woman experiencing pandemic-induced stress while wearing mask

Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a central theme in everyone’s lives. The widespread lockdowns and inability to live life as normal has affected nearly everyone on the planet. Even for those who have managed to steer clear of contracting the viral infection itself, this period of time has been challenging, overwhelming, and stressful. Its impact on mental health and stress levels has led to an increase in stress and anxiety felt across the globe.

Pandemic-induced stress could develop for a variety of different reasons. It could be caused by losing a loved one to the illness, or getting sick yourself. It could also be because of fear or anxiety surrounding catching the virus. Many people have also suffered job losses or changed work environments because of stay-at-home orders. All these things bring about levels of stress that have been entirely unavoidable. It’s a difficult time, no matter how it has affected a person.

So how do you know if you have this condition? Let’s take a look at some key symptoms of pandemic-induced stress and some ways you can combat them.

Is it normal to experience pandemic fatigue during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Pandemic fatigue and stress is a completely normal reaction to what’s been going on in the world. No one could have prepared themselves for the toll this outbreak has taken on the physical and mental health of the global population. The heightened stress levels that almost everyone is experiencing can cause you to feel tired, rundown, and chronically fatigued. Without knowing what’s going to happen next or when the pandemic will become less severe, and not being able to participate in recreational things or see friends and family, are all contributors to pandemic fatigue.

stressed woman wearing mask
Image by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash: What can I do to feel better if I’m feeling anxious and scared about COVID-19?

Pandemic stress symptoms

Aside from fatigue, there are many different symptoms that can be tied to pandemic-induced stress. The prevalence of mental illness, for example, has grown during the pandemic. Depression and anxiety can develop because of many pandemic-related reasons. The isolation factor can lead to feelings of depression and loneliness. Fear caused by the pandemic can also heighten or lead to newly developed anxiety.

Instances of substance abuse and suicidal ideation have also grown since the pandemic began. The multi-month-long experience of various lockdowns, stay-at-home-orders, outbreaks, and losses of life have all been difficult to bear, and many people have been struggling to cope.

The effect that COVID-19 stress has on people has led to the development of certain mental health issues with symptom subsets of their own. Anxiety, for example, has affected a large number of people. There are several types of anxiety disorders that can affect people in different ways. General anxiety because of the pandemic can come with symptoms such as:

  • Feelings of nervousness, restlessness, or tension
  • An ongoing sense of panic, doom, or impending danger
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate on anything other than feelings of worry
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Stomach issues

Depression has also been highly prevalent during COVID. Some general symptoms of depression that can be brought on by the pandemic include:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Inability to get proper sleep
  • Restlessness
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Head and body aches that don’t go away
  • Digestive issues
  • Feelings of sadness and emptiness
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideation

Research has also found that the pandemic experience has triggered post-traumatic stress syndrome in some people. The symptoms most associated with post-traumatic stress syndrome are similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder, but the onset of the syndrome tends to be quicker and more abrupt than the disorder. The symptoms also tend to be short-term in PTSS. They include:

  • Emotional numbness
  • Avoiding places or people in the attempt to forget the trauma-related experience
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling jumpy
  • Being angered or irritated easily

These symptoms and conditions may be difficult to deal with, especially while the pandemic is still ongoing. However, there are ways to cope.

pug dog in blanket on bed
Image by Matthew Henry on Unsplash: An emotional support animal is a great option when it comes to handling pandemic-induced stress.

How can I cope with stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

The first and foremost thing a person can do to help reduce pandemic-related stress symptoms is avoid an overload of information regarding COVID-19. This means taking a break from news stories or articles that talk about the pandemic, as well as avoiding conversations with friends or family that center around COVID-19. Although being up-to-date on what’s going on is a good thing, being constantly bombarded with information is not. This is especially true if there are no new developments. Disconnecting from screens for a few hours each day and replacing screen time with activities you enjoy can help you avoid feelings of overwhelm or despair.

You can also combat the symptoms of pandemic-induced stress by taking care of your physical health. Physical health and mental stress are closely linked, and by getting in touch with your body and giving it what it needs, you can lower stress levels. Things you can do to care of your body include exercising regularly, eating healthy meals full of nutrient-rich foods, avoiding excessive substance abuse such as smoking and drinking, and getting enough sleep.

You will also want to take care of your mind while you deal with pandemic stress. This can be done through a variety of different activities that can help you to relax. Meditating, reading a book, or practicing your hobbies can all be help take your mind off the COVID situation. Staying connected with friends and family, even if you can’t see or hug them in person, can also be a great help. You can do this online or through socially distanced visits.

For those who are suffering greatly, an emotional support animal can also be a great help, because ESAs have been proven to help curb symptoms of mental illness.

There’s no right or wrong way to handle a pandemic, and the entire world is dealing with the situation as best they can. The most effective way to make it through and deal with pandemic-induced stress is to focus on taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Featured image by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash