As humans we thrive on social interaction, and connection. We’re born with an instinct to survive by attaching to our caregivers, to belong. As we grow and develop, we’re continuously forming relationships, to help shape the architecture of our brains, in order to grow and thrive.
When we feel disconnected from our family, friends, colleagues and community for an extended period of time, a sense of anxiety and isolation can ensue, feeling cut off and socially starved. Our stress response is activated, releasing an excess of stress hormones.
The Effect of COVID-19 and Lockdown on Anxiety
The impact of COVID-19 has had a significant effect on the whole nation’s mental health. Mind recently found that “more than half of adults said their mental health has deteriorated during the period of lockdown restrictions.” But even more so for people who were already suffering with anxiety, it becomes compounded and chronic.
Anxiety is a feeling, thought and sensation in the body that can feel unsettling, and can escalate to a sense of worry, fear and dread. An alarming feeling that puts you on high alert, that something important to you feels out of your control.
For those who have experienced health anxiety, COVID-19 has definitely exacerbated this for many people. For others it may be that their worst fear has entered their lives and they are coping better than they thought they would. For the majority of people, the pandemic has increased anxiety. In my counselling practise, I have seen a substantial rise in clients presenting with anxiety issues.
So, why has this happened? Anxiety is future focused, it’s the what ifs instead of the what is. Us humans, we’re not comfortable with uncertainty, the unknown. COVID-19 has made us consciously look uncertainty in the eye. Generally speaking, we live our whole lives in a state of uncertainty. We make plans for the future, wanting things clear, wanting those plans to pan out exactly as we planned them in our minds, and for some this is a way of trying to reduce anxiety, a short-term coping mechanism. The reality is that when we’re making plans, they’re not certain, we need to remember to take into consideration the randomness of life, and hasn’t COVID-19 proved this. So, we’re facing some of our worst fears, on top of the isolation, financial and work issues. It really is no surprise, that the prevalence of anxiety in people is rising!
What Can We Do to Manage Anxiety?
Anxiety is natural, but if you’re experiencing high levels, please know, there are things you can do to significantly reduce it - we have hope and choice:
Talk to someone – being listened to with compassion and understanding reduces stress hormones
Reach out, even if that doesn’t feel comfortable for you, you may help someone else in the process
Connect with nature
Download Insight Timer – a free app for mental health
Samaritans – call 116 123
Joanne Freeman is a registered accredited counsellor and a guest writer on the Superpow! Blog.