and acknowledge how this is making you feel.
-Seek support, speak to someone about what you are experiencing in order to release your anxiety, relieve yourself and to feel supported. Whether confiding in your loved ones or meeting a mental health professional, use conversation to explore, understand and overcome your emotional distress.
Finally, remember that these emotions are a part of the human experience, and you are not alone in experiencing this. Seeking support from a mental health professional can help you through a difficult time, as the therapist provides a warm, non-judgmental and safe space as you navigate through your hardships.
Consult with the best Psychiatrist: https://mpowerminds.com/seekhelp