Original publication: Just Breathe Digital Magazine, Issue 2 , June 2020

Sian Green | Clinical Psychologist 

What the hell happened. A ball of pandemic stricken anxiety just slam dunked me smack bang in the face…

Anxiety is often seen as a dirty beast that needs to be abolished, driven to just vanish into thin air! Even though it has been around, reared its head and lived inside many of us for years. But good luck with that motto in 2020. Lives have been torn apart, nannies, domestics, school, support systems stolen from under our feet, and more losses of normalcy than one can count on all fingers and toes. I know for me, that has been the biggest source of anxiety – how do I run my life without the beautiful structures I have very particularly created and chosen to give me space to be a professional, a mom and an individual with an affinity for self-care. For crying out loud, you can’t even go to the grocery store as per the usual or pop in for a coffee at your local with a friend (or their home) to clear the head. And somehow, we are chugging on, and in fact, all things considered I think many of us are doing pretty damn well.

It is a battle of processing all the loss and the sense of powerlessness and then going at all of this in relative isolation. This is a fab breeding ground for anxiety! So what now?

Anxiety, in my view is the body’s internal alert system – it is the built-in mechanism to tell you something is up and needs to be attended to. Trying to switch it off by saying “shut up” is not going to cut it. In fact, your anxiety will probably just rear it’s ugly little head again, stronger and more powerful and maybe in some contrived little way that you haven’t until now experienced.

In my witnessing of Covid-19 anxiety, some people in response to some uncomfortable anxiety, have entered an existential rebrand of their lives, like on-boarding new businesses, grasping opportunities, developing skills. Others have frozen in time, unable to move past the loss, the stressors, the home schooling, financial freak-out, the change. These folks are standing still, willing the return of pre-covid normalcy. Each of these responses are born out of the fight, flight or freeze mode that accompanies anxiety. 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

For those stuck, I have the deepest empathy. This is immense, the thought bouncing around of “make it happen”, “ it will never be the same again” – these just spiral quickly into the impending doom and it s a scary place. I too was there just a few weeks ago.

So how do we, in  borrowing from Sarah Wilson’s commentary on anxiety, “Make the beast beautiful”? How do we, amid this crazy world, settle our impending doom and maybe even experience pleasure!

It is a strange time! There is no right way to feel or tackle this. We are all navigating the unknown and if someone has the answers, I call BS! ​ Impending doom is what 2020 feels like at various stages for most, if not all of us, but I am certain that if someone told you six months ago what you would experience in 2020, you would probably not believe it or even entertain surviving through it, but hey you‘re doing it right now. One step at a time folks!


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