12 Ways People Say Their Anxiety Has Changed During 2020
This year has put our collective mental health to the test again and again - from fears of the coronavirus to the isolating effects of social distancing, reckoning for racial injustice, financial struggles, natural disasters and a controversial presidential election in a few weeks' time.
Even people who may never have struggled with mental health problems like anxiety are now dealing with all of this. But what about those who lived with an anxiety disorder for years, long before 2020 took its toll?
While many people with pre-existing anxiety report that their symptoms worsened in 2020, there is also a subgroup who say they were less anxious. For some, it is because all the time and effort they have put into working on their sanity makes them feel ready for the present moment. Others say it's because they feel less alone because they know so many other people can relate to their struggle right now.
When COVID hit, it felt like the outside world was finally going to look like how I had felt inside, which oddly calmed my mind.
"My anxiety got better during COVID because everyone else was scared too," illustrator Kayden Hines told HuffPost. "I finally felt that I was on the same wavelength as everyone else."
We feared people to share how their mental health has changed over the course of this turbulent year. Here is what they said.
1. Being at home eased my anxiety. It has worsened at times during the pandemic.
“Self-isolation was more difficult than you think. It is easy to assume that a person living with anxiety would thrive if forced to avoid stressful situations and thrive in the comfort of our own home. To some extent this was a real prepandemic. But when isolation is not voluntary and a fatal illness is to be avoided, it can be the cause of panic-inducing thoughts that you cannot escape. "- Shelby Goodrich Eckard
2. My anxiety improved early on because of the bad thing I had always feared would finally happen.
“Not that I predicted a pandemic, but my fear always made me feel like something bad was about to happen. When COVID hit, it felt like the outside world was finally going to look like what I had felt inside, which strangely calmed my mind and gave me a sense of clarity. "- Hines
3. My old coping mechanisms no longer worked.
“Before the pandemic, I used coping methods to overcome panic attacks - and for a long time I used the 'light at the end of the tunnel' technique. I would focus on something positive that is about to come up in the near future and say to myself, "If you can just get through this difficult moment, a sister's trip is coming!" Or: "It will be fine!" Your daughter is going to school next week! “But COVID has dimmed a lot of things that many of us have been looking forward to. It's hard to get rid of fearful thoughts when the world is falling apart and there is no end in sight. "- Goodrich Eckard
4. My anxiety has increased - and it is especially bad when I wake up.
“I wake up anxious almost every day. It's like the worries and fears are always in the back of my mind even when I sleep and as soon as I wake up it immediately overwhelms me. I try to limit how much news I read and see throughout the day and I know that having that choice is a privilege considering what is going on in the world. “- Debbie Tung
5. With all the police violence against black people on the news, I had to stay offline to protect my sanity.
"Racial injustice doesn't mix well with trauma, so I had to do my mental illness a favor and unsubscribe from social media." It's hard because I know I have a voice and influence, but it is absolutely exhausting and triggering to see people who look like I have been killed on the street. Daniel Prude's murder was another reminder that being black and mentally ill is not safe. "- Sinclair Ceasar III
People who lived with fear before the pandemic explain how 2020 affected their condition. (Photo by Catherine McQueen via Getty Images)
6. The weight of my responsibility, both as an individual and as a member of my community, feels particularly overwhelming now.
“As someone with fear, I already feel an unrealistic and heavy responsibility for how my actions and words affect others. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I said, what I did, and how I reacted. These thoughts often cause a lot of self-control. And that is prepandemic. Now the weight of my decisions feels astronomical. It feels life or death because in many ways it is life or death. “- Goodrich Eckard
7. At first I was panicked, but now I've got used to this new normal.
“The losses worldwide were breathtaking and devastating. It seemed like there was nothing to do other than wait for the tsunami wave of disease to arrive here, too. Going out of the essentials became psychologically exhausting. The empty shelves were alarming, and when I was in the same room with other people my heart beat faster. I got panic attacks after being in a store for more than a few minutes.
"But as the days have passed and isolation has become the new normal, I've found that I have fewer days of high anxiety overall. There was less daily stress as I have fewer obligations and commitments. Situations that affect my social anxiety tightened, practically do not exist. Although the danger seems to lurk behind the front door, my home feels like a haven. I worry that it will be a challenge for me to adjust and re-enter the world once it does give a vaccine. "- Marzi Wilson
8. The constant uncertainty was difficult to cope with, but I also found new ways to alleviate my anxiety.
“The pandemic was both a curse and a blessing for my fear. At first it wasn't difficult to imagine how I would live an isolated life and stay at home as I would be more comfortable there. But as the months went by and the pandemic seemed like a never-ending nightmare, my fear began to arise because I didn't know when this was going to end or when things could get back to normal.
"On the other hand, I started a YouTube channel where I started making connections, having meaningful interactions, and even making new friends online because I wouldn't have found this community without the pandemic." In many ways, 2020 eased my anxiety. And while I sometimes feel like I'm in a rut, I need to remember to stay positive and find ways to keep my mind busy and happy. "- Javier Montalvo
9. The pandemic made me realize how much is out of my control - and that's strangely comforting.
“Before COVID, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be successful and attributed my mistakes to my own shortcomings. I now realize that the world can change in a second and that I have to learn to let go of certain things. Who knows what will happen next. It was both scary and liberating to realize that the sense of control I was feeling or seeking was an illusion. "- Hines
10. I have seen more disasters in the past few months.
"My thoughts immediately shift to the worst-case scenario, and then things start to turn for me. I'm more concerned about my family, my parents, whom I haven't seen for weeks due to the local lockdown rules, and how my son could miss so many things. I try to practice mindfulness, focus on meaningful work and enjoy the time I have at home with my son. I try to be thankful for the wonderful simple things that we each do Day still have to do. ”- Tung
I wake up anxious almost every day. It's like worries and fears always stay in the back of my mind, even when I'm sleeping.
11. My biggest fear triggers have shifted.
“COVID-19 is very scary. I have been fortunate to have been working from home since March. I don't go out at all and I never want to work in the office again. I feel like if I ever get COVID-19, I will die, which is likely due to my fear.
"There is also the increase in incidents of racial inequality: the police killings of blacks; the messages the president sends to white supremacists to encourage them to be violent towards us; the children in cages due to immigration laws. Every time I hear something that has been done or said on the subject, I feel extreme fear and pain on my chest. ”- Sandra Spellman
12. COVID-19 has heightened the anxious thought loops in my head. But incorporating new healthy habits helped.
“Because of my fear, I usually worry about everything. COVID made everything stronger: will I lose my job? Will my appointments with my therapist on the phone be useful? How should I think about my future? How can I sleep normally? Do my friends want to see me after the quarantine? Can i go out again?
“The fear of being sick is also a big part of everyday fear. I don't want my friends and family to die. I don't want to get the virus and contaminate or kill it. The thoughts are darker and darker and it never stops. It gets strong enough to paralyze me in bed.
“So I tried to take action and introduce new positive habits into my life. I wanted to be busy and focus on one day at a time (since we don't know what to make of tomorrow) and have some wins in my days. Even small ones. Stuck at home all day is the perfect time to start. I started exercising at home and stopped checking my phone first thing morning and night and some other things. I've replaced phone time with reading or sketching for future webcomics. Today, after a few months, the fear of COVID is no longer as strong as it used to be - strangely enough, in my city in France, COVID is stronger than ever. "- Ay sow
Answers have been edited slightly for clarity and length.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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