Cara McNulty has seen a change in her two teenage daughters over the last two years of the pandemic. “They don't get too excited about much,” she says. “When I've asked about it, they say, ‘If you get too excited about something and it gets canceled, it's just too hard to rebound.’”
After two years of disappointments, cancellations and the cumulative effects of what Cara, the President of Behavioral Health at Aetna, calls “micro losses,” her girls are worn out.
They echo the feelings of many Americans who still feel stressed as the pandemic enters its third year — and are now exhausted as a result.
Nearly a third of Americans are dealing with anxiety and depression according to a March 2022 Harris Poll, including about 1 in 4 younger adults and parents.
As caregivers, parents are especially fatigued, Cara says.
“Parents are experiencing this exhaustion even more than those individuals without children, because they're not only experiencing it for themselves, but they're also seeing it in their children,” she says. “As a parent, I worry about my kids and I'm also trying to manage my job and my community. So, we do see parents really struggling.”
According to a CVS Health white paper, 52% of parents say the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health, compared to 44% of adults overall. In addition, 57% of parents noted burnout or mental exhaustion “somewhat often” since the summer.
Luz Gomez-Casseres, a MinuteClinic licensed mental health professional, says many parents question whether they're doing a good job of helping their children.
“The thing that I hear is, ‘How am I going to help my kid cope if I'm struggling myself?’” she adds.