Anxiety and Covid

5 minute read

2020 saw 53 million new cases of depressive disorders and 76 million new cases of anxiety disorders globally—that’s according to a study published in The Lancet medical journal.

And those numbers only reflect the increase in people who have sought help during that period. Many more of us are struggling without the assistance of therapy, and many of us have joined the ranks of the chronically anxious in the year+ since those numbers were reported.

But why are we so anxious?

What elements of this pandemic have led to such a widely shared shadow pandemic: the anxiety pandemic.

Up First: The Virus Itself

Let’s look at the most obvious component first: the disease itself. It’s killed over five million people globally and brought severe illness and long-lasting effects to many more. Many of us have been concerned for our parents, elders, and loved ones with underlying conditions.

Additionally, through the ups and downs of various unpredictable spikes, we have had to make daily risk-assessments for nearly all of our activities, even grocery shopping and dropping into a gas station to pee. Anything that brings us in contact with other people brings risk during a pandemic. Some settings and time periods are riskier than others depending on the rate of spread.

Because the risk has been dynamic, ever changing, no single means of approach has been ideal throughout. So, we have had to assess and reassess our comfort levels and openness to different kinds of risks on a constant basis. This process is a huge stressor on the mind and body because calculating risks with this many variables and complete unknowns is simply not easy or exact.

However, even as vaccines and receding omicron spike numbers are alleviating some of those concerns over risk, nothing seems to be truly alleviating our anxiety. That’s because so much of the worry extends beyond the disease itself.

Second: Budgeting of Time and Money

Economics are the other obvious contributor to mounting anxiety. Covid shutdowns, decreased tourism, practically non-existent foot traffic, and remote school meant that many of us lost our jobs, saw our working hours cut, or were forced to quit in order to help our children learn from home. Even with unemployment and government stimulus money, those conditions spelled a new financial reality as we struggled to find rent money and pay the bills.

For those in the essential workers category—public transportation workers, grocery store employees, nurses, doctors, and the list goes on—the reverse was often true. Work increased (sometimes horrifically) as employees left or got sick. Plus, the risk of getting Covid on the job remained ever present. So, what might have once felt like a good, predictable, or even enjoyable job became deeply stressful and demanding.

Yet, the worries didn’t end there. Even those in society who did not face overwork or fear losing the roof over their heads found themselves consumed by concerns.

Third: Covid Made Us Reassess Normal

For those who had the luxury to keep jobs and work remotely and for those who lost jobs but found decent compensation in unemployment in a speedy manner, the pandemic allowed for a new period of assessment.

Any major disruptor to routine causes a certain amount of stress because it triggers the brain to reflect and choose priorities. While reflecting, many of us realized we no longer wanted to prioritize the same things in life that, by default, we had been focusing on for years. A changing world meant changing priorities.

And, while change is often a positive, it also brings with it a decent dose of adrenaline-spiking anxiety. With every change comes risk. The anxieties related to these risks are what many of us are continuing to experience to this day.

Even while we are returning to a version of “normal,” that normal no longer feels familiar. To return fully is to make the choice to go back to old patterns that may no longer feel as appealing. Maybe we’ve realized they were never appealing but life before Covid never gave us the time to consider anything else.

Fourth: Isolation

While the greatest effect of isolation during lockdown periods was loneliness and depression, the experience of beginning to see people again has introduced a new level of social anxiety. For two years, many of us escaped the pressure of feeling like we needed to compare our accomplishments with others’ because no one was really accomplishing a whole lot. But now the impulse to compare is back with a vengeance. And it’s contributing to a lot of the current anxiety we’re feeling.

Social anxiety is one of the biggest contributors to teen drinking and substance abuse, but social anxiety does not cease with the arrival of adulthood. Many of use find it stressful to be amongst crowds or to feel truly genuine with others. And the isolation caused by Covid has exacerbated this both during the worst of the pandemic and during this return to seeing others in person again.

Steps You Can Take

Fortunately, many have embraced mental health resources during this time. Therapy is losing the stigma it carried for years. Seeking help from mental health professionals is key if you feel that your ability to get through the day is suffering due to thoughts, worries, or feelings.

Exercise is another healthy way to keep anxiety in check. Physical exertion forces your body to put the pent up energy that anxiety can cause to good use. Exercise will help your body associate a raise heart-rate with physical work so that it can calm down more thoroughly in periods of rest.

Finally, nutrition is a central component to your ability to weather stressful periods. At Regen Health, we offer supplements designed specifically around ingredients that will communicate to your body that it is safe to calm down. Our supplements improve mood, cognitive function, and much more.

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