Coping with Increasing Levels of Anxiety
The holiday season is a time when it's common to see random acts of kindness and breathtaking displays of humanity at its finest inspired by the season to be merry. Yet conversely, it is a time that we see increased levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, hunger, domestic violence and mental illness. As a result of this, many Australians await the holidays with bated breath.
For many, the final months of the year are a time of celebration, reward, connection and happiness. We attend Christmas parties, work parties, mingle with friends, go on holidays, and take time away from the mundane activities of the work year. For others, it is quite the contrary. Some Australians will spend the holidays alone, which can increase symptoms of mental illness. There is a wide range of triggers of mental illness and mental health problems. This article explores some of the key triggers of anxiety this year, and some strategies that you can use to manage your anxiety levels and make the holidays more enjoyable.
A large proportion of Australians have spent a lot of time in lockdown throughout the last two years. As difficult as it was to adjust to life in lockdown, some are finding it more challenging to adjust to life outside of lockdown. From an evolutionary perspective, we quickly adapt to our environment by creating routines and habits – this was necessary to adjust to the COVID lockdown and so too will we need to adjust to life back in our community. Some common reasons why people may have difficulties adjusting to the new ‘normal’ after lockdown:
- Social anxiety. According to recent insights from the Wellbeing Lab The State of Wellbeing For Australian Educators, 2019-2021, people's biggest struggle at present is dealing with people. We have had limited social interaction over the last two years though love, support and community is fundamental to human existence. Research shows that the quality of our relationships predict our future health, happiness and even longevity, so it’s worthwhile pushing for those social interactions no matter how uncomfortable they may initially make us feel.
- Managing health anxiety stemming from living with COVID-19. We have all watched the total devastation of COVID globally, seen loved ones get sick, some recovering and some not. We have had the luxury of feelings of security and safety while at home, however as covid restrictions lift our feelings of safety and security may begin to dissipate.
The future outlook is another common cause of concern. We have just lived through some of the most challenging years in history and despite lockdowns ending, COVID is far from over. There is much uncertainty about what the future holds, particularly a future where we coexist with COVID-19. "At this point, even envisioning a future after the pandemic has passed, we are unsure of exactly what that life will be like, and we don't know when it will be," says psychologist and well-being consultant Lee Chambers. "Without a clear future anchor and the ability to create a longer-term plan, we lack the ability to prepare, and the constantly changing rules lower our tolerance to uncertainty."
Our core anxieties are driven by uncertainty and at present, we’re all living with much uncertainty; the vaccine roll-out, society reopening, the new ‘normal’ workplace, and the virus and subsequent variants. Every day we’re comforted by more evidence on vaccine efficacy, though questions linger about how long immunity will last, susceptibility of children and when they can get vaccinated, and the impact future strains and mutations will have on our world.
The holiday season is a time when it's not uncommon to see random acts of kindness and breathtaking displays of humanity at its finest inspired by the season to be merry. Yet conversely, it is a time that we see increased levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, hunger, domestic violence and mental illness. As a result of this, many Australians await the holidays with bated breath.
During the weeks that lie ahead, try to be kind to yourselves, be patient, and focus on those things you can control rather than those things that you cannot. Here are a couple of tips to remind yourselves of when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Don’t expect to transition to a COVID-normal overnight, nor return to life as we once knew it. After the months that we have endured, it is normal to feel afraid and anxious, so go slow and be kind to yourselves. Expect a ‘readjustment phase’ and work through it as best as you can.
Connect with others
You may not have seen your family and friends for some time now. Use the holidays as a time to reconnect with loved ones, seek support and comfort from those around you, and engage with your community where possible.
Stay in the moment
Our minds can be quickly consumed by what may be. As the saying goes ‘if you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you’re living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present” - Lao Tzu. Deep breathing or mindfulness practice can help you to work through difficult emotions or situations that may proceed lockdown.
If you’re not finding any other strategy or approach effective in managing your levels of anxiety, you may wish to seek help from a professional. The Drake WorkWise team provides counselling services to those in need so if you’re struggling to get by, be sure to get in touch.
If you haven't yet signed up to our upcoming Wellbeing event Preparing to Embrace the Holidays, there is still time to do so. Please register via the button below.