Hello CMAA Members! In some respects, the last two years of life in a pandemic have been a blur. I can hardly remember the early days of worries about restriction of nonessential travel between states; the closing of non-essential businesses for a time; or not having toilet paper! But like you, I have certainly felt pandemic-induced stress over the last couple of years with concerns for home, family, work, staff, and friends during this period. To better understand the impact of the past two years, the American Psychological Association conducted a study on current stress in America.
According to the study, despite the pandemic being a stress-inducing event, the current level of inflation is the most stressful event for Americans since 2007. Top areas of our current stress are: 1) inflation, 2) supply chain issues, 3) global uncertainty, 4) Russian retaliation, and 5) the Ukrainian invasion by Russia. As one might expect, inflation and monetary concerns were most worrisome for younger Americans and lessened with the age of the respondent.
At present, many younger Americans are struggling more with the Russian invasion versus older Americans as war of this magnitude is something they have only read about in history books. The geopolitical conflict at this level is new to them. Although for most of us, a conflict at this level that includes a discussion of nuclear weapons is new and concerning.
Additionally, most Americans have experienced changes in their health and habits since the beginning of the pandemic. Almost two-thirds of Americans believe the pandemic has changed their life forever and many are struggling with feelings of fatigue, grief (over time lost), sleeplessness, hardships, relationship stress, and are coping with these in unhealthy ways. Almost 60 percent of Americans have experienced undesired weight gains and almost 25 percent are drinking more alcohol to cope. In fact, alcohol-related deaths are up 25 percent as well, particularly among adults aged 25 to 44.
I share this cheerless information as our mental health is not improving from the pandemic despite our masks being off and feeling some pre-pandemic freedom to move about. We are literally jumping from the pandemic frying pan and into the above noted stressors fire, to use an old saying. Ongoing coexistence with pandemic, monetary, and geopolitical stressors suggest we are enduring but not recovering, and chronic stress can damage both mental and physical health.
Please take care of yourselves and take advantage of your own stress reducing vehicles like meditating, exercising, eating healthy, getting proper sleep, connecting with others, having healthy screen time, finding nature, and most importantly -- protecting time for yourself. So many of you did such wonderful things to support a healthy and supportive work environment during the pandemic. While the masks are off, the human need is still high.
We can only hope that the world will find a new centering point and some calm soon, but in the meantime, be your best self for you, your family, and your team.