Anxiety & COVID-19: What You’re Feeling Right Now Could Be Grief


Anxiety & COVID-19: What You’re Feeling Right Now Could Be Grief

Lauren Modery
By Lauren Modery
Apr 13, 2020
Anxiety & COVID-19: What You’re Feeling Right Now Could Be Grief

This is an unprecedented time in modern history, and it is completely normal for one to mourn what has happened to the globe, our country, our community, or ourselves. We often think of grief as caused by one factor, but it can be triggered by a variety of life experiences, including a pandemic.

Why COVID-19 Feels Like An Experience of Grief

“Oftentimes, when we think of loss and grief, we think of that in the context of death,” says Becky Morales LCSW-S of Colors of Austin Counseling in Austin, Texas.

“While death loss is a natural part of the human experience, we also experience grief with many non-death related losses. The non-death loss aspect of life is sometimes overlooked and can also often be unintentionally minimized. The loss of routine in our daily lives, the loss of physical connectedness to others, the changing of birth plans for expectant parents, being physically separated from family, or the loss of a high school senior who will not experience the traditional rituals related to being a senior like prom or graduation are all examples of losses being experienced currently.”

Morales stresses the impact of how sudden change upon us, “The magnitude of these losses and the fact that they have occurred rather quickly may leave people feeling confused and even disoriented.”

The Symptoms of Grief Mentally & Physically

Grief is an emotion that has both mental and physical effects. Anxiety, depression, apathy, loneliness, sleeping issues, fatigue, chest pains, restlessness, change of appetite, and shortness of breath are just some of the byproducts of grief. Sometimes these effects even confuse us into believing we’re getting sick, and sometimes we fall into a despair so deep, it is difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But when we talk about grief, we don’t typically talk about the symptoms—we talk about the stages. Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross came up with the five stages of grief in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. These five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Kubler-Ross admitted years later than not everyone who experiences grief will have these reactions, nor are these reactions linear.

If you’re feeling any of these emotions right now, it’s important to know that what you are going through is 100% normal. Grief is a common reaction to any sort of loss, whether it is tangible or not.

“Experiencing grief can come in waves, meaning some days may be calm and without distress, while other days may be overwhelming and filled with a mix of emotions,” says Morales. “As we navigate this pandemic together, we will likely continue to experience many waves along the way and seeking support and connectedness will be critical.”

“Anxieties are expected during this time,” adds Dr. Roger McIntyre, President of CRTCE and CEO of AltMed. “It becomes concerning when it’s greatly interfering with your sleep, or when it’s associated with being depressed and not wanting to live anymore. When a person is suicidal or they’re noticing they have to use drugs or alcohol to cope, or it’s impairing their function, they should reach out to their health care provider [immediately].”

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need support, there are a variety of ways to find mental health support, whether it’s through a therapist, telehealth services, or crisis hotlines.

Most health insurance carriers offer telehealth services through your plan. Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Anthem, Oscar, Kaiser Permanente, Humana, and UnitedHealth all offer some sort of virtual appointments with medical professionals. You can also find other telehealth services available now for those who are either insured or uninsured.

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Mental Health Services Available Right Now

There are currently a handful of mental health apps available that connect you with mental health professionals or offer other mental health support. Talkspace and Betterhelp are two apps that partner you with a therapist at an affordable monthly rate.

notOk is a suicide prevention app that allows you to notify five trusted contacts when you have suicidal thoughts. If you experience anxiety or depression, the What’s Up app uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) to help ground you. MoodKit also uses CBT-based techniques for helping mood and stress. Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) offers a helpful list of ADAA-reviewed apps.

Other mental health support includes:

Stay Focused On What Combats Negative Feelings

Dr. McIntyre recommends getting those endorphins up to help combat any feelings of grief or sadness. “Live exercise classes are a great way to feel connected and to get moving which creates positive endorphins. Also, reading books and reading information that’s not related to the current virus is a good way to get your mind in a positive place.” He recommends against using drugs, alcohol, and overeating at this time. “Nothing is better than a bit of exercise, good sleep, and healthy food.”

There are still many questions that loom over COVID-19 and what the future looks like for America and the globe. We all have our own pace and ups and downs when dealing with adversity. If your loved ones are struggling to understand your reactions to the pandemic, try to communicate to them what you are going through. And please remember to be kind to yourself. There is help available, and you are not alone in this unprecedented challenge. What you’re experiencing right now is normal.

Lauren Modery

Lauren Modery

Lauren Modery is a writer based in Boulder, CO. She’s written for Google, LIVESTRONG Foundation, Whole Foods, City of Austin, The Guardian, GOOD Magazine, Fodor’s, and several health & wellness startups. Her award-winning film, Loves Her Gun, premiered at SXSW in 2013 and was selected as a Critic’s Pick in the New York Times. Lauren is a regular contributor to the RxSaver Blog.

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