Between the coronavirus pandemic and politics, 2020 has been a grind for many people. If you find yourself more flustered and stressed, dealing with higher levels of anxiety, a new report suggests you are not alone.
Stress In America 2020: A National Mental Health Crisis was released this week by the American Psychological Association.
As the title implies, the report warns of a “growing national mental health crisis,” saying “we are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come.”
Nearly 80% of respondents said the coronavirus pandemic is a significant source of stress in their lives; 60% said the issues facing the United States are overwhelming them.
In all, nearly 20% of adults said their mental health is worse than it was at this time last year, but the numbers vary by generation. More than a third of younger adults in Generation Z reported worse mental health, and 21% of Generation X and 19% of millennials reported feeling the same.
The report’s authors said “potential long-term consequences of the persistent stress and trauma created by the pandemic are particularly serious for our country’s youngest individuals, known as Generation Z.”
“The pandemic is having a significant impact for everyone,” said Dr. Lynn Bufka, a clinical psychologist who specializes in anxiety. She is also a senior director at the American Psychological Association.
“We are all in a tremendous state of uncertainty, uncertainty leads to anxiety and makes us feel overwhelmed.”
Bufka said she worries not nearly enough people are getting the help they need to improve their mental health either.
“We’re tapped out mentally, we’re having to do all kinds of adaptation, and it’s very uncertain, so we’re feeling pretty anxious and overwhelmed about what’s going on.”
Her advice: Try to recognize when you are feeling in over your head and seek out ways to help yourself.
And getting help doesn’t always mean seeing a therapist.
“There’s a lot of things we can be doing,” Bufka said. “Try to step back and see if there’s things you can adjust in life. Can you make some regular routines so you’re getting consistent sleep, good activity, regular nutrition? That always helps us do better physically and mentally.”
Bufka said pandemic-related shutdowns have had a huge disruption in the lives of younger Americans when they have not really had to deal with as much adversity as older Americans have.
Missing out on milestones like proms, graduations and just the little things every adult does to grow more independent and find their places in life is naturally going to have a negative impact on them.
“While certainly some have had tough times and dealt with hard things, this may be new for more of them,” Bufka said.
“They haven’t had to really develop the skills to cope with tough times in the way that everybody is having to do right now. So recognize that that’s what’s going on. Acknowledge that it’s hard for them, that they’ve given up a lot of things that they might normally have done.”
Bufka urged the parents of Generation Z to be sympathetic and understanding of their children’s plight.
“Recognize that they’re sort of stuck in a place that, what developmentally they’re supposed to be doing is connecting to peers, becoming more independent, finding their place in the world, yet many of them are back home in households with their parents where they’re not feeling like that independent adult,” Bufka said.