Anxiety is a term that has become synonymous with the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 76 million people globally are reporting anxiety problems brought on by the pandemic – a 26 percent increase from 2019 to 2020 alone.
As a Psychology professor and researcher studying children and youth, I have been intently listening and following how different people are navigating this moment in time. One thing I have learned: there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing anxiety as we re-emerge from the pandemic. Some might be ready to dial up their socialization while others may prefer to sit on the sidelines. As we move forward together, there are ways to navigate both approaches as we return to normal.
Understand how we are feeling
It comes as no surprise that the pandemic has magnified our inherent feelings or traits. If one has a tendency toward more anxious feelings, that anxiety in many cases has become amplified directly, or indirectly, by COVID-19.
At Trent University, and in schools around the world, we have welcomed students back to campus and the classroom this fall, where people can come together to learn and socialize. As a sector, we are navigating a world that is changing, with heightened awareness that manifests itself in unexpected ways.
When it comes to re-emerging and getting back to something closer to “normal”, I encourage people to avoid clichés like “do one thing every day that scares you”. Instead, if you are worried and feeling anxiety about transitioning to a more “in-person” life post-pandemic, push gently and expand on the walls of the social bubbles that you have created, establishing and overcoming manageable challenges and opportunities to gain confidence.
Support those around you
Perhaps you are thriving through this time, but notice that the people in your life are not quite their pre-pandemic selves. It is important to look around you to see how you might support others along the way.
Life with anxiety means living through both good days and bad days. We can support the people with anxiety in our lives in simple but significant ways. If you have friends and loved ones who are struggling with anxiety – it is important to listen, often what seems to be ‘small’ worries are quite significant. By listening, rather than offering well-intentioned messages of comfort, we can discover stressors that exist for the people in our lives and help to create bridges that encourage them to take small steps outside of their comfort zone.
Get the support you need
Looking for more support? Agencies like Kids Help Phone, university wellness services, and CAMH are available to act as important listeners and to guide you in navigating the evolving pandemic…and whatever comes next.
Dr. Nancie Im-Bolter is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Trent University Durham GTA. This article was originally published on DurhamRegion.com.
Learn more about studying Psychology at Trent.