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Signs you may need help handling anxiety and depression

Mental Health | May 26, 2021
Sad-looking adult woman lies in bed, looking at tablet
It may be time to ask for help if COVID-19 fears continue to hold you in their grip.

If you’ve experienced anxiety and sadness brought on by the pandemic, you may have been expecting the “black cloud” to lift as communities slowly get back to some normalcy.

You’re not the only one having a tough time managing your moods and emotional well-being. Unfortunately, the loss, sadness and fear you experienced over the past year may continue to affect your mental health.

“It’s normal to feel anxious and depressed with the pandemic,” says Anthony Gargano, MD, an internal medicine physician at PeaceHealth in Bellingham. “However, if those feelings keep you from performing your day-to-day activities or stop you from taking care of yourself and your regular responsibilities, seek out help from a therapist or talk to your primary care provider.”

The pandemic’s hidden trauma

Some experts believe that COVID-19-related trauma could be delayed for months or even years. Many are experiencing COVID-19 PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) symptoms, including terrible anxiety, a bad mood you can’t shake, sad thoughts and avoidance.

It’s also important to recognize that there are “shades of grey” when it comes to trauma. For example, it’s understandable that you might avoid entering a restaurant which was a danger zone, because it still feels unsafe even though you’re fully vaccinated. But having trouble leaving your home is clearly a sign of a more serious mental health issue. Learn how to know when you should seek help.

It’s important to understand that the pandemic is a terrible event we have all experienced.

We’ve all been suffering loss in many ways, whether the loss of a job, day-to-day activities, connection to friends and family or the deaths of loved ones. Acknowledging and letting yourself grieve can help you overcome loss of all kinds.

What to do if you’re feeling stuck

Of course, not everyone will experience PTSD. Some feelings are less clear-cut, and can include lack of direction, joylessness, difficulty focusing and a decrease in motivation.

These feelings are a byproduct of the emotional cost the pandemic has taken as fear and sadness during the past year have given way to a sense of emptiness and “feeling stuck.”

That’s why it’s more important than ever to make sure that you’re taking care of your mental health. You can start by making self-care a priority.  

Many people are also having a tough time getting back to regular activities, either feeling uncomfortable or simply unable to do so.

Medical professionals have created the term FONO or Fear of Normal, referring to unexpected feelings we face upon re-entering our communities. FONO is marked by racing thoughts such as: Should I wear a mask? Should I hug a friend? Is eating indoors safe? What will stay the same and what will change?

The good news is there are some things we can do to help reduce the sting of FONO, including developing healthy ways of doing things like taking personal time out of our busy schedules, becoming aware of our feelings, limiting caffeine and alcohol, and attending therapy.

When to ask for help

So, when is it time to talk to a mental health professional? If you’re feeling unable to cope, learn about five types of mental health specialists that can help.

“Re-entry for most people will be a gradual shift. Our brains need time to reset and reboot. But, if you find yourself unable to move forward, ask for help from a qualified mental health professional” says Dr. Gargano.

The fear and stress brought on by the pandemic was and is very, very real.

So, make sure to put your self-care and emotional well-being first. Talk with your primary care provider or contact a mental health professional to find hope and healing.

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