Registered nurse Estelle Raath shares her experiences of the general anxiety that has become so commonplace during the global coronavirus pandemic:

I am not even an anxious person – organised, but definitely not anxious. So what is happened to me during the COVID-19 pandemic?

I think as a frontline worker, the fear and anxiety cause by this new disease and what could happen to all of us was overwhelming in the beginning. While most of the country stayed in level 5 lockdown, we had to drive the empty highways to work, not knowing what every day would be like and fearing that we would be the ones bringing COVID-19 into our homes.

Anxiety and stress during COVID-19 can cause:

  • Insomnia
  • Lack of concentration
  • Deterioration of chronic and mental health conditions
  • Increased use of substances.

I remember waking up during the middle of the night, my heart pounding and worrying about so many things, then trying to talk to myself to stay calm and breathe, and then my thoughts were: “If I am going through this, what is an anxious person going through right now?”

I knew that I was not in a good place and that I needed to get out of it. Looking back now, I realise that staying in routine and going to work every day, although I was scared, it was my saving grace.

People with pre-existing anxiety or substance use disorders may be extra vulnerable during COVID-19. Anxiety affects a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, behaviour and daily functioning. There are so many factors that can affect the way we respond to anxiety in a pandemic. People with pre-existing anxiety should continue with their treatment and if the symptoms increase, they must contact their healthcare provider immediately.

One thing that I realised was that I first have to take care of myself and my thoughts, before I can help those around me. So many people around me are struggling with anxiety caused by COVID-19 but I think we will only see the real effects much later.

“Do not let your difficulties fill you with anxiety, after all it is only in the darkest nights that stars shine more brightly” – Ali Ibn Abi Talib

* Estelle Raath is the deputy manager of Sanca rehab centre Wedge Gardens, which is situated in Johannesburg. To contact Wedge Gardens, call 010 534 6596 or visit

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