Anxiety is a product of stress and involves the experience of worrying. Periodic anxiety is an expected part of life. In fact, it’s healthy to experience anxiety from time to time. Feeling mildly anxious before a job interview helps us prepare and remain alert. However, anxiety can be experienced with increased intensity and impair our daily functioning, whether it be how we relate to loved ones, perform at work, or simply move through activities of daily living.
Anxiety prepares us for perceived or real danger, and stress is the response. Our brain reacts by sending a stress response throughout our body. We become more alert, our breathing, heart rate and blood pressure increases, digestion slows down, and muscles tense in preparation for a fight-or-flight response. Some stress responses are short-term and provide a minor impact, while others are severe and are emotionally painful. Although stress has become an important response, prolonged stress and anxiety can cause something called traumatic stress.
Experiencing a national disaster such as the Coronavirus pandemic has caused a major disruption to daily living. Furthermore, it is likely to intensify existing feelings of stress and anxiety and spur the onset of new ones. This disaster is unique in that it is not a one-time event. It is ongoing. The pandemic has caused day-to-day changes in how we experience life. For some, this has meant losing their job, wearing a mask when leaving home, habitual handwashing and sanitizing, not being able to visit their friends and family…and even losing a loved one to the virus or related medical complications. Not everyone has the same response to the same traumatic event. Our genetic makeup, previous experiences, coping abilities, and support system have a tremendous influence over how we may experience such an event.
Common signs and symptoms of anxiety, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, include: