What's Stressing Us Out Most During the Pandemic

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There's a pandemic out there, and collectively, we're a mess. All around the world, we're still trying to come to grips with COVID-19, and our lives have been turned upside down because of it. The massive changes — not to mention upset and unrest — have shot up blood pressure pretty much everywhere. In the United States, however, our fear of the coronavirus isn't what's keeping us up at night.

Psychologists at the University of Connecticut have just released a study tracking and assessing 23 stressors related to COVID-19. More than 1,000 people told the researchers about their fears and anxieties, and unsurprisingly, the most common worries were about catching the virus itself. More than 80 percent of respondents also felt stressed out by "uncertainty about the duration of social distancing requirements" and "changes to social and daily personal care routines."

The most acutely felt stressors, however, were not directly health-related. Instead, participants said they were the most anxious about the financial fallout of the pandemic and its associated lockdown. It's not surprising: About 1 in 4 American workers are unemployed right now, and a significant portion of small businesses shut down to protect workers and consumers may not survive the loss of income.

It's always best to be realistic about what you can do personally, especially when the other option is avoiding the stress altogether. "But in this instance, where people don't have much control over making the disease itself better," says coauthor Beth Russell, "we can do small things to help ourselves and others — seek connections through telemediated emotional support, for example — and find ways to let the time pass."