Woman feeling anxious about her post-pandemic future

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Feeling anxious about a post-pandemic world? You’re not alone

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
  • One in 13 children has lost a parent to COVID-19 since February 2020.

Please note, information in this article was accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations may have changed since the original post date. Allina Health does not recommend breaking physical distancing guidelines or mask mandates.

After countless life disruptions and missed milestones over the last year, you’ve likely asked yourself, “When will the COVID-19 pandemic end?” Expanded vaccine access is a critical step closer to a post-pandemic world.

With fewer social restrictions, others may ask you to reconnect in person. If you’re anxious about seeing people after the pandemic is controlled, you’re not alone. Read on to learn about emerging pandemic-related mental health issues and strategies to help you adjust to a post-pandemic world.

Mental health in a post-pandemic world 

The last year has not been easy. That’s why health professionals are concerned about a mental health pandemic post-pandemic. Approximately 40 percent of adults have experienced a pandemic-driven mental or behavioral health issue. Common COVID-19-related mental health challenges include social anxiety, grief, separation anxiety and agoraphobia.

Social anxiety 

Social anxiety, the fear of social situations, could be a widespread challenge as social restrictions ease. It’s normal to feel anxious about seeing people in person again. We may even have to relearn how to socialize and interact with people. Tame your anxiety by easing your way back into social situations you’re comfortable attending.

Questions to ask:

  • Will we be inside or outside? COVID-19 is more transmissible indoors.
  • How many people will be there? More people means a higher risk of spreading or catching the virus.
  • How long will we be there? Long-term exposure to others increases your risk of transmission.
  • Will others be wearing a mask and social distancing?
  • Has anyone attending the gathering been exposed to COVID-19?
  • Ask yourself, “Are COVID-19 cases high in my area?” If so, reconsider going out.

Know what is and isn’t safe after your last COVID-19 vaccine.

According to a recent Ipsos survey, more people in the U.S. are going out and the perceived risk of “regular” activities is declining.

daily activities and risk of COVID-19 infection graph 

Post-COVID-19 stress disorder 

Another emerging challenge is post-COVID-19 stress disorder, a mental health condition caused by the long-term personal and professional stresses brought on by the pandemic. Frontline health care workers, those who have recovered from the virus and people exposed to trauma, such as losing a loved one to COVID-19, are most vulnerable.

Dealing with loss

Many people have experienced loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. recently surpassed more than 560,000 COVID-19 deaths, including more than 3,600 health workers.

Coping with grief and loss can be complicated and physical distancing restrictions make it difficult to gather and honor a passed loved one. Postponed memorials and missed traditions can delay and complicate grief. Your grief is unique to you and there is no right or wrong way to deal with loss.

Some cope with loss through storytelling, spending time with loved ones, journaling or speaking with a mental health professional when comfortable.

Separation anxiety and
pandemic parenting

Spending more time together has been a bright spot for many families during the pandemic while working and learning from home. Parents and caregivers have also been challenged by balancing work and virtual homeschooling their children.

Separation anxiety is common among children and could escalate when it’s safe to attend school in person again. Many children will experience anxiety when they’re separated from their parents and immediate relief when reunited. Your pets may have a similar reaction. Part of their behavior could be due to increased dependence since you’ve balanced protecting and supporting them through a pandemic.

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is a form of anxiety causing people to fear or avoid public spaces. Fear or anxiety is a normal response to visiting public spaces since the COVID-19 pandemic remains a health threat.

Going from a small social bubble to a public setting could be difficult for many, even after herd immunity is achieved. You can manage agoraphobia by avoiding public spaces altogether, avoiding larger groups or easing your way into a social setting with a small group of friends or family. From there, you can decide if you’re ready to visit public spaces with larger groups of people.

Common anxiety symptoms

Anxiety can trigger many emotional and physical symptoms. People with a history of anxiety or depression are more vulnerable to COVID-19-related stressors.

Strategies for dealing with anxiety

Coping with anxiety or depression can be complicated and often doesn’t resolve overnight. Pandemic-induced anxiety or depression can affect people in different ways and symptoms may vary from person to person. One important step you can take is to create and stick to a realistic anxiety management plan.

How to manage COVID-19-related anxiety:

  • Identify what causes your anxiety. Knowing common triggers can help you avoid unnecessary stress and give you a better sense of control.
  • Learn and practice deep breathing exercises.
  • Take care of your physical and mental health. Exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet and drink enough water.
  • Get some fresh air. Walking outside can elevate your mood.
  • Do one thing you enjoy every day.
  • Limit screen time and media consumption. Closely monitoring social media and the news can impact your mental health.

When to seek treatment for anxiety 

Experiencing anxiety during COVID-19 is normal. Conquer your anxiety symptoms by making meaningful changes with small steps.

Allina Health offers a variety of programs and services for people experiencing mental health barriers. If you’re experiencing anxiety or depression, a virtual visit with a mental health provider can be a convenient, secure first step.

Seek treatment when:

  • you sleep too much or not enough
  • have a loss of appetite
  • your mental health interferes with your ability to complete routine tasks or maintain relationships
  • you rely on alcohol or drugs as coping mechanisms
  • you experience suicidal thoughts.

 

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