This symposium is a follow-up to the 2019 CEEISA/ISA conference ‘International Relations in the Age of Anxiety’ held at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Belgrade, Serbia, in June 2019. The central piece in the symposium is the keynote address by Bahar Rumelili on the untapped potential of existentialism in IR followed by highly engaged responses by Felix Berenskötter, Karl Gustafsson, Brent Steele and Andreja Zevnik. In this introduction we first describe the context in which we organised the conference and our motivations to choose the topic of the age of anxiety. We also reflect on how the global pandemic, which erupted in January 2020, made our topic more relevant than ever before. We then briefly introduce each piece and discuss what we see as the key questions they raise.