Anxiety 2020

Just when it seems time to turn away from the pandemic and politics of mid-2020, some other aspect rears its head and needs to be addressed—because, in addition to impacting lives, it impacts the making of art. And today that aspect is anxiety. You know, what you and I and many of us are spending a lot of time experiencing.

Even if it were a simple form of anxiety, it would be a problem, but the anxiety that we are facing as we head into the latter half of the year is complex and multi-faceted. And we might as well say from the outset that these anxieties that we are experiencing today are so closely related to depression that they might as well be the same thing.

These issues have a variety of causes, but almost all eventually relate to a sense of uncertainty and helplessness. First there is the anxiety associated directly with the COVID-19: will we catch it? If we catch it, how bad will it be? How will we pay for it? Who will look after the dog, the children, our parents? As if that weren’t enough, there is additional anxiety associated with reopening—venturing out of our houses, where we have felt relatively safe—to go back to in-person school, in-person business, in-person shopping.

And so we reach out, but the only really safe way to do that other than social media is through a video-chat service, such as Zoom. But it turns out that virtual video meeting is nothing like a face-to-face meeting and can also cause stress, and sometimes significant levels of stress. And that stress leads to anxiety, which adds to our pre-existing stack of anxiety.

So we turn to the internet and Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and we begin to scroll and that turns into doomscrolling (or doomsurfing)—i.e. searching for bad news. And the news we seek is not confined to COVID-19 or reopening. It can be related to politics and the coming election; it can be related to Black Lives Matter and social unrest in the cities; it can be related to the current situation with the USPS, particularly if we depend on the service to pay our bills or receive our medications; it can be related to climate change or international politics, or all of the above. And it turns out that doomscrolling can quite easily turn into a habit that can morph into an obsession which can induce even more stress.

And so the anxieties build. And, so far as I can tell, nobody is immune. Even those of us who are introverts, who naturally seek solitude are as subject to the host of anxieties as anyone else—because it’s not just about enduring solitude; it’s about everything that makes up the world of 2020.

So what can we do about it? The first thing is to recognize that we might be experiencing anxiety. Many of us live very close to the edge all the time; when we stand in the kitchen crying because an ice cube dropped on the floor, it’s a pretty good sign that something is wrong. The next thing we can do is get some help. Even if we don’t want to seek out professional help, there are coping guides available on the internet. Many are general and offered by reputable organizations, such as the CDC and the Mayo Clinic. Others are specific; for example, almost every article on doomscrolling offers advice on how to break the cycle, and others offer help with anxiety related to Zoom and other video chat services.

The other thing that we can do about it is engage in some activity. It sounds simplistic, but we might—even in the midst of the pandemic—take up a new hobby, or renew an old one. I know at least one person who has done that. Or we, particularly those of us who are artists, might engage in our art. No, it’s not easy, particularly when we are spending all our time and effort worrying about all that is stressing us out. But if we can force ourselves to take that first step and write or paint or edit or photograph or sculpt or compose something, we will be the better for it. Starting is the hard part; once we begin, old habits take over, and we may soon find that our anxiety lessens as out concentration on creating increases.

Date: Sunday, 16. August 2020 22:48
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