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  • Writer's pictureTammi Kirkness

Anxiety right now? Or anxiety always?

In the process of sorting through boxes to move to a new apartment, last week I came across a lab report I’d written for my psychology degree. Intrigued, I leafed through it and realized the topic was innately relevant to the current state of the world. The report talked about two different types of anxiety: state-based anxiety, trait-based anxiety and how they interact. While we don’t have any specific numbers around current global anxiety levels, it’s pretty safe to assume that anxiety rates are at a high right now. We know that when the H1N1 virus hit the world 11 years ago, anxiety rates escalated by around 33% so with COVID-19 more broadly reaching, we can assume the same or higher rates. With the world as anxiety riddled as it is, let’s understand what’s going on. State Versus Trait Anxiety State anxiety is a temporary, short term response to external circumstances, that is, we feel anxious based on what’s going on around us. In moderate levels, this can facilitate productivity, prompt action or get urgent things done quickly. Its when the levels increase that the anxiety starts to hold us back. The good news is that when the stressor abates, shortly afterwards, so too does our worry. On the flip side, trait-based anxiety is where someone constantly feels anxious. In this type, nothing specific has ‘caused’ the anxiety but it is a part of their everyday.   If you’re feeling worried or anxious, it can be helpful to know which category you might be sitting in. As you might guess, research shows us that if we already have existing anxiety of the trait based kind, that we’re far more likely to develop state based anxiety based on a life event. For some of us, that means a double whammy of worry. Despite all of this, here’s some good news

  • Managing both state and trait based anxiety involve similar approaches over different time spans. This means that if you’ve done things that have helped you feel better during previous anxious times, they’re pretty likely to work again.

  • If you’ve got state based anxiety, once the stressor has abated, such as a reduced COVID risk in your area or you find new work, the anxiety will slowly melt away

P.S. There’s happy news that one week ago The Panic Button Book was launched in North America (picture of the different cover above)!  So much yay, if that’s where you are, click here for a list of US retailers.


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