Anxiety and depression levels hit an all-time high in the U.S. last year. That news comes as no surprise, given the convergence of crises that defined 2020: A global pandemic, the recession that ensued in its wake, an awakening for many Americans about our country’s racial injustice, a heated election. According to the State of Mental Health in America report, 19% of Americans now are living with a mental health condition -- 1.5 million more people than in 2019. If you’re interested in anxiety treatment in Chicago, you’ve come to the right place.
Here at Wellington Counseling Group, we have witnessed people struggling in myriad ways. Many have lost a spouse, parent, grandparent, or other loved one to COVID-19. Or, they may have taken ill themselves, and are now living with long-term symptoms. They may have anxiety about making ends meet with the loss of jobs and income and/or juggling to balance remote work while helping children with online school.
Here in the Chicago area, 2020-21 has also been a time when many have felt rage, fear, and hopelessness persistent racial injustice in their communities. And, with a great deal at stake, it was common for people to feel highly anxious about the 2020 election, the results of which took several days to tally and many weeks for final counts to provide certainty. Bottom line: the past 15 months have created a perfect storm for skyrocketing anxiety and depression.
Individuals who already were managing anxiety may have found that their usual coping strategies failed them, simply could not adequately stand up to the chaos of 2020-21.
Things are More ‘Normal’ Now -- Why Don’t I Feel Better?
Thankfully, many of us finally are returning to some “normalcy” after more than a year of isolation, but we must be patient with ourselves. The time away from our regular lives took a toll. We couldn’t hug or even see each other. We may have postponed weddings or canceled graduations. We missed gathering in faith, fitness, or opportunities to enjoy the arts. Some of us felt trapped in contentious or abusive homes. Physically and psychologically, it was a year like no other in our lifetimes.
Now, as many of us re-emerge from our shells -- whether tentatively tiptoeing or rushing back to life as usual -- we may be surprised to find we feel a bit shaky, vulnerable, hesitant, afraid. Our anxiety may not have dissipated, and that reality may make us even more anxious.
Those reactions are completely understandable and very much in keeping with human nature. We tend to survive, and even thrive, by revving our engines high on the fuel of expectations. We can therefore easily pin our hopes on an outcome so much better than the present situation that, when we’re finally there, we almost can’t help but be let down. Tempering expectations about life-after-lockdown will help prevent feeling overwhelmed by disappointment and the anxiety that may follow.
Treatment Options: Start with Simple Lifestyle Changes
If you are experiencing anxiety, know that treatment options are available and can be extremely effective, even life-changing. Sometimes simple lifestyle tweaks are sufficient, other times therapy and even the addition of medication may be advised. For those new to navigating anxiety treatment, it makes sense to start with lifestyle steps first:
- Stay active, exercise regularly.
- Try to spend time outdoors, in nature, if possible.
- Try meditation or relaxation apps that target anxiety.
- Eat healthfully.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine, particularly when used to cope with anxiety.
- Stay connected to helping family and friends.
- Adequate sleep is an essential anxiety treatment, but insomnia often is anxiety’s side-effect. To the extent possible, adhere to a regular sleep schedule and get as much rest as you need.
- After a week or so, check in with yourself -- do you feel less anxiety? Are any of these lifestyle changes reducing your anxiety more than others? If not, getting professional anxiety treatment may help.
Could Therapy and/or Medication Be Right for Me?
At Wellington Counseling Group, a top provider of anxiety treatment in Chicago, our therapy focuses on identifying anxiety sources and triggers and then developing a kit of tools that clients can deploy when or even before they are needed.
Sometimes therapy in conjunction with medication is most effective, particularly for those whose anxiety impacts daily functioning, who may experience panic attacks or sleeplessness.
Medication in support of psychotherapy can balance the chemistry in our brains to stabilize our ability to function in the world; therapy can help us understand how to operate from a social, emotional, and spiritual perspective.
These have been and continue to be extremely trying times. It’s important to understand that heightened anxiety is to be expected. It’s also important to recognize that we aren’t powerless over anxiety. We have an array of options available to help us feel better, to gain agency over our lives.
Learn More About Anxiety Treatment in Chicago
To learn more about your options for anxiety treatment in Chicago, reach out to us today at Wellington Counseling Group. We are a team of experienced and trusted psychotherapists who provide thoughtful and attentive anxiety treatment for Chicago area adults and youth experiencing mild to severe symptoms.
Both in-person and telehealth options are available to accommodate client preferences.