Living with uncertainty
No one likes to live with the unknown. No, we much prefer endings, happy or otherwise, when it comes to our movies, shows, books… and our lives. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new level of uncertainty to our already-stressed world. Because of COVID-19, mental health issues ramp up along with any other stressors.
We’ve had to adapt to lockdowns, working from home, being laid off, and many other unexpected challenges all while also facing the threat of an unknown new virus that has no cure. In typical times, there are enough difficulties to lead us straight to counseling.
Therapists call these “life stressors.” Some, but not all, include: divorce, death of a loved one, a newly diagnosed medical condition, racism, moving, career changes, relationship conflict, family issues, and life transitions such as retirement, graduation, new marriage, or entering parenthood. Now, we have these more “normal” issues, on top of the strange and unknown, unending stressors caused by the pandemic situation.
It’s no wonder our mental health is suffering as a result. The COVID-19 mental health issues commonly appearing right now in adults, teens, and even children, include: anxiety, panic, and depression.
anxiety: a common reaction
Never before have we had such full “plates.” Yet, our mind and body can only handle so much stress at any given time before the overload button goes off. That “one little thing” extra is enough to disrupt everything, suddenly.
Commonly, a reaction to being overwhelmed and overloaded is to experience “anxiety.” Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a medical condition. It is more than just being “stressed.”
Generalized Anxiety Disorder has emotional and physical (body) symptoms, such as:
- excessive worry
- racing thoughts
- stomach or GI distress
- thinking of “worst case scenarios”
- black and white thinking
what are panic attacks?
Panic attacks involve sudden sensations of extreme fear that usually comes out of the blue. Whereas, anxiety disorder is predictable with certain triggers.
Panic attacks often are mistaken for a heart attack, although there is no danger to the heart. Often, the symptoms include:
- Fast heartbeat
- Chest or stomach pain
- Breathing difficulty
- Weakness or dizziness
- Feeling hot or a cold chill
- Tingly or numb hands
If panic attacks worsen or occur more frequently, you may need to see a Medical Doctor such as a Psychiatrist for medication. Coping skills for anxiety disorder will also help a panic attack. Try taking three deep belly breaths, using grounding techniques, or listening to a progressive muscle relaxation script to soothe the nervous system.
In therapy, learning new ways of thinking can also make a difference. However, many people will also require a medication to address underlying anxiety disorder that is usually present.
anxiety and panic help
Sadly, it can be difficult to control the symptoms of panic once an attack begins. The earlier you notice when anxiety and panic are setting in, the better. Please, learn your own body’s signs and signals, so you can intervene with coping skills and relaxation strategies as soon as possible.
Don’t wait to get anxiety therapy or support. Being in a state of anxiety is taxing to the body and over time can have negative health consequences.
Most people find that when anxiety symptoms are severe enough to lead to panic attacks, therapy is needed. An online therapist can teach coping skills, relaxation techniques, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) skills to help you better manage your stress and anxiety. You can change your thought patterns, or habits of thinking, in order to have less anxiety and more happiness.
signs of depression
- feelings of hopelessness
- eating too much or too little
- sleeping too much or too little
- having little energy
- not being as interested in things you normally would be
- sadness or crying
- irritability (especially in teenagers)
Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand. When anxiety symptoms subside, depression symptoms can appear. The worry which underlies anxiety may give way to sadness about the way life has changed. Both problems can be addressed through talk therapy.
Ideally, online therapy (or in person therapy) for depression and anxiety will involve learning Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and mindfulness techniques. Coping skills practice and encouragement to learn and speak about feelings, are also important pieces of therapy work for anxiety and depression.
grief and loss: another covid-19 mental health issue
We have all lost things due to the pandemic. Events big and small, relationships, a sense of safety. The sadness can be overwhelming. Depression, anxiety, and worry are understandable reactions. This is one way our body tries to cope with things we can’t, unfortunately, change.
For this reason, it’s important to allow space to acknowledge the losses and grieve as needed. Venting feelings to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist can often bring tremendous relief. Sometimes, just having our feelings acknowledged and validated can bring a turnaround in mindset.
If life feels like life is too much right now, you’re not alone. Many people are finding sudden changes in their mood, energy levels, and worry. Small things can set off big emotional reactions of anger, fear, or despair.
you are not alone – managing your mental health
COVID-19 has brought us a lot of difficulty, but it is also bringing us together, and teaching us things we may not have learned otherwise.
- Visit the resources tabs below for organizations that offer free help and guidance.
- Virtual support groups like The Mighty are a great way to find support.
- Connect with others who struggle similarly.
- Be vulnerable, and share with others what you are going through. Chances are, your colleague, friend, or relative is struggling, too.
- Read more about mental health conditions. Learn the symptoms.
- Get to know your own body’s signs and symptoms of anxiety, panic, and depression.
Please, be gentle with yourself and loved ones as we are all doing the best we can during this hard time. And, when you’re ready to talk to someone, reach out.
For more information about the current mental health struggles of teens and young adults due to COVID-19, check out this article from Health Central.