Last year’s “hot vaxx summer” was a bust. Between the delta and omicron COVID variants, a gas price surge, rising interest rates, Monkeypox and polio outbreaks, and the largest conflict in Europe since World War II, the news has been constant doom and gloom.
Plus, if you own a small business, you’ve perhaps struggled to find workers (no matter the pay and perks offered) while your office rent has gone up. On top of that, customers are balking at necessary price increases. There’s economic weirdness in the air, and it’s tough on everybody’s mental health.
“Before the pandemic, it was less common to encounter employees or leaders who appeared fragile,” says Dr. Camille Preston, a Massachusetts-based business psychologist and CEO of AIM Leadership, “but the initial impact of the pandemic and its ongoing aftermath have worn many people down.”
We’re Over Lockdowns but Still Exhausted
For the most part, Americans are done wearing masks everywhere in public. We’ve returned to the office, at least for a couple of days per week. And jobs are easier than ever to find. So why are we still so rattled?
There’s a double-whammy effect. First, the pandemic stole our vacations and hobbies — and then, just when life was returning to normal, inflation stole them again.
“When you stop doing and pursuing things that bring you joy, you aren’t just losing out on all the benefits associated with experiencing emotional highs,” Preston says. “You also risk losing your sense of hope for the future.”
According to Sepideh Saremi, a licensed psychotherapist and executive advisor, the stress is particularly affecting family-owned businesses. “Even in businesses that are thriving financially since the pandemic, the strain of [these] two-plus years … isn’t great for married couples who work together,” she says.
There’s extra pressure on business owners and managers to look out for their own well-being as well as their employees’.
“After two and a half years, many people, especially those in management-level roles, are now experiencing a type of caregiver fatigue as they continue to find ways to support their team members through these challenging times,” says Preston. “Doing this care work on top of one’s existing job functions — and without proper support — can be draining.”
Rays of Sunshine Peeking Through?
The turbulence of the past few years has had one positive effect: Workplaces are more focused on mental health than ever before: 3 in 4 large companies are prioritizing mental health care and most had an anti-stigma campaign this year. Employers increasingly offer access to teletherapy and meditation apps.
Until the economy gets back to normal, business owners may benefit from using those resources themselves.