Remember when the world felt more secure and we could predict our sources of stress more easily, like challenges related to finances, career, relationships, or general health?
Prior to 2020, many of us were trying to become healthier by engaging in an abundance of available self-help resources, inspiring us toward personal growth, spiritual evolution, and expanded awareness. Meditation retreats, yoga classes, and workshops were filled with like-minded individuals trying to evolve and succeed from a place of inner balance.
In 2020, the world turned upside down, and everyone found themselves facing new levels of unprecedented stress and fear that these workshops could not predict nor protect us from. The sources of stress post-2020 continue to reflect new realms of challenges seemingly faster than we are equipped to handle.
According to a 2020 report by the American Psychological Association (APA), the United States is facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come. “Nearly two in three adults (65%) say the current amount of uncertainty in our nation causes them stress. Further, three in five (60%) say the number of issues America currently faces is overwhelming to them.”
In this “new normal,” some aspects of our lives are even more stressful, especially for certain demographics:
Stress among teens and young adults
While older Americans may be able to embrace the feeling of “this, too, shall pass,” adults ages 18–23 are at a pivotal moment in their lives and are experiencing adulthood at a time when the future looks uncertain. The APA report concludes, “Facing constantly changing circumstances around issues important to them, Generation Z teens (ages 13–17) are struggling with the uncertainty of their own futures. Half (50%) say the pandemic has severely disrupted their plans for the future. A similar proportion (51%) report that the coronavirus pandemic makes planning for their future feel impossible.”
Social media and cancel culture
Our use of social media has grown exponentially, and with it so has cancel culture, a growing trend causing great stress. Cancel culture is a modern form of ostracism, where people are thrust out of social or professional circles in an instant. It can create a stressful situation because within minutes, someone or something can be attacked by thousands of people. This sends a harmful message to a culture, encouraging people to be quick to cancel and reluctant to listen, consider, or forgive. While this phenomenon highlights the importance of being considerate of what you’re posting on social media or saying or doing within a professional setting, it’s important to remember that fostering mental health depends on flexibility, and fear of a canceled future can halt efforts for growth, compassion, and understanding.
The 24-hour news cycle and “doomscrolling”
The speed at which negative news comes at us also affects our daily levels of stress and equanimity. Our fundamental need for safety, health, peace, choice, and freedom appears to be diminishing as we scroll through news more frequently. Doomscrolling is a new cultural trend described as the act of spending an excessive amount of screen time devoted to the absorption of dystopian news, which results in harmful psycho-physiological responses. From injustice-fueled crimes to continual coverage of the devastating toll of the pandemic, we’re never given a real sense of relief.
Hyper-focus on short-term and long-term health
This pandemic was a wake-up call for many people who realized their pre-pandemic lives were not benefiting their health – from the stress of commuting and working long hours in an office to not making time for self-care or quality time with family and friends. However, the pandemic brought on new challenges related to health aside from contracting or fear of contracting COVID-19, such as not getting adequate fresh air, being more sedentary, and turning to food or alcohol to calm nerves. Post-pandemic, we continue to face uncertainties around our physical and mental health, especially as parts of the world open and others remain locked down – there was no road map for getting through this ordeal, and it’s certainly stressful watching it unfold in real time.
As uncertainty prevails and new sources of stress appear, we are in need of hope to help mitigate the damage as a collective community. We look for resources to ignite strength and creativity in new ways.
This is where Health Coaches, health coaching apps, wellness podcasts, and on-the-go meditation apps, such as Calm and Headspace* come in. In a world of instant gratification, it is helpful to have quick access to stress-management practices, such as mindfulness-based meditations and deep breath work. Mindfulness meditation as a consistent practice can be an effective way to manage feelings of stress and anxiety.
Self-care practices also include:
- Shifting your self-talk to be kinder to yourself
- Writing in a journal
- Practicing yoga
- Taking a nature walk
- Reading a favorite book
- Following a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet
- Setting a social media and/or phone curfew
- Prioritizing sleep
- Making time for exercise and movement
- Finding a person you trust to share your thoughts and worries with, such as a Health Coach or, if needed, a mental health professional
Having a sense of control within is the best antidote to feeling out of control externally. These self-care practices are examples of how we can nourish ourselves with primary food (the things that nourish us off the plate), which encourages us to nurture our most profound sources of mind-body connection. This in turn improves our emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being.
*IIN is not affiliated with any brands or products mentioned in this blog post.