Anxiety During the Pandemic

I live in California, and California is the second state in the United States with the most earthquakes next to Alaska. 

For those of you who are from here, you may have experienced or have heard the earthquake of 1989- called Loma Prieta. 

It resulted in heavy damages that extended from the Santa Cruz Mountains all the way to the San Francisco Peninsula and Oakland. 

I vividly remember I was doing my homework, had “Hanging Tough” by New Kids on the block playing on my walkman, when I felt the room start shaking. I ducked for cover just like how we practiced them during “earthquake drills” at school. The windows rattling, and my “Babysitters Club” books series started flying off my bookshelf. A vivid memory that felt like it lasted much longer than 15 seconds. There were so many were injured, 67 killed and billions of dollars in damage. 

I was in shock and scared.

Immediately, after this tragic event, we began seeing media coverage on rebuilding. For many, seeing the progress on recovery and the community coming together brought reassurance that we will be okay and the stressful emotions we all felt began to diminish.

When we experience natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and other unexpected events, almost everyone will feel immediate biological and psychological effects. Stressful situations will activate our body’s “fight or flight” response; releasing adrenaline and stress hormones using up our stored energy to survive during these unprecedented times. According to an article by T. Halle; Ann Masten, PhD, a psychologist and professor at the University of Minnesota, call this stored energy our “surge capacity”.

Surge Capacity is the mental and physical ability to adapt to stressful situations, like natural disasters, that humans draw on for short-term survival.

But what happens if the natural disaster doesn’t just last for a few days? What if it’s on-going and has become chronic? We start to feel fatigue and despair. You want to feel productive but you just can’t find the motivation to do so. You’re feeling like something is completely wrong. Unless you lived during the flu pandemic, this is all new to you.

This is because our body only has so much of this energy in store until we are on empty. The resources that we usually renew these energy from~ such as; spending time with friends and family, working out in the gym, vacations, travel, all of these are all difficult to access during the pandemic.

In my practice, I am hearing a lot of the same worries and frustrations from my clients as well as colleagues. Allowing them to feel the weight of what’s going on around them and knowing that they share the same struggle with so many others is the first step to coping. This is the time to practice self-compassion, reminding ourselves to be okay with doing less for now and focusing on replenishing our energy instead.

Since many of our usual activities have been postponed, we need to get creative on other forms of self-care. I like to find small projects that I enjoy at home. My family and I go for hikes when the weather permits. We play board games, chess and video games such as Roblox. On other days we just spend time on the couch reading or just doing absolutely nothing and that is okay.

Any new activities you can think of to do on your own or with your loved ones are crucial at this time to get your mind off the current sadness of the world and giving your mind time to recharge and replenish your energy.

What I noticed is that Covid-19 pandemic bring up very similar reactions to the earthquake of 1989. I feel as if the ground is shaking beneath me, but instead of only 15 seconds it is constantly triggering everyday and we are all trying our best to stay standing and to not fall over. But for how long can we stay in this state of uncertainty?

All we can do now is to focus on the things that we can control, our own mental and physical health. This pandemic may be taking much longer than expected but this is temporary. In order to keep our balance and remain standing on shaky grounds, we must remind ourselves to take a break, take a seat, rest, reset and get back up again and again.