For some folks, things have “fallen back into place,” where daily routines have begun to stabilize, and they are now able to resume a somewhat normalized pace, similar to their pre-pandemic lives. For many others, it’s been a very different story, where the effects of emotional trauma have triggered an elevated level of despair, which at times may seem quite unbearable.
Many professionals concur that the up-tick in this feeling is due to stress, for which several contributing factors might include: the social/emotional effects of Covid-19, the political discord in our governing body over the past decade or so, in addition to an ever-increasing racial and financial divide that only appears to be deepening. Of course, one can’t rule out that it may also be a combination of these elements occurring simultaneously that’s exacerbating such outcomes.
This assessment has been validated across numerous studies recently conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA), which concluded: “The pandemic, the economy, the election, and civil unrest increased the stress levels of the majority of Americans. More than 77 percent of adults reported that the future of our nation was a significant source of stress in their lives.”
Even more recently, in an annual report titled, “Stress in America” that aired on NPR in early March of this year (also conducted on behalf of the APA), “Americans say that they feel more anxious about inflation, global uncertainty and the war in Ukraine than they have reported feeling about any other issue in recent years.” Psychologist Vaile Wright, senior director of health care innovation added: “Over 80 percent of Americans said inflation and issues related to the invasion of Ukraine are significant sources of stress. This is the highest number of people who have ever reported feeling stressed about any issue in the 15 years this survey has been conducted.”
Those are some pretty incredible numbers, to say the least. What’s important to understand is that as individuals, we appear to be internalizing one or more of these components to the point where they are literally permeating our everyday thoughts and emotions. Rather than identifying and ultimately releasing them through some productive means such as meditation, exercise, yoga or the like, we’ve instead allowed these various stressors to manifest and take hold of our overall mental and physical health.
This is particularly evident in populations who are most vulnerable to the effects of external disturbances, such as the ones previously mentioned. In a recent piece written by Zia Qureshi, a Visiting Fellow in Global Economic and Development for the Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organization, he concludes: “The Covid-19 recession is the most unequal in modern U.S. history. The pandemic has thrown into stark relief the high and rising economic inequality in the United States and elsewhere.
The costs of the pandemic are being borne disproportionately by poorer segments of society. Low-income populations are more exposed to the health risks and more likely to experience job losses and declines in well-being.”
Teenagers and young adults haven’t been spared from the anxiety, stress and uncertainty that have gripped much of the general population. Formative years consisting of extended school closures, cancelled athletic programs, and lack of in-person social interaction have robbed this group of some of the most important life experiences that many of us had always taken for granted. A recent poll conducted by Pew showed that even though the majority of students have returned to a classroom setting, many schools have reported a dramatic increase in violence and bullying among adolescents, in addition to depression and attempted suicides rising sharply.
If one wants to find an upside in any of this, it has to be the removal, or at least the neutralization, of the stigma that is often attached to depression and other similar maladies included under the umbrella of mental health. Since everyone needed to self-isolate for long stretches of time while attempting to maintain a sense of normalcy, many of us indeed failed in this capacity and weren’t afraid to admit so. On some level, outing our inability to cope effectively became a badge of courage for others to admire and ultimately became a rallying call to join us in acknowledging our collective suffering.