2020 was a difficult, emotionally draining and anxiety-inducing year in so many ways. There were ups and downs (probably more downs for most of us), then some short glimmers of hope followed by new dismay. New York City went into lockdown after the other, trapping those who decided to stay in their crammed up city apartments.
Two months into 2021, things aren’t looking much better. Throughout the pandemic, many people encountered never before surfaced (or perhaps all the while suppressed) feelings of depression and anxiety. Being stuck in a small space, cut off from the outside world that is normally a bustling New York City, but now a ghost town, can leave you feeling a sense of doom.
Photo by Ronny Rondon on Unsplash
The experience is different for everyone and can have various triggers and sources. For me, the pandemic—and everything that came with it—sparked a previously unfamiliar anxiety. Our global crisis served as a great catalyst for all kinds of anxieties. Some suddenly became anxious about their health and the wellbeing of their loved ones. Some became anxious about their jobs, their livelihood, and life (with all of its uncertainties) in general.
If you're familiar with intense feelings of anxiety, you probably know all the tricks in the book that are supposed to give you relief.
But if you're very new to the strange ways an anxious mind can affect your physical and mental health (like I was), don't fret. You're not alone, and there are ways to make you feel better and help you deal with your newfound anxiety. But first, you need to try to understand what anxiety is actually doing with your mind and body, and how you can best deal with it.
Here are a few things I've learned about dealing with anxiety:
What Works for Some Might Not Work for You
No case of anxiety is the same. It's not a problem that can be solved with one specific remedy, and what makes others feel better might make you feel worse. Your mind is one of a kind, and you'll have to find the strategies that work for you. Beyond this article, read some guides and find what's right for you.
Your Mind Can Cause Your Body to Do Crazy Things
Especially in the case of the coronavirus, anxiety can really play tricks on you. Some of the physical symptoms of anxiety attacks, even mild ones, can resemble those of COVID-19.
This lighthearted joke sums up the issue perfectly:
"I'm playing my new favorite guessing game: Corona or Anxiety?"
It might seem crazy, but your body can react strongly to what your mind does. In fact, when you envision a scary scenario, your brain can't tell the difference between fact and fiction. It sends signals to your body to protect itself, making your fight-or-flight response set in. You start experiencing common symptoms such as a racing heart, shortness of breath, increasing blood pressure, sweaty palms, tense or trembling body parts, and more.
Not all cases of anxiety are this strong. But a full-blown anxiety attack may make you panic even more, thinking something is physically wrong with you. Before you find yourself in a downward spiral googling all the possible diseases you might have, it helps to know that some of these things may be nothing more than a response to your mental distress.
Of course, if you're ever actually concerned about any physical symptoms, you should always consult a doctor.
You Have to Accept Anxiety as Your New Companion
Anxiety is usually not something that shows up once by chance (like food poisoning, for example), and then never again. If you've developed feelings of anxiety, chances are, they will resurface again and again in certain life situations. Over time, they may not be as intense, but anxious feelings are something you'll have to live with and learn to control. Anxiety might be your new, unwanted companion.
Now that you've understood some of the basics, keep an eye out for my article on 8 things you can try that might help you ease your anxious mind. Remember, not all of them are guaranteed to work for you.
If you have any personal tips you’d like to share, please drop them in the comments below to help other New Yorkers out!