Over the past eighteen months, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us in some way or another – some have been luckier than others. But chances are that even if you have not caught the virus or didn’t suffer a lot from it, the pandemic has led to you making some changes in your life. From remote working to avoiding going out to do things, meeting up with friends and family and using additional safety and protective measures like mask wearing and extra use of sanitizers, the COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we knew it in a very short amount of time.
For some people, these changes have led to a lot of anxiety. For many people who already struggle with anxiety around change or struggle to handle uncertainty, the pandemic has had a profound effect on their mental health and well-being. More fears have become apparent since the start of the pandemic including fears and worries that most of us did not have before, such as losing a loved one, losing our job or losing our home. For many people, the global crisis has been a major sign as to how everything can easily change in an instant, which has not helped worldwide anxiety levels, leaving many of us feeling completely out of control when it comes to our own lives.
The Main Symptoms of Anxiety
Even if nothing bad has happened to you personally as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still very possible that the situation may have caused you to develop anxiety or has raised your anxiety levels over the past eighteen months. The level of uncertainty in the world right now has been enough to cause even the most stable and secure of people to feel a little anxious about the future, wondering what is going to happen and if we are ever going to be able to get the coronavirus under control. If you are struggling with anxiety, you may have noticed symptoms such as a fear of leaving the house, a sense of impending doom or danger most of the time, worrying more often about often irrational and small things, being unable to relax, sleep problems, stomach pain, frequent headaches, muscle aches and pains, trouble breathing, panic attacks and hyperventilating, becoming isolated, or struggling to keep up your performance at work or school.
One major symptom of anxiety to look out for is over-preparing for certain situations, whether real or perceived. One type of anxiety that is becoming more common recently is COVID anxiety syndrome, which includes symptoms of over-preparation for the virus, even with evidence to suggest that infection rates are dropping and that we are getting it under control. Somebody with COVID anxiety syndrome might continue to stay at home even when this is not necessary and limit their contact with people, along with excessive cleaning and use of sanitizers.
How COVID-19 Has Led to Increased Anxiety Worldwide
There are various contributing factors that have been a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In itself, the health aspect of the pandemic has been a major source of anxiety for people who are worried about their own health and that of their loved ones. People may have found themselves worrying about their health more often than usual, taking extra precautionary measures to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and over-analyzing symptoms that they would usually not take a lot of notice of, such as the symptoms of a common cold which are quite similar to COVID-19 in several ways. Some other sources of anxiety surrounding the pandemic include:
With the pandemic leading to many people being left out of work as the hospitality industry and many retail businesses were affected, this had a knock-on effect on other aspects of people’s lives including the increased risk of homelessness. In many cases, landlords and housing managers were not sympathetic to the plight of these people and evictions went forwards as normal, leaving many people struggling with somewhere to live during a global crisis. It’s no surprise that this has led to heightened anxiety and the need for dedicated human services professionals to step in and offer help and support to individuals in this situation.
Job Loss Fears
Over the past eighteen months, some jobs have been much more stable than others. Perhaps you have not suffered a lot of anxiety in relation to your career if you have been lucky enough to be able to work from home or continue going into your place of work as normal throughout the pandemic. However, for people working in certain retail businesses, entertainment and hospitality to name a few, anxiety surrounding the future of their jobs has been extremely real throughout the pandemic. Many people have found themselves temporarily out of work as a result of the pandemic and turning to unemployment just to survive, with fewer jobs available for them to get into due to the closure of several industries. In addition, people who own their own businesses or are self-employed in certain industries have also suffered a lot of anxiety from the lack of certainty around what is expected to happen during and after the pandemic when it comes to their livelihood.
Isolation from Others
Isolation from others was a necessary measure throughout the pandemic in order to keep people safe from the coronavirus and avoid infections spreading as much as possible. However, isolation is not good for us as humans. We are social animals by nature and although some people prefer socializing more than others, not even the most introverted of people are going to be happy to spend months or weeks completely on their own without interacting with others at all. But for many people who lived alone throughout the pandemic and the stay-at-home orders, this is exactly the situation that they found themselves in. As a result, a combination of being isolated and alone while surrounded by so much uncertainty has unsurprisingly led to an increase in anxiety levels.
Uncertainty of the Future
One sure thing about the coronavirus pandemic is that it’s quite uncertain. Nobody knows what the next variant will be, where it will come from, how bad it’s going to be and if it’s going to mean that we need to follow stay at home orders and social distancing measures again. The level of uncertainty that is attached to COVID-19 and the changing guidelines throughout the pandemic have undoubtedly led to higher levels of anxiety in lots of people. Many people feel more anxious right now because they feel that their lives have been put on hold and that they are unable to plan for the future in the way that they normally would because of the virus, which can be a very stressful situation to be in.
Going Back to Normal
While many of us have wanted this to end for quite some time and have been hoping to get back to normal, there is no way to go back to normal from a situation like this without it causing at least some heightened anxiety levels. After eighteen months of staying at home, working from home, and using extra safety precautions when out in public, it’s understandable that many people have gotten used to this way of living and many people actually feel much safer and much less anxious in their everyday lives with these measures in place.
As safety rules and measures begin to relax, it’s unsurprising that these people are beginning to feel more and more anxiety about the prospect of returning to normal. Many people aren’t sure what ‘normal’ is going to look like post-pandemic, which is heightening their anxiety even further. Some are worried about going back to working in the office and the impact that that might have on their finances and family lives, while others are worried about the fact that COVID-19 is still circulating and not completely under control.
Getting Help for COVID-19-Related Anxiety
If you have suffered with anxiety for any reason as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be glad to hear that you are not on your own. In fact, around four times more people are now seeking help and support with their mental health compared to pre-pandemic levels. If you want to overcome these feelings of anxiety and enjoy life once again, the good news is that help is available. Your doctor might be the first professional that you speak to about this issue – they can recommend specialist services in your area or prescribe medication to help you feel calmer and more in control. Online therapy has also been a useful tool for people impacted by anxiety throughout the pandemic as it allows you to access mental health support and advice from the comfort and safety of your own home.
Over the past eighteen months, global anxiety levels have reached a record high as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And it’s not just anxiety about catching the virus, with several adverse situations and circumstances causing anxiety for many people as a result of this crisis.