Each year, the American Psychological Association (APA) surveys people across the United States about stress: its sources; its intensity; and how people are responding to stressors, both mentally and physically. The APA 2020 survey revealed that Americans have been profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the external factors Americans have listed in previous years as significant sources of stress remain present and problematic. These compounding stressors are having real consequences on our minds and bodies. Nearly one-third of adults (32%) said sometimes they are so stressed about the coronavirus pandemic that they struggle to make basic decisions, such as what to wear or what to eat.
Parents with children under age 18 were more likely than those without children to say that both day-to-day decisions and major life decisions are more stressful than they were pre-pandemic (daily: 47% vs. 30%; major: 44% vs. 31%), with 54% of those with young children ages zero to four reporting that day-to-day decisions have become more stressful. More than 3 in 5 adults (63%) agreed that uncertainty about what the next few months will be like causes them stress, and around half (49%) said that the coronavirus pandemic has made planning for their future feel impossible. There’s a fine line between stress and anxiety. Both are emotional responses, but stress is typically caused by an external trigger. The trigger can be short-term, such as a work deadline or a fight with a loved one or long-term, such as being unable to work, discrimination, or chronic illness. People under stress experience mental and physical symptoms, such as irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles, and difficulty sleeping. Stress can be brief, situational and a positive force motivating performance, but if experienced over an extended period of time it can become chronic stress, which negatively impacts health and well-being.
“To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life.” | Jill Botte Taylor, PhD
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