As a therapist to several people navigating long-standing anxiety, this is the narrative that I have heard dozens of times now. Picture this:
I was struggling along just fine with my anxiety (define fine, right?) and then BAM! COVID-19 strikes! All of a sudden the world is spun upside down, and everyone seems to be feeling exactly the same anxiety that I’ve been feeling for years! Everyone began to panic — buying toilet paper, baby wipes, and chicken cutlets. It’s as if everyone has become a doomsday prepper overnight, while I’m sitting here trying to sort where I fall on the spectrum of preppers.
It is me? I’ve felt this sense of doom and dread for years now. Is it them? A world gone wild with panic. Part of me feels a sense of relief that these #CantRelate people can now relate. Part of me feels even more panicked because everyone is acting like the world is ending. Part of me finds this whole thing humorous, and another part of me is very concerned.
This article is for those who have been trying to hold it all together when everything was “normal” and now need to continue holding it together when the world feels like a disaster movie.
The Pandemic Has Validated Anxiety
Some clients express that they are actually feeling better during the pandemic. Their anxiety has been validated for the first time. Validation is one of the most beautiful gifts a human being can receive. All of us, at our core, want to feel as though we — and our feelings — have a place and purpose. For some, this pandemic has given them security in knowing that their fears — while previously irrational — are now the same fears that most of us are experiencing. As strange as it may sound — and even stranger to be writing it as a therapist — there is validation to be found in shared suffering.
And if you aren’t feeling better? That is totally normal too! I have also recently worked with several folks who are feeling like they are crawling out of their skin with panic. For some, it is because they are cooped up in a small apartment. For others it is the fear of the unknown that has hooked them in. The fact is, for many people who had pre-existing anxiety, this pandemic is feeling like the last straw.
Tips for Managing Pre-Existing Anxiety During the Pandemic
If you are not already engaged in therapy, I would highly recommend finding a professional to speak with. Talkspace is an excellent option, as leaving the house is currently not recommended except for essentials like groceries or medication.
Depending on how your anxiety manifests, leaving the home may have been tough even before the coronavirus outbreak. Individual therapy can help you get to the core of the thought patterns that may keep you stuck in the loop of panic, and it can give you practical solutions to help you cope with the symptoms of anxiety: poor sleep, difficulty concentrating, and panic attacks, just to name a few.
In addition to therapy, this might be a good time to consult a psychiatrist or your primary care provider about medication for anxiety. Not only might you benefit from some short-term psychopharmaceutical intervention; starting medications while on lockdown may offer breathing room for the time it can take to find the correct medication or dosage. Talkspace recently expanded its psychiatry services as well, and some primary care providers are versed in common medications for depression and anxiety.
If you’ve already reached a crisis point, please contact one of these crisis options, or go to your local ER for emergency mental health services. Your life has value, and if you haven’t heard it from anyone else recently, please hear it from us. It’s impossible to make any promises about what the future holds for you, but there are thousands of mental health and healthcare providers around the world who want to help you feel whole again.
Whether you are feeling up, down, or all around these days, give yourself a bit of grace. These are scary times, and your feelings of fear and anxiety are valid here. Now is a great time to utilize your social support system — safely in adherence to physical distancing mandates — and to add to it by beginning therapy.
Learning how to manage anxiety will help you now and after this pandemic subsides.