Stress During the (Ongoing) Pandemic
We are approaching two years since people started quarantining due to COVID 19. The wide variety of changes and challenges people have encountered have generated high stress for many people. It is very common to feel sad, anxious, angry, frustrated, and a wide variety of other emotions regarding what we have all been through over the past two years. Sometimes it’s easy to feel different or flawed for having these feelings. Surveys and research by many organizations indicate that, unfortunately, stress and difficulty coping with stress, are very common.
Each year the American Psychological Association (APA) does a survey of adults in the United States to ask about sources of stress, managing and coping with stress, and stress reduction, The Stress in America survey. Results for 2021 were published in March and October. (March 2021 Stress in America Infographics (apa.org) and Stress in America October 2021 Infographics (apa.org)). A few of the key findings are as follows:
Parents are especially likely to have experienced emotional distress in 2021. The Stress in America survey results from March 2021 indicate that 24% of parents have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder since the pandemic started. In October 2021 people indicated that stress about the pandemic made it hard to make decisions and led to behavior changes. For example, 48% of Millennials and 37% of Gen Z adults reported trouble making decisions. The biggest sources of stress in 2019, 2020, and 2021 were reported to be work, money, the economy, family responsibilities, and health. Large portions of people are reporting uncertainty and concern about if, when, and how we will return to “normal” or pre-pandemic lives.
Our physical health has also been dramatically impacted. For example, people report unintended weight gain and loss. In March 2021, among US adults, 18% of people reported weight loss averaging 26 pounds and 42% reported weight gain averaging 29 pounds. These numbers are even higher for essential workers. Among the results from March 2021, 48% of fathers indicated trying to cope with stress by drinking more alcohol, while this was reported by 29% of mothers. The March 2021 survey results indicated that 47% of people indicated they had put off health services during the pandemic.
It can be hard to reach out for help. It is then often challenging to find accessible care. The Stress in America survey indicates that 32% of parents indicated they received treatment for a mental health issue and 75% indicated that they perceived a need for more help than they were able to access. There are a wide variety of strategies people employ to address stress. What works may vary across individuals, circumstances, and time. Here are a few resources to help with stress related to the pandemic:
FamilyFirst clinicians are ready and willing to help you, your family members, and your friends cope with stress and other challenges associated with the pandemic. For information about our services, please visit our website at familyfirstva.com.
Joyce Matthews-Rurak, PsyD
Licensed Clinical Psychologist