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Mental Health

Anxiety in a Pandemic: Why You Shouldn’t Blame Yourself 

[TW (trigger warning): MH, MI] mental health, mental illness. 

Anxiety has been endlessly following me throughout my life. Into most classrooms at school to the voice at the end of the phone, it has manifested itself into every way imaginable. Despite this, I have always found ways of dealing with anxiety before it could fully consume me, and my coping mechanisms definitely helped, until last year, when my anxiety eventually began to follow me into my home.

I think for many people reading this, home has always been a sanctuary away from a stressful life filled with deadlines and work. It is a place you commonly associate with comfort and ease and somewhere you can fully be at peace with yourself. This was always the case for me, as I often felt overwhelmed by the constant turmoil of the outside world.

This began to change in March 2020, when coronavirus began to spread – not only within the United Kingdom – but globally. As a country we were forced to shut down – rightfully so – and hide away, unable to see family or friends, we had to make do with our own company for a lot of this time period, and this took an undeniable toll on people’s mental health. 

For some people – including me – a lot of anxiety is facilitated by reassurance. I have always found it difficult to sit in my own thoughts and be okay with the decisions I have made, and it leads me to constantly reach out to my close friends and family for answers to questions that nobody has. I think that has been especially escalated within this pandemic, because we are living through such a rare experience that does not have a quick solution. 

Having to live in the present in this way, with no idea what the future may hold was and still is, definitely triggering for so many people. My anxiety was through the roof and it began manifesting itself in a multitude of ways. There were nights where I was unable to sleep, paralysed by the fear of someone breaking in and there were days where I was convinced I had the virus, and I was unknowingly giving it to every vulnerable person around me. I would constantly check my symptoms, relaying each part of the day and worrying about each surface I had touched. The lockdown had left me feeling trapped and panicked in a place I had always regarded as my sanctuary.

I knew, deep down, that the way I was living was not healthy for me at all and that I desperately needed to do something about it. While my anxiety was paralysing on most days, I attempted four things to help myself: I tried a regular sleeping pattern, I focused on fulfilling a small goal (this was knitting for me), I tried to talk about the way I was feeling, I tried my best to go outside most days to walk and most importantly I tried not to blame myself for the way I was feeling. I emphasise ‘tried’ here, because everyone is different in
what they are able to achieve. Of course, mental illnesses such as anxiety are not something that can be cured by a simple walk or yoga session and many people can find help within medication and therapy, but it can be helpful to move your body and try and be open about the way you are feeling as this can ease feelings of loneliness and slow down the constant loop of anxious thoughts. 

While it is imperative to try and help yourself during this lockdown, there are days where I cannot follow my own advice and I feel I have taken a hundred steps back in progress. It is easy to scroll through Instagram and twitter and see endless fitness routines and feel unaccomplished, but this is simply unrealistic. You should try and do what best suits you, and just achieving small things every day is commendable in itself.

It is also important to remind yourself that this experience isn’t forever, and within a global pandemic you are allowed to feel anxious or depressed. It is difficult to be the best version of yourself currently and you should commend yourself for the little things in this lockdown. It is also important to remember that – although the pandemic is affecting people in so many different ways – what you are feeling is valid and personal to you. Remember to be kind to yourself during this lockdown, you owe it to yourself. 

Anxiety UK: A UK based helpline and website for those suffering with anxiety.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm)
Website: www.anxietyuk.org.uk

Mind: A UK based mental health organisation
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Website: www.mind.org.uk

Black Therapy Love: A US based app founded by Tomina Ward which helps users find Black therapists, counsellors and coaches. A directory of Black mental health professionals. Available on both the Apple app store and on Android in the US.

Second year undergraduate studying BA History at UCL.
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