Combating Anxiety, Panic, and Loss of Purpose During the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 is a novel experience for everyone. It’s not surprising if we’re experiencing some anxiety or uncertainty about life currently as unpredictable events rapidly unfold. We may be experiencing dramatic work changes, including *job loss, and feel that some of our hobbies have to be discontinued. We may also experience a loss of purpose due to confusion about our identities – what a time this is for personal growth! When we’re forced to stop what we were doing to keep ourselves busy or distracted, there is plenty of time for self-reflection while many of us sit still.

How often is it that we get to question who we are when we’re busy compared to who we are without everything that we do? Do we still value ourselves in the same way? Let’s see…

Who are you now that you may no longer have school or work? Who were you when you had those things? Who were you as a child, before work or school even began to dominate your life?

These can be truly challenging questions, as school and work have been critical elements of how we’ve defined ourselves. The structure, routine, and self-esteem that we’ve developed through work are almost just as valuable to us as food and shelter. So, when these components of our daily living that gave us purpose are taken away from millions of people, it is understandable that we may feel lost.

If you’ve recently experienced anxiety, panic, frustration, confusion, and loss of purpose, you are not alone. We’re all in this together! The following list includes some research-validated strategies that you can do, on your own or with those you are self-isolating with, to improve your mental stability and emotional well-being.

  1. Maintaining structure and consistency – this can look like waking up, eating, and having enjoyable activities at similar times each day
  2. Therapy! Video/phone calling a therapist, psychologist, counselor, or other mental health professionals can empower you to feel calmer and develop healthful solutions. Free 24/7 helplines that are especially useful for expressing depression, anxiety, and emotional stress during COVID include…
    • USA’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990
    • New Zealand – call or text 1737 for a counselor (available 24/7)

  1. Keeping in touch – this is a great opportunity to get creative with how you interact with others from a physical distance
    • Write letters (for you to give to them whenever physical contact permits)
    • FaceTime/Skype/video call
    • Play games, such as ‘Song Association’, which involves recalling a song that has a certain word with a 10-second time frame (inspired by ELLE’s videos)

  1. Make healthful food choices that should…
    • be emotionally satisfying
    • help you to feel physically well
  2. Practice mindful eating
    • This can transform your relationship with food and significantly enhance overall health
  3. Cook/bake
  4. Meditate
    • Breathing deeply can enhance the rest of your entire day by restoring calmness
    • You could use a mobile app such as Headspace
  5. Exercise to improve your mood and maintain wellness
    • Be vigilant to not use exercise as a form of ‘compensation’ for eating more than usual while in lockdown – this is a disordered eating symptom and can impact you in having a healthy relationship with food

  1. Massages – take turns with those you live with to pamper yourselves
  2. Art – paint, draw, color in, etc.
  3. Create space for yourself to have ‘me’ time
  4. Yoga
  5. Replace the need to drink alcohol / take illicit substances for comfort with the need for therapy
    • There is always an emotional drive to want to engage in these behaviors, it is brave to confront your feelings and discuss them with a therapist

  1. Hug a furry friend
  2. Rollerblade/ride a bike
  3. Refer to RELIABLE news sources

  1. Limit/customize social media use!
    • When you’re already feeling fearful, your brain naturally seeks out stimuli to reinforce your fear and blocks out information that doesn’t align with your current emotional state
    • Thus, limiting exposure to social media, which can engage viewers in compassionate speech but also unnecessary criticism or panic, can alleviate anxiety
    • Follow accounts/pages that make you feel good instead of ones that perpetuate negative feelings about the pandemic
  2. Find your safe space – a location at home or outside in a quiet area that enables you to feel calm and connected with yourself
  3. Tidy up – a clean space facilitates a clean mind
    • the reality is that we will be living this way for many weeks/months, so it’s valuable to make your living space comfortable and fresh

  1. Backyard camping trip – pitch a tent in your garden
  2. Living room dance party!
  3. Sing
  4. Play instruments
  5. Journaling
    • Self-reflecting helps to organize your thoughts and reduces stress
    • Writing positive affirmations can be powerful in protecting your mental health

While this list may help you to keep anxiety at bay in the meantime, a crucial takeaway for everyone to have from the COVID-19 pandemic is that you have inherent self-worth and you’re more than what you do.

The loss of identity can be confusing and difficult when you placed significant value on all that you identified with. You may no longer be a graduate student, retail consultant, or construction worker. However, you are still kind, loving, compassionate, a friend, a human being, and alive. That is all you ever need to be because you are enough as you are, just being.

So, who are we? I’m not sure if we’re ever supposed to know exactly, and that’s one of the miraculous aspects of life itself.

However, for now, who am I? I simply am.

*Job loss is devastating as the livelihoods of many have been deeply compromised during this time. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you’d like me to help determine what governmental assistance could be of use to you or others who are struggling financially

2 thoughts on “Combating Anxiety, Panic, and Loss of Purpose During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  1. Your words breathe life into the areas of my heart that hold tension – tension that I didn’t even realize I was holding on to. Congratulations with your blog, Steph! This corner of the world is so lucky to receive your gentle wisdom!

    Liked by 1 person

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