Why anxiety symptoms rear their ugly heads during times of stress

Do you feel your anxiety symptoms increasing? Have you been feeling more irritable than usual, finding it difficult to sleep, or harder to concentrate?

There’s a lot going on right now with the impact of COVID-19, so it’s perfectly normal to be feeling anxious or worried. However, if your anxiety symptoms have become all consuming, it might be that you could do with some additional support.

If you’re at all concerned about the way you’re feeling, read on, I’ve got something that could help. Today, we’re going to:

  • Explain why anxiety symptoms are more prevalent during times of stress, such as COVID-19.
  • Identify the symptoms of anxiety.
  • Offer some expert tips to help you cope with anxiety.

Stressful situations trigger anxiety symptoms

The words ‘stress’ and ‘anxiety’ often get a bad rap. When we talk about feeling ‘stressed’ or ‘anxious’ it’s usually in a negative sense.

But did you know, mild stress or anxiety is actually a good thing? When exposed to a threat, our stress hormone, Cortisol, kicks in to make us react – it moves us into action. If we didn’t have it, we’d struggle to keep ourselves safe and miss that impetus to simply ‘get stuff done’.

During times of stress, your body is flooded with Cortisol – the “fight or flight” hormone. This puts you in a heightened state, always on alert, ready to react. It’s crucial to our survival, but, it’s a problem if you’re unable to ‘switch this off’.

Right now, some of us are in a continuously heightened state, thanks to the state of the world.

In this heightened state, you may find yourself:

  • Always preparing for the worst-case scenario.
  • Being completely consumed by your anxious thoughts, and questioning your ability to cope.
  • Jumping to conclusions and catastrophising.
  • Being hyper-sensitive to things people have said or done.
  • Being irritable, regularly snapping at people.

If you can identify with any of the above statements, it may be that you’re struggling with anxiety.

Anxiety symptoms

Feeling stressed every now and then can be beneficial: it forces us to look out for solutions, adjust during times of change and become more productive, completing projects and achieving goals.

However, uncontrollable levels of stress don’t offer such a positive outcome. Symptoms vary depending on the type of stress or anxiety an individual is suffering with, but broadly speaking, anxiety symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Repetitive thoughts.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Being more withdrawn than usual.
  • Panic attacks – sweating, gasping for air etc.
  • Physical muscle pain and/or unexplained tiredness.
  • Insomnia and difficulty concentrating.
  • Nail-biting.

I would also like to add, that if you feel anxious all the time, every day, or all of a sudden with no obvious trigger as to why, you may be suffering with an anxiety disorder. While it’s normal to feel mild stress in response to a stressor, a threat or danger, when the stressor has gone, so should those feelings of anxiousness.

If this resonates with you, please reach out for help. Talk to a loved one about how you are feeling, or get in touch for a free, 20-minute consultation.

Why am I feeling anxious?

Listen, as I said earlier, it’s only natural to be feeling anxious at the moment. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to make major changes to the way we live our lives. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there and I can understand how scary that feels.

Your education

Perhaps you’ve recently started – or returned to – university. Ordinarily, this would be a time of great excitement as you move into the next chapter of your adult life, albeit paired with slight anxiousness about the unknown. Will I make friends? Will I be able to cook for myself? How will I do my laundry?

Yet now, because of this coronavirus, there are more serious uncertainties to deal with. What is my future going to look like? Will I be able to complete my studies? How will I learn effectively online?  These are bigger and totally unexpected questions that are more difficult to answer, and that’s frightening.

Ordinarily, at university, there’s a clear structure – a timetable and organised social activities – but the rules are constantly changing as we adapt to the ever-evolving situation, which leaves us feeling utterly disorganised and out of control.

We rely on physical connections with friends and family, and now, even that is threatened. At a time when we need friends more than ever – to cry it out, connect with and have a drink with – we can’t.

Your living status

Perhaps you’ve been forced to move back home with mum and dad, having just found your independence. Where does that leave you? Somewhere between becoming a responsible adult, and wearing the ‘child shoes’ in your family home, living by your parent’s rules again. These two things are at odds with each other, leaving you feeling that you’re not doing well at either.

Your job

And then there are the basic human needs that need to be met in order to create physical safety. Money makes us feel safe and secure. When your income is threatened, perhaps due to job losses and redundancy, it can lead to feelings of tremendous anxiety.

If you’ve just started your career journey and your role is suddenly at risk of being terminated through no fault of your own, no wonder you feel demoralised and overwhelmed.

How to cope with anxiety

I know this all sounds depressing, but it’s important to recognise what’s going on out there, talk, and set your feelings free. We are all in this together and you are most certainly not alone. And, even better, I have a plan to help you feel more positive, fast.

I’ve put together a free 10-Point Positivity Plan, which contains 10 focus areas for you to try. They are 10 things that are scientifically proven to make us feel better, happier, and cope with anxiety-making situations. You can get your copy here.

You can also join me live on Instagram – Mondays at 8pm GMT. Each week, I’ll share a different strategy from my 10-Point Positivity Plan. It’ll help to maintain positivity with action ideas for each area to support your mental health, boost your confidence and share good vibes with the people around you. I really hope to see you there.

Take care and stay safe.

Dr Courtney x


If you’re struggling with anxiety, and would like to find out how we at Altum Health can help you, please get in touch for a free, 20-minute consultation via Zoom.

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