Anxiety & Covid-19: I didn’t see that coming

When you struggle to manage your anxiety you spend a lot of time hyper vigilant looking for and expecting danger around every corner. You are constantly predicting the future, and it tends to be a pretty negative and catastrophic future. Your predictions about the future tend not to have many positive predictions.

I’ve spent most of my career in psychology listening to and working with people who struggle to manage their anxiety. It can be hard to come forward and admit that you’ve been struggling with anxiety. In particular social anxiety, people feel embarrassed to admit that they get anxious because they feel they will be ridiculed and no-one will understand how they feel.

I think most of us will agree when it comes to the impact of Covid19 as well as the serious health implications it has induced an almost universal increased level of anxiety in everyone.

For people who previously might of been dismissive of “anxiety” as a new “snowflake” thing that you just need to “suck up and get over it” now its become very very real. People are having to confront anxiety about their own health, loved ones, financial security, when the restrictions will end, isolation, frustration and a myriad of other anxieties.

Here is what I didn’t see coming from all of this and what might be the (for me anyway) the unexpected glimmer of light and hope in these dark times.

It’s possible & I hope that the stigma about coming forward and seeking help and support around managing anxiety could be massively reduced post Covid-19.

No longer should people fear that “no-one will understand how I feel”, we’re all feeling anxious, and it’s hard. Covid-19 could indirectly make people who are anxious feel less stigmatised, less lonely and fearful of not being understood. Weeks and weeks of relentless anxiety has become our new normal (for now). Most feel very unsafe when it comes to potential health risks right now but arguably there has never been a safer time to admit you’re struggling with anxiety.

Something else that I didn’t see coming was that many of the people that I’ve worked with have coped exceptionally well during these times. When you struggle with social anxiety in particular you can use something called Safety Behaviours to try and cope with your anxiety. At times this might mean isolating yourself from the people and world around you, believing you’re protecting yourself from judgement, spending lots of time away from other people. The current need for self-isolation is something that people who have struggled with anxiety are all to familiar and practiced in.

So my final hope in this particular blog is when this is all over, and it will end we have to keep believing that, is that everyone will be less judgmental about hard it is to struggle with anxiety and when when restrictions are lifted that we all (pre covid anxious & current covid anxious) try to re-emerge together.

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