The definition of anxiety is the feeling of worry and nervousness typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. To isolate is to separate from others. A pandemic is a disease that is prevalent over a whole country or the world.
Separately these words can bring pause, but together and combined in the same time period it is unprecedented and not anything experienced in modern history before. A worldwide, dangerous pandemic shut the world down. Forcing us all into isolation for our safety and unfortunately also creating great anxiety for our children and all citizens.
Anxiety by itself is prevalent in our society. Most people can recall a moment in time when there has been worry about a specific event such as buying a home, having a child, or an employment-related issue. In most cases, the moment passes, and life continues. In any normal year, about 18% of adults are affected by anxiety. During the 2020 pandemic that number has grown to 53% of adults in the United States reporting increased worry and stress. This significant change is understandable as millions have had to shelter at home, move their jobs to their homes while at the same time many have had to help educate their children who also had to isolate for their safety. Fear of getting the COVID virus and then potentially spreading it to family and friends has added to the concerns of most Americans. Additionally, so many have lost their employment or business which has had a devastating financial impact across most industries, especially those that are service-related. For those who already suffered from a level of depression or worry do not have a family unit in their homes or are in rural areas with neighbors or a town or village that is far from their doorstep, isolation can be even more magnified.
This past year has shown us all true and deep issues that create a level of anxiety not seen in the past. So, what can we do? How do we lessen this very real threat to the mental health of our communities?
In general, anxiety is highly treatable with therapy and relaxation techniques. However, being able to utilize these resources during a pandemic has been a challenge. Lacking access to expertise and appropriate tools to guide a patient through their fears and unease can lead to poor decisions in managing symptoms. The improper use of over-the-counter remedies, excessive drinking, and even illegal substance abuse has been a trend that is alarming. This type of “self-treatment” leads people down the wrong road, away from a solution, not toward one.
Therefore, it is important to raise awareness about options and a sensible and safe approach for patients to recover and manage their symptoms. Using appropriate and targeted tools and behavior modification techniques can reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms. There is a wide range of approaches that can be combined and tailored for individuals to increase the likelihood of success.
It is easy to reach for relief from the multitude of claims for an immediate remedy by going to the local drug store and reaching for something labeled “pain-killer” or “anxiety-reducing”. However, it is important to note that the negative side-effects of some unprescribed medications such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, stomach and intestinal pain, and fatigue can be disruptive and create a new set of issues. This is especially true if proper dosage is not followed. There are other viable options that do not cause negative reactions.
The first step in patient protection is self-awareness, which means being able to recognize symptoms in ourselves and close friends and family. So what should you look for?
- Are you experiencing interrupted sleep or insomnia?
- Have your emotions been erratic or have had an increasing level of irritation?
- Has your behavior become compulsive?
- Have there been changes to your appetite?
- Is there a change in your decision making?
- Have you noticed that you are getting more headaches, stomach nervousness, indigestion, or body pains?
If you notice a few of these are happening to you or someone you love, the following techniques or a combination will get you on a path to recovery and responsible management of symptoms.
- Proper nutrition. Eating balanced meals and making sure you get the nutrients and vitamins needed is the first proactive step.
- Get moving with daily exercise. When anxiety symptoms flare it can be difficult to fight the urge to stay sedentary. But in fact, moving your body generates endorphins which are neurotransmitters that make you feel good, naturally.
- Deep breathing and counting. It may sound strange but focusing on breath distracts your mind from other worries and even pain. This is similar to the Lamaze technique taught to pregnant women to help manage their labor pains, and it works!
- Try a holistic approach to your symptoms.
- Aromatherapy: our Olfactory nerve (sense of smell) sends signals to the amygdala and the Limbic System which regulate mood, emotions, and memory. Pleasant smells have an almost immediate effect on our ability to relate to positive experiences and help us to relax.
- Cannabidiol: derived from the hemp plant, many studies have shown a significant improvement in patient anxiety when using Cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabidiol works directly with our bodies Endocannabinoid System (ECS) which helps our bodies maintain homeostasis. This balance helps patients achieve success in relieving their symptoms with no negative side-effects.
FDA Disclaimer: The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.