Everyone experiences stress. Stress is a normal reaction to change and moderate stress helps us to adapt to new situations.Yet when stress becomes very intense, or long-lasting and chronic it can significantly negatively impact us as individuals and our relations with others. Those children who say their parent is always stressed, report being more stressed themselves and one third of parents report their stress levels are extreme (data was obtained prior to the pandemic).
What causes stress to each of us is different: something that may be stressful to one person may not be to another. There are multiple causes of stress including social-emotional (e.g., concerns about family, job, loss of a loved one, or lifestyle changes), physical (e.g., pain, or illness), and environmental factors (e.g., noise, or weather). There are gender differences in reacting to stress, both physically and mentally, and in the ways, they manage stress. If stress is not managed well, it can affect our bodies. Substantial stress can also negatively impact our moods or emotions, our relationships, and our goal-directed decisions.
Each of us needs to identify and become aware of our unique stressors, become less reactive, develop stress-reducing coping strategies, and thus, enhance our ability to be reflective and purposeful in our lives. Psychologists are effective in guiding people to recognize and manage their stress.
Pandemic's Impact on Stress
Most of us have been affected emotionally, physically, socially, and/or economically by the pandemic. What had been ‘normal’ changed. Uncertainty, fear, social and economic changes, and disruptions to daily life increased anxiety and mood disorders. Persons experiencing COVID-19-related stressors, particularly financial, and social and emotional stressors indicate the critical role these stressors are play in increasing the risk of developing anxiety disorders in the U.S. When compared to pre-pandemic levels, U.S. adults were more than three times as likely to report symptoms for depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, or both in 2020 compared to 2019. Each person’s responses to the lockdown and other pandemic reduction measures are influenced by their unique living situation, cognitive ability, personality and medical history.
The American Psychological Association’s (APA) annual Stress in American survey found that Americans were significantly affected by the COVID pandemic, and that the stressors are critically impacting our minds and bodies. Factors such as societal uncertainty, lack of ongoing social/work/school interactions impact us. Children, adolescents, and college-age individuals are impacted by their lack of social-emotional connectedness, inadequate education, and their parents’ situations (e.g., personal, social, employment). Children report anxiety, depression, irritability, boredom, inattention, and fear of COVID-19 are predominant new-onset psychological problems. Each child’s and adolescent’s vulnerability to the negative influence of the pandemic is determined by that child’s developmental age, educational status, pre-existing mental health condition, being economic underprivileged or being quarantined.
Most people have been impacted emotionally by the pandemic: the majority of adults report undesired psychological and physical changes such as significant weight gains; more than 2/3 report sleep changes; parents report increased stressed and, Gen Z (born 1995-2010) report their mental health worsened followed by Gen X (1965-1980) compared to other generations.
The prolonged stress resulting from the pandemic can promote anxiety, depression, and the inability to manage traumatic and negative emotions. Additionally, personal, social, and professional relationships have been affected by the constant fear of contagion. Telepsychology and technological devices have shown to be beneficial in decreasing the negative effects of the pandemic. Many people work with psychologists to promote their capacities to build their strengths and resilience in the face of these uncertain times.