Lockdowns, movement restrictions, unemployment, loneliness, losing loved ones, rise in death rates and social distancing are just some of the words that one can use to describe the last two years. The pandemic changed every little part of our lives including our social interactions, how we work, where we work, and how we view the people around us.As we tried our best to adapt to the new norm, some people struggled with feelings of anxiety and depression. Clinically, there has been an increase in the level of health anxiety that people experiencewhether it is for their own well-being or that of their loved ones, explains Dishaa Desai, a clinical psychologist at Mumbai-based Mpower. She tells us, There has been a rise in people turning to substance use as a way to cope with depressive symptoms that have been a result of the uncertainty of the pandemic. Non-clinically, Desai has found that people have reached their tipping point as ambiguity mounts due to the new Omicorn COVID-19 variant.Mehezabin Dordi, a clinical psychologist at the Sir H. N. Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre explains, Pre-pandemic, studies showed that mental disorders make up about five out of 10 causes of disability in the world. This number is only going to rise further. The culprits of this, she says are stress, anxiety, and depression that stem from fear, isolation, and the stigma around catching the virus.People at riskWhen there is a worldwide pandemic, everyone feels the effects of it, regardless of them catching the infection. People who have struggled with anxiety in the past are more likely to be affected. Healthcare workers too may experience it as they shuffle between their homes and hospital, whilst trying to keep potential exposure to the minimum. Elderly people, as well as children, may also experience it as they may feel helpless and hopeless. Being isolated from their friends and family with limited digital contact may also serve as a source of anxiety. Children are particularly vulnerable to the mental health effects of the pandemic resulting from school closures and the suspension of social activities, and also are affected by the stress their parents are experiencing, explains Dordi. The fact that they may be unable to express their stress and discomfort only makes matters worse.The long-term effects of the pandemic on mental healthThe last year has been hard for everyone but especially more for those who witnessed the loss of people around them. It has been difficult for healthcare workers as well as essential servicemen as they worked long hours, constantly risked getting exposed to the virus as well as witnessed the loss of lives first-hand, adds Dordi. Indirectly, COVID affected our physical activity levels, eating and sleeping patterns, as well as the way we use social media. The cries for help on social media can take a toll on the mental health of all those consuming content. It may make one feel helpless, hopeless, and overwhelmed with grief. The effect of the pandemic on our mental health may last longer than the disease itself, says Dordi.Some symptoms of anxietyAnxiety gives us a boost of energy to flight or fight a situation. It does manifest itself in physical symptoms like a racing heart, inability to focus, shaking, sweating, and more. In todays situation, anxiety can make us feel helpless like there is an impending sense of doom, which in turn makes us more worried. It is a vicious cycle that we have to actively try and break, otherwise, it may get worse.How to manage anxietyGather information from reliable sourcesDont let social media be your newspaper. Fact check the information that youre consuming so that you dont fall prey to sensationalised, dramatic reports about the pandemic.Try being mindfulAccording to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness is described as a moment by moment awareness of ones experience. It helps manage anxiety by toning down your bodys response to stress, thus increasing our ability to understand the cause of it, explains Desai. It enables us to distance ourselves from our thoughts and feelings without labelling them as good or bad. It is about paying attention to our daily lives and the things you generally rush through. It is about turning the volume in your head down and coming back to your body, adds Dordi.Try grounding techniquesGrounding is a method that we can rope in to regulate overwhelming and difficult emotions by coming back in the present moment to re-establish a sense of safety in the body. These are needed when were outside our window of tolerance in a situation and need to come back to a safer zone, explains Dordi. Grounding techniques can help switch off that fight, flight, or freeze portion of the brain that kicks in when it comes to anxiety, panic disorders, and PTSD, she adds. Learn about some anxiety management techniques here.ExerciseAnxiety may leave us with pent-up energy. Get rid of it by moving. It can be something as simple as going for a walk, doing a simple workout, or even just stretching your body. Exercise can release endorphins aka the feel-good chemicals in the brain. It is a win-win!Reach outIf it makes you feel any better, know that everyone all over the world is facing the same uncertainties as you. In this situation, reaching out to loved ones over the phone may also help you to keep anxiety at bay. Communicating your hopes and fears about the present situation with a friend or a healthcare professional will go a long way in ensuring your mind is at ease.