health

"Now the threat isn't just imagined": What it's like to have anxiety during COVID-19.

Warning: This post deals with anxiety and might be triggering for some readers.

I wake up with a gasp, thoughts flooding my mind. Who is safe? Who is not? Who is at risk? What will happen with work? What are the business risks? Will my kids be OK?

This was six months ago. Before the threat of coronavirus. When my mind was a loop of thoughts and worries on repeat. Perceived threats around every corner.

Now the threat is not just imagined. It’s real. And I cannot calm myself by reminding myself that it is just my mind playing tricks on me.

I cannot dismiss my worry about the health and safety of my family as unreasonable. But I have company now. I walk around the streets and I see the look of panic on faces and I recognise it as my own. Welcome to my world, this is where I live.

Watch: How to talk to people with anxiety. Post continues below. 

Video by MMC

What my pre-existing anxiety has offered me is the tools to cope. The crisis might be different but my ability to control my surroundings is the same. All I can do is deal with what is in front of me. All I can do is manage my present.

Just like six months ago, before the pandemic hit, I cannot predict the future. I do not know how long I will have to sit with this sense of unease, but I do know that it’s not the unease itself that is the danger, even though that’s what it feels like sometimes.

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So today, like all the days before it, I use the resources at my disposal to help me cope. I take deep breaths where I need to. I pause. I get fresh air. I walk. I move my body. And although I am a stickler for routine and I know many of the practical things that have been sanity savers will no longer be at my disposal (thank you, 6am yoga at my favourite studio), I also know I have adapted many times before and I will continue to adapt. I will grab my mat and I will bang out some downward dogs in my lounge-room. I will switch off my phone when the constant Facebook notifications or news articles circulating become too much.

Because what we are being told now more than ever before is to look after our health. And that includes our mental health. When we make sure we are OK, we are ensuring the health of our entire community. That is the purpose of quarantining and isolation.

How can we look after our minds and hearts to ensure that this, too, keeps our community safe? We check in on our neighbours, we do grocery runs for our older relatives, we switch off from the outside world if it all gets too much. We breathe. We move. We focus on the present.

Mia Freedman chats to Dr Jodie Lowinger about how anxiety presents itself, what causes it and what people who suffer from it can do to treat it on the No Filter podcast. Post continues below. 

We are living with this sense of being taken out of our life as we know it and being placed into this strange new world without our permission. A world with lurking threats and hidden danger. Those who have suffered from anxiety know this feeling all too well. Now, the whole world is navigating this new terrain with us.

We know this much to be true: there is no rule book. All we can do is take care of ourselves and each other in the best ways we know how. Coping will look different to everyone. There are no medals for achieving quarantine excellence, we just have to do the best we can with the tools available to us at the time.

To my anxious friends, to those who have already experienced a world where everything feels upside down, we’ve done this before and we can do it again. To those that have quietly grown with strength, who have rebuilt their new normal from the ground up, once or maybe many times before, we can do this. We know we can. And to those visiting here for the first time? We’ve got your back.

Natasha is a freelance writer and mother of four boys. By day she writes e-commerce content, by night she writes about whatever is annoying her (while eating ice cream in bed).

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If you think you may be experiencing anxiety, depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you’re based in Australia, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

Anxiety can leave you exhausted and overwhelmed, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Introducing The Anxiety Course – designed to help you grow your confidence, identify your triggers and reclaim your life. Find out more here.

Feature Image: Supplied. 

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