Anxiety is already difficult to face, but add in a global pandemic and it is understandable that 53 percent of Americans have had their mental health negatively impacted due to COVID-19.
This is concerning considering that anxiety is already the most common mental health condition that affects almost 1 in 5 people.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is defined as worry or apprehension of what is to come in the future.
It can occur for many reasons and people who experience anxiety are often impacted by several cognitive distortions such as catastrophizing, assuming the worst will happen. Cognitive distortions are a distorted pattern of thinking that is learned and occurs more frequently when we are under stress.
Your body under stress
When you are stressed, your brain and body creates a larger amount of cortisol and the sympathetic nervous system is activated. This prepares the body to go into “fight or flight mode” and a surge of adrenaline is released.
Negative thoughts can drive an increase in cortisol which affects not only brain chemistry, but your overall brain structures. Cortisol acts on specific parts of the brain and can actually begin to break down the hippocampus, which then makes it harder for you to create positive memories.
How to manage mental anxiety symptoms
Stress, worry, and negative thinking has been prominent during the pandemic.
We turn on the TV and hear stories of fear and catastrophizing. We go out and see people in masks which still cannot hide the worry and fear in their eyes. Negative thoughts and cognitive distortions occurs easily, and we often create narratives about things that might not even happen.
While it is important to be careful and follow safety protocols during the pandemic, it is critical to understand how to manage and reduce stress it during these trying times. One example is to be mindful of the thoughts you feed yourself. Take a minute to reflect on if your thoughts are making you feel better or worse. If they are making you feel worse, actively replace those thoughts with self-care affirmations.
Over time, positive thoughts will begin to feel more natural and you will feel an increased sense of well-being.
How to manage physical anxiety symptoms
On a physical level, there are research backed supplements that are known to decrease anxiety and depression, including Omega 3s, Vitamin D, and Probiotics. Omega 3s can be found in fish oil. A study compared a placebo group to people taking high levels of Omega 3s and found they had a reduction in anxiety.
Vitamin D insufficiency is also related to higher levels of anxiety and depression. This is especially important, considering 42 percent of Americans are Vitamin D deficient. According to a recent study, COVID-19 is also associated with low Vitamin D levels, so Vitamin D may decrease anxiety about the pandemic!
If you experience overwhelming feelings of anxiety, try using relaxation techniques such as slow breathing. Breathe in to a count of 5, hold for 4 seconds, slowly exhale through your nose for a count of 8 seconds, and repeat.
During the pandemic, we must take every step we can to increase our mental wellbeing. Following these ideas to mitigate mental and physical anxiety can help in many aspects of life, including strengthening your immunity.