How to deal with Death Anxiety during a pandemic

For many of us, the current pandemic has really made dealing with anxiety and fear unbearable.
Death Anxiety (or Thanatophobia, if you want to get medical), is known as the anxiety surrounding the fear of death or the dying process. It’s understandable and pretty common. Actually, worrying about the mortality of yourself or the people you love is completely normal. That being said, it does affect some more substantially.
These worries can become problematic and consuming. Many people suffering from death anxiety struggle to participate in everyday life, especially without various panic attacks.
During a pandemic, this is especially true.
The issue is, it’s rarely spoken about. So, let’s all discuss it.

COVID-19 and Death Anxiety
For those who deal with death anxiety before, COVD-19 has taken a negative toll on their condition.
The news about the virus, especially in the beginning, was overwhelming. This is true, even for those who had never experienced Death Anxiety before.
Instead of various panic attacks, the fear of death is constant and neverending. It began to surround us all – with figures mounting up and up every day. There were “safe places” and “COVID hot spots”. There were stats being presented on the TV. Eventually, shops and venues were shut down.
Undeniably, it was and remains a horrible time. Walking around 2 meters apart from people and wearing masks. It seems surreal. There’s isolation. There’s a constant worry that you might endanger a vulnerable person.
Unfortunately, the lockdown wasn’t a “safe space” for many. While some may have just spent time on their sofa, binge-watching Netflix. Others kept drowning in panic attacks.
Unbeknownst to many, panic attacks actually have similar symptoms to COVID-19. Think, struggle breathing, high temperature, and a tight chest. This just adds to death anxiety.

Talking about death
In general, the topic of death is very taboo in our society. It is very rare that we sit down and talk about what we want to happen after we die. The conversation makes people uncomfortable and sad.
However, this form of bottling up can be dangerous. When somebody starts to suffer from Death Anxiety, they don’t think people will understand. The hush-hush society makes them think these fears will not be understood.
To begin, fearing of death is so common. Talking openly about this can help you a lot.
Secondly, just because you believe something is “taboo” or people won’t understand, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get the correct help, or even bring it up with people. You might just find that other people are going through the same thing.

During a pandemic
Of course, we are all worried about catching the virus, we’re worried about our loved-ones catching the virus. The media is filled with horror stories about death and illness.
While you may have been able to push your death anxiety to the back of your head or even found coping mechanisms, that may no longer be working. With it being in our faces at all times, we are less distracted. In fact, the pandemic is probably at the forefront of our brains.

How to deal with death anxiety
Understanding that your feelings are the first step to dealing with Death Anxiety. This especially rings true during a pandemic.
Remember, you are not alone. Dying is a normal part of being human – but a pandemic doesn’t feel natural.
You need to talk about. You need to open up to somebody. If you can get professional help, then all the better. If these fears keep getting bigger and scarier, it’s time to reach out.
There are helplines that can help with this, too. You can even text professionals.

Meditation and mindfulness
Practising mindfulness and meditation can also be beneficial for some people. This will help relieve some of those anxieties which have been eating you up.
It’s important to try new techniques. For many, meditation and mindfulness has really helped.
Mindfulness can come in many forms, too. This could be drawing, gardening, or journaling. Many have taken to writing poetry, gardening, or knitting. It’s been a time of amazing creativity – which has been a coping mechanism for many.

Switch off from social media
It’s hard to log onto Twitter or Facebook and see countless stories about the pandemic, politics, and the virus. It’s hard to escape when we’re constantly scrolling through heartbreaking posts and messages.
It could be healthy for you to log off from social media. Just take a break.
If you don’t want to take a complete break (it might be your work etc), you can actually just mute certain words and accounts from your timeline.
If it is helping your mental health, it isn’t ignorant, it’s self-care.
Remember, tell your loved ones that you are doing this so that you don’t panic them, too.

At the start of lockdown, you might have seen a bunch of people posting about their running routes or online workouts. We know, this could have made you roll your eyes, but it’s important to know that for many this was a coping mechanism.
Exercise is a great way of coping with certain things. Not only is it a distraction, but it releases chemicals in the brain that improve your mood and can make you feel more relaxed.
Another plus, it can help improve your self-esteem and cognitive function. While working from home, this can be imperative.

Remember, mental health was once a major taboo to talk about. Over the last few years, we have come so far in how we approach and how we talk about it. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, but soon we will talk about death in a more open way. This could be an outcome of the pandemic.
Death is never nice to think about, during a pandemic it can also feel completely devastating at times. However, it shouldn’t stop us from living our lives the best way we can during a global pandemic. We just need to start talking.
If you’re battling this, please make an appointment with a GP or ring a charity such as Mind for help.

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