Rapid reopening may cause anxiety among Canadians

Jul 21, 2021 | News

Getting back to pre-COVID life may cause high anxiety levels among Canadians. Photo credit: Engin Akyurt/Unsplash

A recent Leger360 survey conducted shows half of Canadians are feeling anxious about returning to pre-pandemic life.

Almost half of 1,624 Canadian surveyed between May 21 and 23 are still anxious about contracting COVID, although the fear rate is the lowest it has been since the start of the pandemic, the survey suggests. This part of the survey had a 2.43 per cent margin of error.

High anxiety levels in Ontario may be in part caused because of the vaccination rates showing only about half of residents receiving two doses, which sets a possibility to repeat the US scenario of “a pandemic of the unvaccinated”.

Mark Antczak, a clinical counselor and educator at Anxiety Canada, said anxiety is the way people detect a possible threat.

Although anxiety and fear serve important functions in self-protection, they can significantly impair quality of life, he said.

“Think of it as a smoke alarm that is trying to alert you of a fire when there is none,” Antczak said.

Whether it is the anxiety of getting sick or being exposed to bigger social interactions again, it may prevent a person from going out. It could lead to even more depressive thoughts, creating a never-ending cycle, he said.

“It’s very much a nature-versus-nurture type of scenario,” Antczak said. People can have a genetic predisposition to anxiety, but external factors can also influence it, he said.

“Things that are happening with COVID right now are hugely impacting our levels of anxiety,” he said.

In Antczak’s experience, anxiety can be treated with help from different therapies.

For people who can’t afford sessions with psychologist, Anxiety Canada offers a free app MindShift that can help a person monitor anxiety and reduce its intensity.

Now that Stage 3 of the Ontario reopening plan is in effect, Antczak has a few recommendations in managing anxiety levels.

It is important to gradually change routines, he said. If hanging out in a group seems challenging, a person should aim to have interactions with one or two people instead, Antczak said.

He urges people to limit engagement they have with COVID-related media, and to rely on reputable sources.

“If you are trying to find answers about something related to COVID through research, get it from the official sources and don’t look at that random article that was posted by the overnight epidemiologist or biologists on Facebook,” he said.

Antczak said an important factor in battling anxiety is challenging made-up beliefs caused by anxiety.

“If you’re worried that you’re going to get judged after you reach out to that friend or if you’re worried you’re going to get sick when you leave home, follow the guidelines, but still do it,” he said.