Here we are, more than one year after the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 was now a global pandemic. It’s safe to say this past year has been unlike anything else most of us have ever experienced. From sheltering in place to working from home and dealing with the constant threat of a potentially deadly virus, life as we knew it was turned on its head. For many of us, that also meant our mental health was turned upside down and stress in America is at anall-time high.
Stress in America in 2021
On top of the tragedy of more than 500,000 people dying from the coronavirus, that same world still kept turning with new stressors present each day. There have been riots, protests, civil unrest, major elections, and countless other events that would be enough to bring many people to their knees.
To better understand the effects of this past year on adults in the U.S., the American Psychological Association conducted a poll in late February 2021 by The Harris Poll. The results of this poll were perhaps not surprising. But they do represent how widespread the mental and physical health challenges Americans are facing truly are.
Today, we are going to discuss the findings of that poll. We will also discuss what they mean for moving forward. Finally, we will cover helpful steps Americans can take to deal with stress levels during this trying time.
To begin, let’s look at the key findings taken from the APA’s Stress in America Pandemic Report
Stress in America Poll Results
- “A majority of adults (61%) reported experiencing undesired weight changes since the start of the pandemic, with more than 2 in 5 (42%) saying they gained more weight than they intended. Of this group, adults reported gaining an average of 29 pounds (with a typical gain of 15 pounds, which is the median).
- Two in 3 Americans (67%) said they are sleeping more or less than they wanted to since the pandemic started. Similar proportions reported less (35%) and more (31%) sleep than desired.
- Nearly 1 in 4 adults (23%) reported drinking more alcohol to cope with their stress during the coronavirus pandemic. » Nearly half of Americans (47%) said they delayed or canceled health care services since the pandemic started.
- Nearly half of parents (48%) said the level of stress in their life has increased compared with before the pandemic. More than 3 in 5 parents with children who are still home for remote learning (62%) said the same.
- Essential workers were more than twice as likely as those who are not to have received treatment from a mental health professional (34% vs. 12%) and to have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder since the coronavirus pandemic started (25% vs. 9%).
- Black Americans were most likely to report feelings of concern about the future. More than half said they feel uneasy about adjusting to in-person interaction once the pandemic ends (57% vs. 51% Asian, 50% Hispanic and 47% white).
- Gen Z adults (46%) were the most likely generation to say that their mental health has worsened compared with before the pandemic, followed by Xers (33%), Millennials (31%), Boomers (28%) and older adults (9%)”
(For more on how stress affects the nervous system in particular, take a look at this post next)
These declines in mental and physical health compound the effects of the pandemic in the first place. The more stressed or sick we feel, the less likely we tend to be to feel better. However, the APA also highlights the importance of taking these steps as soon as possible to mitigate the likelihood of serious and ongoing health issues.
So, what can be done for us all to begin moving forward in a healthier, happier direction? Considering the scope and magnitude of that last year, there’s no question this will take time.
But the sooner we can begin, the sooner the healing process will too.
Stress Management for Parents and Children
Parents and school-age children faced unique challenges this year when traditional schooling was suddenly moved to the home. From financial challenges for parents who couldn’t work because they needed to be home with their children, to time constraints, and the frustration that goes along with understanding course content—this sudden shift was incredibly trying.
Here are some steps parents and children can take to move forward in a better direction:
- Schedule device-free time for the whole family each day. This promotes stress relieving activities like open conversation and physical play.
- Check in regularly with your children to see how they are feeling. Give them the opportunity to voice their concerns, ask questions, or discuss anything else that’s on their mind.
- Schedule daily self-care for yourself, and encourage your children to take this same time to do something they enjoy. For you, it could be a 20-minute meditation. For your child, it could mean reading their favorite book or any other activity they find calming.
Stress Management for Essential and Frontline Workers
In addition to the added stress on parents and children, essential and frontline workers faced unique and extensive mental and physical health challenges this past year. If mental and physical health resources aren’t made readily available, these workers are encouraged to seek them out. At the same time, focusing on prioritizing your own mental and physical health is more important than ever.
You’ve heard that saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” When it comes to frontline and essential workers, this is especially applicable. A commitment and resolve to help others is incredibly admirable. But until your own needs are met, you will not be able to do the same for others.
InAPA’s Stress in America Pandemic Report, they also offer advice for how employers can support these employees during this time. This includes offering support wherever possible, as well as providing“flexibility to employees, whether it’s what they work on, when they work or how they work (how they work is particularly important for employers of frontline workers). Every person has been affected by the pandemic; providing flexibility at work will allow people to do their jobs while handling new stressors and responsibilities, such as a child’s education.”
Stress Management for People of Color
The APA’s Stress in America Pandemic Report also highlights how pandemic-related stress has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color.
They go on to offer three ways people of color can build resilience to work through this time:
- Begin by acknowledging feelings of stress, anger, outrage and frustration, or a host of other emotions because of systemic injustice, rather than suppressing them.
- Participating in culturally affirming activities and sharing experiences with your community, even if it can’t be done in-person.
- Limiting exposure to triggering news media. This is especially important for young people of color. They are statistically more likely to experience negative emotions as a result of news footage with assaults, harassment, law enforcement interactions, and the like.
Other stress management techniques
During times of high stress, resilience is a skill that means you are better equipped to handle these situations. Think of resilience as your ability to “bounce back.”
Although it will take time for us all to bounce back from this year, it can be done. There are also many tools to support you through this process. This includes with the help of vagus nerve stimulation.
Inthis post, we cover 10 ways to build emotional resilience. Among those methods, we list what Xen by Neuvana headphones can do for you. Theystimulate the vagus nerve in a gentle and non-invasive way from the comfort of your own home. Then, you could begin to experience better sleep, less stress, a brighter mood, and other positive effects. Combined, these effects can lead to more resilience. And ultimately, the ability to cope with the stress we face in America each day.
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