I’m stressed. I mean really, very, totally stressed.
It’s not just the pandemic, the fear of disease and the isolation of the work-from-home thing, but trying to manage two teenagers and their schooling on top of a job that is quite demanding. Oh and there’s a tumultuous election in just a few days.
I didn’t really need a study to tell me that I’m not alone.
But this past week we’ve seen several new studies that verify what we already knew. The American Psychological Association found nearly 80% of adults in the U.S. say the coronavirus pandemic is a significant source of stress in their lives. And 2 out of 3 adults said they have experienced increased stress over the course of the pandemic. Separately, the American Psychiatric Association found that 62% percent of Americans feel more anxious than they did at this time last year.
I have covered mental health stories for NBC News for about a decade now. I seek out these stories because I think it’s important to shine a light. I also think the more we talk about our struggles, the more the shame and stigma are reduced.
It was in that vein that I mentioned on TODAY last week that I, too, am seeing a therapist right now. Not in person, of course, but on a screen.
Due to the pandemic, teletherapy is becoming more popular. A recent American Psychological Association survey of more than 2,000 clinicians found that 76% are now solely providing remote services (via phone or video chat). I spoke with a provider in Illinois who has seen a four-fold increase in the number of people working with therapists remotely.
Every couple of weeks, I meet with my therapist and talk things through. Today we talked about how stressful my job has been lately. I’m often assigned stories with a very tight deadline and need to race to study the subject, conduct interviews and put together a coherent and factual script within hours. All the while, texts are streaming in, my email inbox is out of control with dozens of updates on the election rolling in each hour. When I pay attention to the phone texts, I miss the latest email. And vice versa. Because of COVID-19, my producers and editors are all physically distant and we can no longer collaborate the way we used to. I really miss my co-workers and cannot wait to be back inside 30 Rock and in a studio for anchoring. (Right now, the set you see me on is in my basement, where the ping pong table used to live.)
The other thing we talk about often is being a parent in this pandemic. Where we live in the suburbs of New York City, the high school situation is a lot better than it was last spring. Our kids are actually physically in school for half the day now and seeing teachers face-to-face (with masks, of course). But the virtual part of the day is tough. There are four of us in one house, all on screens for hours. I’m monitoring the homework they’re supposed to be doing. I’m worrying about their mental state. I’m yelling from the basement set, “Can someone please come down and help me?”
Sometimes I say to my therapist that I shouldn’t be so stressed. “After all,” I’ll say, “I have things pretty good. No one is sick (at the moment, though my husband Chris had a bad case of the coronavirus in April). I have a great job. We have a home. We’re lucky.” And what she says back is something like this: “You’re still allowed to feel anxious and sad for all you’ve lost.”
It’s OK to feel sad or anxious or stressed. It’s OK to recognize that life just isn’t what you thought it would be right now.
The one thing we can all do is to try and take care of ourselves. I used to think eating a decent diet and exercising was enough. But talking things out with a therapist is another kind of preventative measure that keeps you healthy. I’ve found that it’s as important as going to the gym or brushing your teeth every day.
Here’s the good news about this moment in time, this ridiculous 2020: We are all in this together. Truly. I mean, there have been many earth-shaking events in my lifetime. I’ve covered 9/11, horrible hurricanes, earthquakes, wars and fires. But usually, one group of people feel the direct impact of a catastrophe. This year, it’s every person on the planet.
I hope that one of the lasting legacies of 2020 will be that we all realized how important it was to connect with family and friends — and to take care of ourselves.
We are sharing in the pain and stress. And we will get through it… together.