Living Through a Pandemic with an Anxiety Disorder
We are currently living in an unprecedented time. COVID-19 has taken over the world, and we have completely changed our daily lives to flatten the curve to save as many lives as we can. The stresses of this new life bring about negative thoughts about the present and future, but what happens when your brain is geared this way even without a pandemic? Today I thought I would share with you my experience during a pandemic with an anxiety disorder.
My anxiety often manifests itself in worrying about the future, especially things that are not in my control in the present moment. Because there are many things that are out of my control lately, my anxiety has been over the roof. Not knowing when things will go back to normal and how things will be once we are out of this self-isolation period has caused me to develop more anxious symptoms like difficulty sleeping and restlessness. My worry for things out of my control also permeates daily life, such as the fear of a virus in people who have no symptoms. This applies to me as well; I stress that I might be a carrier and not even know it. I worry that every small cough or every small temperature change could be COVID-19, and this makes daily life even more stressful.
My brain goes into overdrive when I think of all the worst-case scenarios that can happen, and sometimes it makes it difficult to take an actual deep breath. The most difficult is that all of these worries pile up so much that at some point it becomes overwhelming and I just want to crawl into a hole and emerge only once everything is back to the way it was. I can describe my anxiety as always having a little person on my shoulder constantly telling me that things are bad and that everything feels doomed. With this pandemic, the little person on my shoulder now has a megaphone, making it more difficult to tune it out!
There are several things I do to make sure I manage my anxiety and keep good mental health:
1) Having a support system: I am very close to my parents, and they have been so helpful in aiding me when I feel anxious and having trouble going about with my day. I talk to them every day, and even though we are not in the same place I still feel their presence when I call them or message them. I also keep in contact with my friends and video chat with them once a week.
2) Take my anxiety medication regularly: I am prescribed one anxiety medication, and in order to help with managing it I have to make sure I take it every night. If I don’t, my anxiety and OCD resurface more intensely. To make sure I feel the best I can, I make sure to not skip a dose. If I do accidentally skip a night, I’ll make sure to take my medication the next night without fault.
3) Creating a routine: Even though I cannot follow the routine of getting up and going to work like I did before the pandemic, I make sure to establish something similar at home. I’ll make sure I wake up at a reasonable time and eat my three meals at regular hours. I’ll use my agenda and schedule activities like writing, taking care of emails, reading, and watching a TV show. By keeping a routine, I feel like things are slightly normal.
4) Taking things one day at a time: When I talk to my mom, she often tells me that in times like these we can only take things one day at a time. It’s not always easy to do this, but it is extremely important. This especially comes in handy when I think too much of the future and become overwhelmed; I ask myself “What can I control now?” and I focus on that. I wash my hands. I make sure to practice social distancing. I minimize my trips to the grocery store. If I start worrying about things that are too far in the future, I ask myself what I can do in the present moment. Often times I realize that there is nothing I can do right now and so I have to tell myself that when the time comes to take care of these things that I will be able to do so.
I hope that sharing my experience has made you feel less alone. Remember that we will get through this pandemic together. Hopefully soon we will be able to resume our life as we knew it.
– Gabrielle Lesage
We have a support group for those living with anxiety. For more information, click here.
For additional resources for anxiety, please click here.