COVID19 life

Day 52: Are You Anxious?

May 6, 2020

One of my friends from NYC shared with a text-chat group that I am in that she is feeling overwhelmed with all of the uncertainty and is having trouble sleeping. She mentioned that several of her friends have had to go on psychiatric medications (SSRIs & beyond) because they were feeling so anxious.

While I am not privy to all of the details in her friends’ lives (at all), knowing her and her area, I don’t think the anxiety is about finances/logistics. I think it is more about the news cycle, the virus itself, and — most of all — uncertainty.

I really feel for her. And — the usual COVID-19 disclaimer — there are many (MANY) out there who have very good reasons to be anxious. Those with underlying medical conditions or loved ones who do. Those in unstable industries. Those who are unable to focus on their otherwise stable jobs at normal levels because of lack of childcare/school.

BUT, for whatever reason, I am not feeling particularly anxious on a day to day basis. I am actually . . . not sure why, in a way. I am not on medication (well, I do take an OCP for PMDD which has helped me IMMENSELY). My job has been more stressful in some ways including in-person hospital duties; I’m back on call again next week. I did initially mourn the loss of anticipated events on my calendar (I’m largely over that now!) and also went through a period of bingeing on news early in the pandemic. It made me feel terrible.

I honestly think that I am not that anxious because I have just made myself too busy doing other things. Work things, kid things, and definitely plenty of my own personal things (like the post you are reading right now). There is a reason that I am focused so intently on daily habits, rituals, creating order in my Hobonichi.

I barely read news anymore. I do still listen to NPR’s Up First and that seems to be an adequate dose for the day. When I accidentally-on-purpose pull up CNN, NOTHING good comes out of it.

Some might accuse me of putting my head in the sand, or fiddling while Rome is burning or something. But I am not the president or a political figure. I am a parent, a physician, a medical education leader, a writer (sort of), a podcaster. If I can continue to be productive and calm, this is going to have more positive impact on the people I lead / teach / parent than any sort of political activism I can imagine participating in (and let’s face it; most news browsing sessions or text debates are more likely to impact sleep than spur on productive political action).

So I plan on going with my current efforts to sublimate and focus on other things (while following recommendations and guidelines of course). I know that not everyone will be able to use this strategy, depending on challenges they are facing. I also know that having stable childcare (and 2 stable jobs) is a HUGE factor in my current calm; I am beyond grateful for this.

Curious how others are feeling. Because in some ways, I feel weird or guilty for my feeling-okayness. Mostly though I am just relieved.


Ben Franklin-esque tracking

Appreciating the good moments w/ the kids & Josh

Noticing nature!

And 80 Day Obsession. About to dive into day #3. Wish me luck!


  • Reply Irene May 6, 2020 at 6:29 am

    I think you are pretty unusual in having access to your usual child care and *more* time with your husband. Also I think NYC has been hit in a way that is hard for the rest of us to understand. A lot of people there are struggling to even find ways to get out for a walk safely if they live in crowded areas or apartments where you need to go in an elevator to get out.

    My anxiety is based largely on my kids struggles with this. I have mentioned before that my daughter is devastated to have been ripped out of school and her regular social interactions. Because she was in the highest grade that school offered she will likely never see those kids again (entering public school in the fall, no friends in our district) We have no child care, limited access to some of the regular support my daughter needs and well, you can tell. I am dreading the path back to school when ever that happens and I don’t know how long the emotional effects from this time will drag on.

    I don’t for a second begrudge you your relative calm but I do think it has a lot to do with your circumstances (as you acknowledge). But keep doing what works for you!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 6, 2020 at 7:16 am

      Totally all understandable (and yes, NYC is likely a special case, though this friend lives in a much more sprawling suburban area)

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 6, 2020 at 7:20 am

      And 100%, circumstances playing a huge role here.

  • Reply Janelle May 6, 2020 at 6:45 am

    Sometimes I also feel guilty for not minding being home when I know others are struggling. I’m working from home 2/3 weeks with no childcare but my workload has decreased. I also get up early to work and while I do miss that time to myself it’s better than working when the kids are up in the morning. Then I get a lot done in the afternoon when the little one naps and the older gets screen time. We’ve got a good routine going and I don’t mind it at all.
    I’m not anxious at all. I was at the beginning when there was so much change and uncertainty regarding when things would close, etc. I’m wondering if I may get more anxious when things start opening up again too. But for right now- here- things aren’t really changing and we have a routine which is working so I think that’s why I’m not anxious.

  • Reply Omdg May 6, 2020 at 7:06 am

    While I do think not being in NYC probably helps a lot, you do live in a state with an incompetent governor. I had a ton of anxiety at the beginning of this because of Facebook and cnn. Quitting fb has helped a lot. Every so often something (or several) non reassuring things happen at work involving getting sprayed in the face with saliva with inadequate ppe, but otherwise feel much better also.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 6, 2020 at 7:18 am

      That is true (re: governor) but I have been largely ignoring.

  • Reply Grateful Kae May 6, 2020 at 7:11 am

    No particular anxiety here either. More some moments of frustration, wishing certain things could just go back to normal which obviously cannot. But I also don’t have little kids (mine are 10 & 11) and I already worked from home (though my hours have just been cut by 30% (hospital employee) = a little anxiety). Like you, I also have MORE time right now with my husband as his job is operating on a slightly reduced schedule, so he is home by 4:30 instead of his usual 6:00+. The home school thing can be a headache but mine seem to be doing fine with it and are pretty independent and are doing well.

    I think for me a big thing is that my kids are normally in quite a lot of sports and activities. I wrote about this the other day too, how incredibly different it is to not be driving around to all of these places constantly. Our usual schedule is pretty insane. I’m sad they are missing what they love, but it also feels amazingly freeing. Overall my kids don’t even seem that sad though about staying home a lot. I think they are enjoying the downtime, more time to free play, less structure and of course a healthy dose of video games that they normally wouldn’t get on weekdays 😉 They seem happy to watch movies at night with us instead of racing from school to practice to dinner to homework to bed.

  • Reply Gillian May 6, 2020 at 7:28 am

    I am not anxious, but I live in Westchester county and work in NYC and I can attest to the immense anxiety of others. I think the news media and quite frankly our political leaders are fueling this anxiety. I have healthy young patients who haven’t left their studio apartments in weeks because they look out on the streets and see more than a smattering of people and panic. They report the fact that they don’t go out for walks or exercise as a badge of honor. One large pharmacy here was out of Xanax. I have literally written prescriptions for people to go outside or to turn off the news. People here are glued to Gov. Cuomo’s daily briefings and when he talks about the “deadly disease” and the only thing it is “safe” to do is stay home it fuels the fire.

    The goal of stay at home as it was first presented was to flatten the curve. Now it seems as people have stayed home they have lost site of this and think we need to stay home until CV is gone (impossible). The weeks are taking their toll here. Not surprisingly, reports of domestic violence and child abuse are up here. There are reports of police assaulting citizens for not social distancing and there was a loud and obscene argument in the street outside my upper East Side office yesterday that required police involvement. I am truly concerned the the mental health toll is going to start to really out-weigh the benefits of staying home.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 6, 2020 at 7:32 am

      Wow Gillian – it sounds very tough and politically driven (and hard to ignore if people are being threatened by law enforcement). That definitely helps me understand the whole picture there. I hope things get better soon.

      • Reply Gillian May 6, 2020 at 9:29 am

        Well, given that the governor will not open NYC and the surrounding suburbs without the ability to test 3% of the population per day and an army of test tracers who need to be hired from scratch (although we have very high unemployment so…) I am not optimistic.

        Based on the traffic and number of people on the streets people are going out more. Certainly, the volume in our office has rebounded quite a bit (you can only put off your appointment to manage your diabetes for so long). But we have a LONG way to go. On the upside some recent studies suggest as much as 20-25% of the population of NYC has already had CV and will hopefully be immune from future infection which should help prevent a severe rebound in cases as things do reopen.

    • Reply Natalie May 6, 2020 at 1:07 pm

      Gillian, I could not agree more with what you are saying. I’m an epidemiologist and as such I understand the concepts behind physical distancing– but at some point the negative impact of social isolation, school closures, lapse in preventative medicine and primary care access, unemployment, etc. are going to outweigh the benefits of attempts to flatten the curve.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 6, 2020 at 1:12 pm

        Yes to both of you. There is so much nuance here.

      • Reply Gillian May 6, 2020 at 2:14 pm

        Natalie, YES! My practice is mostly women (I am an endocrinologist) and I have had appointments with so many women who at home with their little kids and with no child care, trying to do big jobs (Investment bankers, lawyers, etc). They are working LONG days, they are exhausted, they feel like they aren’t doing anything well. And, they are drinking a LOT, not doing anything to relieve stress and they are at the breaking point. Meanwhile, in New York the curve looks great, hospitalizations are WAY down and still there is no end in sight. It is frustrating.

    • Reply GL May 7, 2020 at 3:46 pm

      Thank you for pointing out the toll in other ways.

  • Reply Ellie May 6, 2020 at 7:36 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am also thinking a lot about the way I feel about all this situation. You should not feel bad for not feeling anxious. We all have different personalities and live under different circumstances. No one can expect that all people will react the same. I would not say that I am anxious but I am concerned because of the uncertainty. Not knowing if the kids will resume school, how summer plans might change, how workload will evolve, etc. is quite difficult to handle for someone who like planning and structure. And it certainly affects my mood and sleep (I am dreaming A LOT!). I also miss having nice things to look forward to and to make it “worth” going through these challenging times. Of course I have nice little things everyday (book, TV series, podcasts and fantastic bloggers to follow 😉) but this is simply not enough for such a long stretch of time for me to feel “happy”. But of course I cannot say that I am unhappy as we are in a fairly stable situation. Yet, I also don’t find it useful to downplay negative feelings. It is an unprecedented situation. There is no playbook telling us how to handle it. Let’s just be ourselves.

  • Reply chelseamcatmath May 6, 2020 at 8:19 am

    Unlike at the beginning of the pandemic/ stay-at-home order, I’m not feeling much anxiety right now (I live in Central FL). I have some free-floating anxiety about my parents’ health – they are largely healthy and taking this *very* seriously but are close to 70 – and some anxiety about a close friend of my dad’s who is in poor heath and would probably die if he got Covid-19 (which, of course, would be very sad for my dad). I feel a lot of *other* things… frustration with the work/childcare situation, disappointment that our vacation/ DH’s sabbatical were cancelled, resignation that we are going to hear about salary/benefits cuts next week, annoyance that DH might not get his promotion raise, overwhelm with so much kid noise in a small house… but anxiety isn’t large among them.

    For me, I think there are two big things going on. First, because of the curfew until 5am, I’m not getting up to meet my running group at 4:30am (or earlier) multiple times each week, and we are instead meeting at 5:30am. Before, I was technically “on paper” getting enough sleep, but it was not enough sleep, and my executive function and emotional stability were the worse for it. Second, I credit the resilience of the human spirit. Maybe because I read a lot of WWII historical fiction, I’ve been thinking a lot about people living through the Blitz. Human begins have a remarkable ability to keep going through even the very worst situations. We will just continue to do what we can to do our best at our jobs and as being parents and to support our community through all of this one day at a time.

    • Reply KGC May 6, 2020 at 8:47 am

      Re: the running group – same here! I’m just running in my neighborhood alone at 6am now, instead of my usual 5am meetup that required driving. And while I miss my running friends – and, to some extend the ‘badass’ feeling that comes from knocking out a workout before 6am – the extra sleep that I am getting is amazing and also likely contributing to my lack of anxiety.

    • Reply Maggie May 6, 2020 at 9:56 am

      I so agree with focusing on human resilience – I’ve found myself thinking about the horrible things so many humans have lived through (and are living through all the time, around the world, aside from COVID) and focusing on how we can do hard things and keep going really helps me. I have had several patients who lived through Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath in New Orleans tell me “oh, this is nothing, we are fine” – and that has given me some strength.

  • Reply KGC May 6, 2020 at 8:57 am

    Sarah, I’m in a similar boat to you – not particularly anxious – likely related to the fact that we still have childcare and are both working from home with stable jobs (very lucky, I know!). I did just want to share something that I think will make you and Laura proud, though! A family member recently posted on facebook that she was having trouble sleeping due to stress and anxiety – similar to your friend, and also in a location ‘hotspot’ for the virus. Something like 50 people weighed in with suggestions (melatonin gummies! meditation! warm bath! reduce screens!), all of which are great ideas and will probably help.

    My (outlier) suggestion was…get child care. I knew that the root of her stress was attempting to work full time and also parent a newly-mobile 9-month-old whose daycare is closed, so I suggested she find a responsible and socially-distancing college student or friend from church or SOMEONE who could help and…she did! Literally within 24 hours she contacted someone from church and got her lined up to start the following week and sent me a text expressing her relief. I realize that this is not an option for everyone, but it WAS for her, and it just seemed like she needed permission or a little push or something to get it going.

    In this case, I think that identifying the root of the anxiety and realizing that it could potentially be addressed was really helpful. Like you, I have largely stopped reading the news with a few exceptions because I found that this was something I could control and which impacted my emotional well-being. Within all the uncertainty, focusing on things that we can control seems to help! I too have been feeling a little guilty for being ‘okay’ but have made a conscious choice to shift that emotion to feeling grateful and/or relieved.

  • Reply Ana May 6, 2020 at 9:00 am

    I’ve had (as you know) long standing anxiety issues, that did seem to get triggered a few weeks into this, but thinking about right here & now today, no, I don’t feel anxious. My medication of course helps 🙂 and taking a break from news/FB helps a LOT with any anxiety about the pandemic situation specifically. I am staying well enough informed that I know what to do to keep myself/family safe and beyond that, it is not helping anyone for me to continue to get fired up and angry/scared/sad but rather to focus on what I can do in my own life to help others (my patients, trainees, kids, family near & far, neighbors and friends) given that I am fortunate enough to have a stable (and safe!) job and healthy family.

  • Reply Sarah K May 6, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Honestly, I got WAY less anxious once I got some help with childcare/home schooling. You inspired me to do it! I feel like so much less of my life is upended now that I am back in a normal work routine and not constantly trying to juggle two very demanding things.

  • Reply Jen May 6, 2020 at 9:39 am

    I had to take a Xanax just to sleep last night. I think about quitting my job almost daily, when prior to this it would be unthinkable because I loved my job. I cry constantly. The situation of having no childcare is not sustainable but I can’t figure out how we can pay someone while still paying full tuition at daycare even though they are closed.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 6, 2020 at 11:02 am

      I am so sorry Jen. That does all completely suck. I hope you can find a solution.

  • Reply Marina May 6, 2020 at 11:36 am

    I feel like we can’t really move forward until we have more certainty about what the next steps are. We are currently down to one job unfortunately, and no childcare, but can’t really move forward with the job search until we have some idea about childcare. And two full time jobs without childcare is really not sustainable for very long.

  • Reply Khar May 6, 2020 at 11:39 am

    My anxiety has been related to personal circumstances (business in financial free fall and having to furlough employees and do pay cuts, and a family member with COVID-19 who was not expected to survive). Those have leveled off (got a PPP loan and relative is making a miraculous recovery after 25+ days on a vent) so the anxiety has tapered off as well.

  • Reply gwinne May 6, 2020 at 11:42 am

    So this is interesting. I know mental health professionals who bristle at the use of that word when not tied to clinical diagnosis. I tend toward “anxiety” though do not have an actual diagnosis at this time; I have in the past been on xanax and might need to get back in touch with my doctor about a prescription.

    At this time I wouldn’t use the word “anxious” to describe how I’m feeling. I say this purely because I’m *sleeping* which I don’t tend to do when I feel anxious. I do have other negative feelings, particularly overwhelm and something resembling depression. It does help when I stay off the news/twitter. I live in a state with an amazing governor, thankfully.

    My own situation helps by being an academic, so I’m “off” over the summer. Granted, I will not get my writing done without childcare, so what I’m feeling is more that next fall is going to SUCK. I’m trying to put off feeling that until we get there, because right now does not for me suck at least at that level.

    Childcare is the key here. And as I’ve said on my own blog, having a spouse IS a form of childcare/relief, even if both parents are working (unless there’s a situation with domestic violence which is a whole other thing). I’m relying on a teenager (mine) to give me an hour a day. If I were a single parent of two smaller kids…..I don’t want to imagine. That is, I’m really envious of partnered parents in ways I never thought I would be. I’m not saying any of this to be critical of your situation, Sarah. You’re handling this with such grace and awareness.

  • Reply M May 6, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    Yup – I think it’s 100% the no childcare thing that makes me anxious. What will happen to summer camps? What about school next fall… I can’t even fathom… part of the problem is not knowing. If we KNEW that summer camp would be cancelled, then we could start working on hiring a sitter/nanny or whatever. (Previously this was not an option, because everyone was expected to 100% social distancing). But because we don’t know, and we are essentially taking it “week by week,” we are constantly just chugging through it, biding our time. I don’t do well as a stay at home mom – it’s definitely not my preferred mode of operation. I think I *COULD* find a way to do it and enjoy it, but if I did, it would not be while working full time. I could probably work part time, but would want to feel like I had control over the different areas of my life, which I don’t right now. Every time I read an article about “what school could look like in the fall,” I’m ready to jump off a bridge. I would request that media please stop publishing those particular ones.

    • Reply Ashley G May 6, 2020 at 1:04 pm

      Yes to the articles about school in the fall!! It is all total guesswork and just stressing everyone out for no reason when we don’t know what next week looks like, forget 3 months from now. I feel like I am mostly handling this whole thing ok (I miss childcare so hard), but I am filled with rage every time I see one of those guesswork nonsense articles.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 6, 2020 at 1:10 pm

        I HATE THEM TOO!!!

        • Reply Brooke May 6, 2020 at 2:08 pm

          I’m completely with you on the news. I let my husband keep me informed as needed. The news about murder honets in my state this week totally stressed me out for a day. I just can’t right now.

          • Sarah Hart-Unger May 6, 2020 at 3:12 pm

            YES. My DAD forwarded me that. I’m on the other CORNER of the country and it still stressed me out!

    • Reply Jill May 6, 2020 at 4:00 pm

      YESSS to all of this! The lack of childcare right now is absolutely what continues to fuel my anxiety.

  • Reply sophia May 6, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    This is pretty smug and tone deaf for the reasons others have noted. You are less anxious because you are less affected. You are healthy, employed (mostly) remotely and have childcare to cover your hours of employment. The people getting sickest and dying are overwhelmingly poor, black or brown and have limited ability to social distance. I’m in NYC but less anxious than most here bc we are safe, employed and have childcare (not ideal but its something). That said, two staff members from my building have died and a co worker has lost two close relatives so I understand why others are more anxious than I am.

    You might be annoyed the next time a major hurricane moved in your direction and I wondered aloud that “for some reason” I’m not as anxious about it as you are and implied that it is due to my superior organizational and coping skills

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 6, 2020 at 5:16 pm

      That is not what I meant to imply. I’m sorry if it came off to you that way.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 6, 2020 at 5:28 pm

      Okay, I did read it again and see where you are coming from. I was comparing the anxiety of others NOT directly impacted (while they may live in NYC suburbs . . . no shortage of money, stable jobs, working remotely or stay at home parents, some have childcare). But that may not have been clear from how I wrote it.

      I tend towards being anxious with other things, and while I am “mostly remote” I still have to go in (and will more in the future, which I’m fine with) and Josh goes into the hospital daily where there are numerous pts. Our region is not a ‘surge’ but it wasn’t spared. I think I WAS feeling very anxious initially and was trying to explore what was helping me not feel that way. I think it’s been just doing OTHER THINGS/sublimation into other activities which is a valid coping mechanism. (Not “organization” per se.)

      Anyway, just wanted to explain a little more.

      • Reply sophia May 6, 2020 at 8:34 pm

        That makes more sense. I appreciate the explanation. Hope you guys continue to be ok.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns May 6, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    I feel anxious, but I am prone to anxiety (on medication for it) and I am high risk due to immune suppressant drugs. I do not think my husband is anxious. He is healthy and has no known risk factors so if he gets COVID, his outcome is probably very good. If I get it? Who knows what will happen. I do feel better now that our son is back in daycare. I think there is an inverse relationship between anxiety right now and your level of child care. The less childcare you have, the more anxious you feel because you are trying to keep 1,000 balls in the air at the same time. Add in the fact that many of us don’t feel we have job security and that makes the 1,000 balls feel like 2,000 balls because everything just feels so precarious (i.e. is my performance noticeable impacted by trying to juggle work and caring for my child and result in me losing my job at some point?) . We don’t watch much news and I am trying to stay off Facebook. I saw 2 people share conspiracy theory articles today about how Bill Gates is behind this – one of which was a family member – so that made my anxiety spike because I was like – OMG, how will we ever recover from this/some people in our nation have lost their f’ing minds.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 6, 2020 at 5:18 pm

      All of this totally understandable. And ABSOLUTELY re: childcare. And conspiracy videos.

  • Reply Caitlin May 6, 2020 at 5:32 pm

    I am also not feeling anxious, per se. As others have mentioned, I have lots of other feelings, but not usually anxiety. My coping mechanisms are similar to yours, along with reading and crafting.

    I am completely with you on the issue of the news and I have been for a long time. I used to listen to NPR during my morning commute, and that was it. It was plenty. My mom and aunt sometimes tease me for not watching our local news station, and would make rude comments like “she doesn’t know what’s going on.” 99% of the time it is not something that affects my life in any way or that I can’t do anything to change–in one instance it was a child accidentally shooting a family member. It is upsetting, there is nothing I can do about it, and they only watch it to be able to say to each other, “Isn’t that terrible?” And most news organizations are for-profit; if they do not keep you glued to them, afraid of missing anything, they do not make money.

    So I don’t think it’s keeping your head in the sand or fiddling while Rome is burning. It’s not giving in to capitalist demands on our attention, whose main purpose is to keep that attention, regardless of the cost to our mental health.

  • Reply A May 6, 2020 at 8:55 pm

    I’m a psychiatrist in an underserved area in NYC and it’s a lot. No kids.

    Basically I’ve had elderly family die, a colleague died, and it’s fairly common to listen to my beloved long-standing patients talk about their losses. These are wonderful sweet patients with so much disparity, their entire lives have been unfair, they are now further disproportionately affected by this, and it’s just heartbreaking. Soul crushing.

    I never feel like I’m doing enough but apparently that’s a common feeling here which is oddly reassuring.

    I just work until I can’t. And yet am still behind. I can’t sleep well, have nightmares every night, get headaches, not taking the best care of myself. It’s just not possible to crowd it out with fun things. I’m on an SSRI already thank god but too scared to adjust it, too overwhelmed to schedule an appt regarding it anyways.

    I am thankful that I have good support from my boyfriend, wonderful colleagues, my family, financial privilege, my health, my job which at least gives me some purpose. My mom gave me her car (in a socially distanced way— threw the keys at me) so I went on a hike on Saturday so that was good. Will do that weekly now.

    I rarely read or watch the news and now have chilled out immensely with social media. There’s just no room for that. But there’s not a way to not think about this all constantly if that makes sense.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 7, 2020 at 9:29 am

      Sending virtual support <3 I hope you are able to get a mental health appt for yourself too!! I know you would want your patients to prioritize that. It sounds like you are doing so much for many who need it. I am sure they are incredibly grateful for your help.

      • Reply A May 7, 2020 at 10:23 pm

        I’m such a bad patient sometimes. My friend/colleague totally called me out on it today too and he’s like a hawk at nagging me about it, in a good way. I’m gonna see if another hike this weekend can jumpstart some positive changes. And unlike last weekend I’m gonna aim to be outside essentially all day.
        We are daydreaming about buying a little house in the country too so may peek at the ones for sale.
        Time for melatonin too, maybe then weekday routines can improve. I am realizing the day is too draining to exercise after so I need to wake up earlier.
        And setting up more videochats with friends on weekdays to give me a more structured stop time.

  • Reply Jen May 6, 2020 at 10:42 pm

    I go through a lot of ups and downs. I am an introvert and in some ways feel relief to not have the pressure of social events and a full calendar. On the other hand I miss having so many options for my kids (school, but also parks, museums, play dates, etc). I miss travel, I worry about how I’ll be able to see my parents (who are a plane ride away). I feel sad for my oldest who is missing what would be such a fun end to the school year while simultaneously feeling relieved she’s only in kindergarten and not missing too much. So many emotions! And if I’m honest I miss having alone time!

  • Reply Holly May 7, 2020 at 11:02 am

    I’m pretty fucking anxious tbh, and it doesn’t have much to do with my circumstance – different from many of your readers, I’m early 30s, not married (recently divorced), no kids. I still have my white collar job and plenty of money and privilege and access to things, safely housed…but I’m still incredibly anxious. And I don’t think it’s because I engage with the news – I’ve tried to limit it – but I think it’s the collective uncertainty, existential malaise, and quite frankly because I am so ALONE with my thoughts in isolation.

    Suggesting that just trying to be ‘busier’ could fix my anxiety, as a reasonable takeaway from this post might be, is pretty tone deaf I have to agree. I CAN’T be busy due to my depression and anxiety – some days I am so paralyzed with anxiety/grief that I can barely work an 8 hour work day. I am in therapy, and I have been having conversations about whether I might need SSRIs to cope.

    I’m glad you haven’t had similar struggles. But it isn’t that simple for many people. Brain chemistry is real; anxiety isn’t just a disposition that can be fixed with activities.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 7, 2020 at 12:01 pm

      I do not think my post implied a one size fits all solution for anyone. I was explaining my own experiences. They may help some. They may be interesting to some. If my posts seem to imply “hey everyone, I have all the answers!” I certainly did not (do not) mean them to.

      I have every respect for brain chemistry and mood issues (I was truly miserable half the month until I went on hormonal birth control).

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 7, 2020 at 12:03 pm

      All that said, I hope you are able to get the support you need (mental health, friends or otherwise) and medication if you need that, too. There should not be shame in feeling anxious, alone, sad, miserable right now. But I think it also doesn’t mean you are horrible if you don’t have those feelings all day every day.

  • Reply mamaMD May 7, 2020 at 11:46 am

    Appreciating this discussion. I do think NY is unique, having been so impacted by COVID. My friends and family live there and the situation is much different than other places in the US. Two things to consider are specialists being recruited to staff COVID floors and ICUs and doctors who are separating themselves from their young children due to risk of transmission. I am sure this would significantly change anyone’s anxiety level! I am fortunate that my husband and I have stable and flexible careers, that I am in a low-risk specialty, we have in-home childcare for our children and have, as a community, been spared a surge. However, I am pregnant, still seeing patients and not sure if our families will be able to travel for this baby’s arrival. Everyone’s situation is so unique. There are many people who are busy with many things, including enjoyable things, who may still feel anxiety about the unknown. As an empath, it is also very difficult for me to fully enjoy the positives of this situation (e.g. more family time, more time for hobbies, ability to be caught up at work, etc) when so many people are suffering tremendously.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 7, 2020 at 11:57 am

      All good points! Thank you for bringing up.

  • Reply Scientist-on-the-Roof May 7, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    Yes, definitely experiencing some anxiety here (in PA). Some of it is low-level anxiety and stress.
    Like dealing with day-to-day kids stuff (3 kids ages 6-11; my husband and I are working full-time from home and doing our best to split the kid-duty): helping with distance learning, limiting screen time, mitigating fights, dealing with temper-tantrums.

    Major source of anxiety and stress: long-term effects of the pandemic. For example, food availability in the coming months and years. The current absence of flour in stores is freaking me out. There are major disruptions to the food supply/distribution chains. There is no “quick fix”. There may not be enough workforce to plant and harvest, and to take care of crops. Same goes for dairy and meat production – obviously, major disruptions there. The more I see headlines in the news that there is nothing to worry about, we will not run out of food – the more I am inclined to worry (because if there was nothing to worry about – why would there even be those headlines???)

    So… the possibility of food rations and super-long lines to get the basic necessities is causing some additional anxiety. We’ve been through this in the USSR in late 80’s – rations for flour, salt, sugar, soap… toilet paper – ha! we used crumpled up newspaper… in fact, there was a joke going around “that’s the only thing the newspapers are good for!” My mother spent hours standing in line – she would get to the store at 6 am, so that (maybe) she could buy stuff at 10. I mean – we survived, we never starved, but I am not looking forward to going through that experience again.

    And oh boy, health – some follow-up will be needed in a couple of months. I need to have worse-case scenarios worked out in my head, that way I feel more prepared and less stressed when the time comes for actual med. procedures. So, potential biopsy, potential surgery, potential cancer diagnosis (thyroid stuff – so outcomes are typically pretty good) – and COVID-19 is making everything MORE complicated.

    BTW, focusing on positive does not work for me. It just makes me worry that whatever is good now will be taken away. But talking about all the bad stuff – that helps (except can’t do it with husband or family – that freaks them out). Escapism helps, too (reading, playing with kids, watching movies, working) – anything to take the mind off the bad stuff. Physical work helps (yardwork, scrubbing stuff) but exercise only makes me angry. So – agree with Holly who said that brain chemistry is different for everyone.

  • Reply coco May 7, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    I never thought I am an anxious person nor easy to stress. By being lockdown almost for two months without any house help (we used to have two full time), work double, homeschooling and two girls jumping around and asking for something every 2 minutes, really is pushing me to the limit. Balancing own sanity while taking care of others and the house has been so hard. My coping mechanism is some solo time in the morning and in the evening to regroup.

  • Reply Katie Forrest May 8, 2020 at 5:29 am

    No real anxiety here.

    Same days are REALLY hard (special needs parent), and on those days I struggle and get overwhelmed and go to bed early. Other days are better.

    But I don’t have anxiety around anything. I’m doing all I can personally, and I’m confident that things will work out.

    I also think, as you note, that personal circumstances and resources plays a huge factor in things. I have an office outside the home that I’m going to each day, we have outdoor garden space and nice weather, and we have no financial worries, so I can rest assured that bills will be paid, we will eat, and I can also get online and order new toys and things to give some novelty value.

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