It’s stating the more-than-obvious when the CDC says, in its paper on “Coping with Stress”, that “the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on our lives.” Not just the threat of the disease itself but also vital public health practices like social distancing cand mask-wearing can make people feel isolated and increase the pressure we feel.
In recent months, political strife, violence in the streets, devastating weather patterns, and the lingering economic downturn have only made things worse. (The good news is that there are only four American metropolises among the world’s 25 most stressed-out cities.)
On behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA), The Harris Poll surveyed more than 3,000 adults living in the U.S. in late spring of 2020 and another 2,000-plus in the latter part of January this year, asking them which aspects of the COVID-19 crisis and of other more general social and political factors caused them the most stress.
The surveys returned results for total respondents but also broke some issues down by race, political party, and parental status. Overall, what stressed people the most were two things: the pandemic itself (80% of respondents) and the very future of our nation (81%).
Worrisome matters like access to health care and availability of food and other basic necessities weighed more heavily on parents overall than on white adults or people of color — but were clearly of significant concern to everyone surveyed.
What can we do about stress? The CDC recommends a number of measures, including deep breathing and meditation, a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, cutting down on alcohol and tobacco, and regular physical activity. (Here are 30 reasons walking is the best exercise.)
The APA has recommendations of its own, but possibly the most useful is: “Give yourself permission to take a break from the news, social media or even certain friends. Constantly exposing ourselves to negative information, images and rhetoric maintains our stress at unhealthy levels.”