It all seemed like yesterday, yet also so long ago. But this time last year, the World was quiet, the traffic ceased to exist and everyone (for the most part) stayed home. As many countries continue to battle the balance of lockdown, vaccination programmes and infection rates, there are so many things we have learnt over the last 12 months, particularly around anxiety, and they most certainly should be things we talk about.
It is safe to say that most people became acutely aware of their health and hygiene since the beginning of the pandemic. It was a new normal and something we could all bond over. That being said, it had the potential to become something a little more challenging - health anxiety. The state of hyper-awareness of the virus, one's health and ability to contract or pass on bugs became a significant challenge for some. The mental load of this stress, and the constant vigilance to avoid infection, can be draining. As such, it's not to be dismissed casually, it can have a lasting impact that individuals would benefit from support with.
Want to read more about how Coronavirus has affected people with regards to anxiety? In a previous article on our blog, Health anxiety during a pandemic, Megan takes a look at what health anxiety is and some strategies to help manage it.
In terms of making things more challenging for those who found things tricky already, take a moment to consider how lockdown has impacted those with social anxiety. While being confined to our homes was no easy task, and the reduction in socialising was tough, those with social anxiety may have been thankful for the lack of pressure to conform to expectations. Now, as we look forward towards what may become the year of lifted restrictions, they are challenged in a whole new way - the idea of life “returning to normal”, when it didn’t really work for them in the first place. If this rings true for you, or someone you know, reach out and be a positive influence for that person who might just need a listening ear or supportive friend.
Doomscrolling, the act of accessing copious amounts of media which is inherently negative, was a term which came to the fore in 2020. No one seemed to be safe from the constant feed of challenging or upsetting updates with regards to the pandemic. Twitter, Facebook and news feeds were full of new information which essentially didn’t go anywhere, and they never ended. A bottomless pit. There are health professionals who view doomscrolling as an anxiety inducing activity, one which happens quickly as a result of the addictive quality that social media has. The anxiety can be generalised at first, but can escalate to the earlier discussed health anxiety or social anxiety. Fear of leaving the house as a result of over-accessing negative media is something we should support each other in.
While that is true, it is also focussing on the negative...so here is a positive slant. Individuals who ensure that they spend extra time on self-care activities demonstrate a reduced rate of anxiety. Activities like taking breaks from work, engaging in physical exercises, meditation, spending time with loved ones, listening to music, watching a good show, or reading a novel, all serve to improve the stimulation of the brain in a positive way. Any activities that help alleviate stress and give enjoyment is well worth doing.
One thing is absolutely certain, everyone has been affected by Covid-19 in a completely unique way. And while there are some early observations which we can identify and discuss, the full impact on the population and society at large is something that will take a long time to unpick. We are still in the thick of it, and everything that has been discussed about its effect on levels of anxiety is likely to continue.