What is COVID anxiety?
COVID-19 has shaken the entire world, forcing us to adjust to a 'new normal.' From small tasks such as buying groceries to significant activities like going back to work or travelling, everything needs to be treated with extra caution. Although the cases have decreased and we are slowly getting back on our feet, we are still grappling with the aftereffects of the pandemic, and one such aftereffect is COVID anxiety.
When COVID-19 began to spread, we all struggled with fear and anxiety about the virus and the consequences of catching it. Even when the situation started cooling down, the idea of moving out of home, meeting new people, being in a public space, etc., remains challenging for many people who tend to feel extremely apprehensive about getting used to such activities. Researchers have clubbed these concerns to be the symptoms of COVID anxiety.
How to know if you are experiencing COVID anxiety?
Some of the traits identified as symptoms of covid anxiety include:
- You are constantly on your toes whenever you hear of COVID or have trouble thinking about anything other than the virus.
- You constantly worry about catching the virus or experiencing any symptoms (including minor ones).
- Another sign is that you repeatedly check your temperature and oxygen levels or just look out for anything happening out of the blue.
- Are you scared of going out and/or meeting people in public places? Do you find it difficult to navigate public places? If you relate to these, you might be experiencing COVID anxiety.
- You go out of your way to clean and sanitise anything in your contact, even when it is not necessary.
- Lastly, feeling low, helpless, or hopeless about COVID-19 can also be a significant sign of COVID anxiety.
Since many of the signs mentioned above overlap with those of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it is crucial to talk to a mental health professional to understand your symptoms better and not self-diagnose them.
Why are you experiencing COVID anxiety?
The widespread fear and losses caused due to COVID are some of the primary reasons behind covid anxiety. Plus, the collective grief of the pandemic can cause stress, anxiety, and apprehension to linger longer. The pandemic might have also intensified anxiety-related symptoms for those who were already experiencing or diagnosed with clinical anxiety or OCD. Other factors contributing to COVID anxiety include media exposure to the extensive effects of the pandemic and the high uncertainty and helplessness of the situation.
But the question is - how do we deal with it?
How can you manage COVID anxiety?
- Talking to people close to you: Discussing your worries and fears with someone else can be greatly relieving to understand that these fears are valid. All of us are still struggling and slowly getting back to normal!
- Taking it slow: While the information and the experience of covid anxiety could be overwhelming, it is also essential to understand that rushing through the same can make you feel drained and exhausted. Understand what you are experiencing, and remember to take pauses. Breathe.
- Writing it down or talking to an inanimate object or pet: Do not have anyone to reach out to? It is okay; not everyone has a support system that is accessible 24x7. You can always engage yourself in journaling these fears and thoughts or talk to a pillow, soft toy, or literally anything to vent out your concerns.
- Seeking professional help: It is also a good idea to seek a mental health professional when you realise that the covid anxiety is not manageable on your own or with the support of others. A mental health professional can help you identify the symptoms and manage them. Remember, you are not alone in this journey!