If you’ve noticed an increase in your anxiety levels as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not alone. It’s not uncommon to struggle during times of uncertainty and change, and you, like many others around the world, may be finding it difficult to cope. While life is uncertain in many different aspects, global pandemics and other world events can cause even greater uncertainty, which ultimately causes even greater anxiety in us than what we might normally be used to. The key is finding healthy, positive ways to cope with that anxiety – and, if you yourself aren’t feeling anxious but know someone who is, then it’s also important to be compassionate towards those who may be feeling overwhelmed.
Because we spend more time watching the news (or getting our news from social media), this can also cause an increase in anxiety. While it’s important to stay in the know in terms of what’s going on in the world, including news on COVID-19, you can also fall into something known as information overload – and, when our attention is drawn to something like COVID-19 for so long, we begin to focus on and think about it more, almost in a subconscious way. If you find that the news and/or social media has become too overwhelming for you, you don’t have to cut yourself off from it completely. You can, however, control how much time you spend watching television and on social media by limiting yourself. Many social media platforms also have the option to limit or block certain words or hashtags. So, if you don’t want to get as much information on COVID-19 on your timeline, you may want to temporarily add it to your list of blocked words, or only follow one or two reliable social media accounts for news on COVID-19 as opposed to several at once. On the other hand, because we’ve had to learn to socially distance and may not be able to have in-person get-togethers with friends and family for the time being, social media use has also increased significantly as more and more people are using it as a method of communication during this pandemic. Therefore, simply be mindful as to how much social media exposure you’re getting, and the kind of information you’re being subjected to and the fact that it could potentially be a contributor to your anxiety.
Similarly, even talking about COVID-19 constantly can sometimes be too much for people and cause an increase in anxiety. For example, if you’re on the phone with a friend, family member, or co-worker. To counteract this anxiety, try to avoid long discussions about it and let those you’re talking to know that the subject makes you uncomfortable. For all you know, they could even feel the same way. Instead, turn your conversations to positive topics of discussion.
Many people have also suffered job loss or financial hardships as a result of COVID-19. By March, the unemployment rate in the country jumped to 7.8% (from 2.2%), with more than one million Canadians losing their job as a direct result of the pandemic. Job loss can not only be difficult on you financially, as mentioned, but it can also cause a decline in both your physical and mental health, which can lead to other impacts – such as loss of motivation, loss of social contacts, and increased feelings of sadness and/or anger, and could even lead to depression. While coping with unemployment is hard, it’s important to remember the things you’re still in control of. It can also be helpful to set a budget for yourself and identify areas in which you may need to cut back on your spending. If you’re actively looking for a job and want to keep busy in-between work, this is also a positive thing as it can keep your mind from going to dark places. To stay engaged, you could sign up for volunteer work, look for freelance opportunities, or join free online courses. For help with your job search, you can find a list of available job opportunities via www.workbc.ca or www.jobbank.gc.ca.
While coping with anxiety may also sometimes feel embarrassing, it’s important to remember, as mentioned at the start of this article, that you’re not alone. It’s also important to know that help is out there if you need it, with various mental health resources available across Canada in addition to 24/7 help lines where you can be connected with someone one on one.