Dealing with Anxiety in 2020
2020 has been the perfect storm. We are being spun around in circles by its wicked tides and every time we see the light on the horizon, the current sucks us back in.
If you've been experiencing anxiety, you are not alone. In the online survey completed by some 5,400 people in late June, the prevalence of anxiety symptoms was three times as high as those reported in the second quarter of 2019, and depression was four times as high.
The effects of the coronavirus outbreaks were felt most keenly by young adults ages 18 to 24.
"We're living constantly with a level of fear, a heightened state of arousal, and our sympathetic nervous system can only stay in that overwhelmed, almost frenetic state for so long before we crash" said trauma counselor Jane Webber, a professor of counselor education at Kean University in New Jersey.
Webber calls this the Chronic threat response. Chronic threat response is an escalation of many of the same symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress -- sleep problems, floods of anxiety, irritability, difficulties concentrating and a hair-trigger startle response.
Beginning in April, high percentages of respondents reported they were spending more time on screens and less time outside than before the pandemic, which translated into more virtual interactions and far fewer in person. They noted upheavals to family, school, exercise and work routines, and to their sleeping patterns. All of these are factors that can contribute to the robustness of mental health.
Here are some things you can practice to help with the effects of the storm:
Though its important to stay informed, the news cycle keeps us in a perpetual state of panic with catchy headlines and anxiety inducing language. Bad news sells. Bad news acts like a drug in our brain - every time we see it we have an emotional response that leaves us coming back for more. Take a day away from your news channels. Focus on things you can control.
2. Social Distance Hangs
Human connection is core to our being. So core, that Maslow ranks it number 3 on his Hierarchy of Needs. Humans have a deep hunger for love and belonging, which becomes gratified by connecting physically and emotionally with other people. Make time to see friends, even if its a quick social distance hang in the park.
3. Mindless Scrolling rehab
Mindless social media scrolling has been a huge factor in our mental health. Mindless scrolling actually falls under the category of flight in the classic ‘fight or flight’ response. When we are feeling anxiety about things we cannot control or things we want to escape, we occupy our minds with the mindless scrolling through social media. Though the flight response could be an effective tool, it is not when it comes to social media and the toxicity it can bring.
As scary as it seems, the only way out is through. Focus on the things your life you can control, call your friends and family, and take a break from your devices. 2020 has been a test of our resilience as a species - we can only come out of this stronger.