Nearly two years into a pandemic coexistent with several national crises, many Americans are profoundly tense. They’re snapping at each other more frequently, suffering from physical symptoms of stress and seeking methods of self-care. In the most extreme cases, they’re acting out their anger in public — bringing their internal struggles to bear on interactions with strangers, mental health experts said.
Some of those behaviors appear to be the result of living through a long-lasting public emergency with no clear endpoint, the experts said. As the omicron variant rages across the country, it is again unclear when the pandemic restrictions will end. For some people, this kind of catastrophe strains their coping resources and causes them to act in ways that they normally would not.
Layer that onto other recent national crises — including race-driven social unrest, an economic recession, the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and myriad extreme-weather disasters — and people can hardly bear the stress.
“We’re just not meant to live under this level of tension for such a prolonged period,” said Vaile Wright, senior director of health care innovation for the American Psychological Association.