This was the fourth question on my Summer 2020 Depth Check-Up survey. I began by asking people to choose their current frame of mind: optimistic and excited, uncertain and unsure, or anxious and fearful. Then I asked people to sum up their current experience in three words, followed by a question asking them what they were optimistic about. The question I’m writing about today, asking what’s causing their stress and anxiety, is where things got real…
Current mental health statistics tell us that cases of anxiety and depression are spiking. According to the CDC, 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse during late June in America. 31% experienced anxiety/depression symptoms. 26% experienced trauma or stressor-related disorder symptoms. 13% stated or increased substance abuse, and 11% seriously considered suicide.
Across the board, we’re in a tough place right now. You can attribute that to COVID alone, but as I started to ask this question, it became clear that there’s more going on here than the pandemic. Life in America has gotten messy. Here’s are the things that people shared with me when I asked them about the sources of their stress and anxiety…
“Uncertainty around the future”
“Not knowing how long Covid lockdowns will continue to affect us”
“Uncertainty and lack of control over my immediate future or my children’s future”
No surprise here. We are creatures who crave control and certainty, and unfortunately right now, control is nonexistent. In all reality, that control we thought we had before may have been a mirage, but at least it felt good. Now, the brutal reality that we’re not in control has slapped us and it stings. Uncertainty and the unknowns don’t feel good, and frankly they’re scary, which leads us to the next cause of our anxiety…
“The violence in Chicago and the thought of being stuck in my apartment for the better part of a year”
“Crime. Hearing about children being killed and the city slowly being destroyed every week is really getting to me. I cannot safely enjoy my neighborhood. I struggle to set limits with news and social media exposure.”
“Went grocery shopping and everything is just insane. Yes people are wearing masks but that’s the least. No distancing”
“Feeling unsafe going to a park”
“Fall/winter and all the tourists that might come”
From contracting COVID to danger in our communities, fear is driving increased anxiety and stress. To be fair, you could easily attribute everything on this entire list to fear if you really dig down into our anxiety’s root causes. We are scared. Scared for our families, for our communities, and for our country. Fear is a catalyst for many of the emotions we’re experiencing today. Interestingly enough, it’s also a driving force behind many of the political conversations and marketing tactics that are swirling around in 2020.
“Started a new job and virtual training is taking forever and frustrating”
“Workload. Being pulled in many directions. Trying to get the most important items completed first.”
“I work at a school as counselor”
“Not having a job”
“Work (I do Instacart) has been nonexistent on weekdays, so I make 1/4th to 1/3rd of what I’m used to making lately. I used to work six days a week, now I’m down to 1.5.”
“I have another job interview on Tuesday”
Work, for many, has always felt like a source of certainty. I show up, I do my job, and I get paid. My work supports the lifestyle I’ve created for myself and may provide some added benefits like insurance. That is until we lose our job, and it doesn’t provide those things anymore. That’s been the story for many. For those of us who have remained employed, we’ve been hit by changes too. Work is now being done in our homes, and we don’t know when we’ll go back to our offices. Maybe some of you landed a new job. That may mean getting trained in and onboarded virtually instead of in-person. Nothing, and I mean nothing, feels the same right now when it comes to our work.
“Lack of social outlets”
“Lack of motivation and covid restrictions to stay at home.”
“Feeling separated from friends and that they haven’t contacted me much”
“My own brain is just mean to me because i have an affective disorder”
“Covid has canceled my life. No job. No hobby. No social circle. Taking a walk is a bullsh#t substitution for a life.”
“Isolation from others.”
“Friends blew me off wish I could just go hang at the bar”
It’s no surprise that today, loneliness is an epidemic in a pandemic. When I asked the “three-word” question earlier in my survey, people described this feeling with words like isolated, depressed, alone, and avoidant. As someone said above so eloquently, taking a walk is no substitution for social interaction. I was most struck by the comment, “They haven’t contacted me much.” My first thought was, hey, your friends suck. Then, I quickly considered my own circle and some of the people I haven’t reached out to and withdrew that thought. Across the board, we could all do better at helping one another battle loneliness.
“Uncertainty around the school year for my kids. Longing to get back to a more normal life.”
“I worry about the time I have left to spend with my mom and how this pandemic has created a barrier…”
“Sending youngest to college”
“My rambunctious toddler. It’s too hot to be outside and there’s no where inside that’s fun to take her to play.”
“The unknown of covid. I have a baby due in the fall”
Not surprisingly, we care about our families, and their current wellbeing is creating some anxiety. We want to protect them and be with them. From the youngest of our children to our elderly parents, there’s a level of stress connected to these close relationships at home.
“Fear over the current administration and how so many people are showing their bigotry and lack of concern for other people.”
“worrying that my vote won’t count because I’m using a mail in ballot”
“Doubting the truth in it all”
“Politics and COVID. Upset that our country can’t come together for the greater good of our people. We are divided and there is so much hate.”
“the future of American democracy”
“Joe Biden and the Democrats”
“America’s government. I am not optimistic about the future of this country. We are so divided and everything seems so broken. I’m worried about the future.”
“Definitely the state of politics in the country”
If there was one lightning rod that came up again and again when I asked this question, this was it. From our democracy to our leadership and the value of our vote, America’s future is on our minds. The division in our country is palpable, racial unrest is tearing us apart, and hate is an unwelcome part of our conversations. Today, the one side or another mentality that many have embraced is fueling so many uncomfortable undercurrents.
“World out of control!”
“seems like there is SO much bad news….everywhere…every week more bad news. environmental, political, seems like the good in the world is eroding”
“world is sh#t”
What do you do when everything feels out of control, and there’s so much bad news? We hit on politics and fear above, but this statement captures something more profound, “Seems like the good in the world is eroding.” When it feels like even the goodness is starting to disappear, it’s easy to see why our stress and anxiety are elevated. This leads me to the last response I want to share, in a single word…
For one person in my survey, everything is causing them anxiety and stress. This answer made me ask myself, how bad can it be that everything is creating this kind of pressure? Then I thought about it a bit more, and when you start to layer all of these burdens one on top of the other, it’s no surprise that the weight could become unbearable. It’s no surprise that someone could say “everything.” The more I thought about it, the more shocked I was that there was only one person who answered that way.
I’m going to go back to something I’ve said in other posts about this Summer 2020 Depth Check-Up… back to one word that captures everything on this list. Empathy. If we don’t start to step into one another’s shoes and begin listening to each other’s stories, the stress and anxiety will overcome us. Eventually, if we don’t work together to create more positivity and goodness, something will break. Call this the Cumbayah rhetoric of a glass-half-full optimist, but I believe we can turn the tides on this 2020 experience we’re sharing. One individual at a time, connecting with another individual, we can change things.
The next question I asked in my survey was this, “I would describe experiencing “depth” in my life as _____ .” As the author of a blog focused on creating more depth in our lives, I was curious about where these descriptions of depth would land. The answers did not disappoint.
I’ll be back in a few days with the answers to this question. Subscribe here to follow this conversation and get a glimpse into those responses.
Until then, be that light the world needs right now. – John