More and more people are experiencing anxiety. The coronavirus pandemic has caused people to worry about their health, the health of the people they love, and the unknown future implications of everything surrounding the virus. Many people are also working from home and are not getting as much human interaction as before. It's nice not to be forced into making small talk with busy-body Karen every day at the office. But not seeing other living human beings on a regular basis can make you start talking to the house plant you always forget to water.
Social media has continued to grow at an exponential rate. Although social media can provide entertainment and online community, it also causes people to constantly compare their lives to the highlight reel of strangers. Constantly seeing the new cars, the extravagant travel destinations, the perfect bodies is not good for one's self esteem or satisfaction with his or her own life. In combination with the pandemic, social media has made it that much easier to self-isolate because interacting with others can be done alone at home. It is no wonder anxiety for a lot of people is at an all time high.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, "over 40 million adults in the U.S. (19.1%) have an anxiety disorder... [and] approximately (7%) of children aged 3-17 experience issues with anxiety each year".
The Economist references a study by the Lancet where the authors estimate that cases of anxiety increased during the pandemic by 76m, a 26% rise above pre-pandemic levels.
KFF.org states that "[d]uring the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, a share that has been largely consistent, up from one in ten adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019".
So what do we do about this?
The Mayo Clinic states that the two main treatments for anxiety are psychotherapy and medication.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is cited as the most effective form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders. CBT focuses on teaching certain skills to decrease symptoms and helping to gradually return to things the person may have avoided due to their anxiety.
As far as medication, there are a whole slew of different kinds of medication that can be prescribed, depending on the symptoms a person has from anxiety.
Some people, myself included, take a daily antidepressant to treat my anxiety and also have been in psychotherapy. However, my anxiety is never 100% gone. I actually don't think I would be human if I never experienced anxiety. It is "normal" to experience anxiety, but it is not "normal" or healthy for anxiety to control your life.
Wait, so what is anxiety exactly?
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure".
I know all too much about worried thoughts. I would obsessively have worried thoughts for days, weeks, and even months at a time. There was a period of time when I was so worried about a potential health risk that my worried thoughts completely debilitated me for months and in the end there was nothing physically wrong with me.
"Worry is a Misuse of the Imagination," Dan Zadra.
One of the main ideas that has helped me- and I hope will help others- is that worry exists in the future. To worry is to be mentally in a place that does not actually exist. The only reality is the present moment. Something that "could happen" does not exist. To worry is to fixate on something that is not, in fact, real.
So how do we over come this worrying? Staying in the present moment- the only real thing. Are you facing a real threat right now? No. So live here in reality. You are here psychically, but also be here mentally.
How do we be here? Meditation is one great way. More on that later.
You can also use physical sensations and tools to bring your mind back to the present moment. Feeling, smelling, tasting, moving, creating can help bring your mind out of the future, non-existent worry to the reality that is now. This is where we might be able to help.
-Shawn, Founder of allae