Dec 22, 2020 - COVID

Survey: Mental health, loss of income top the list of readers’ biggest challenges in 2020

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

This year has thrown an endless array of challenges our way.

In a recent survey, we asked more than 3,000 Agenda readers about the struggles they’ve faced in 2020. There were four themes that came up over and over again: mental health, job loss, worries about loved ones, and missed milestones.

Here’s what some of the respondents had to say about the specific challenges they faced throughout 2020, as the year (finally) comes to a close.

Note: While we received many powerful answers, we only used responses from people whose names we could verify. We’ve shared their initials here. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity. 

The impact on mental health

“Depression from the lockdown.” M.L.

“Loss of interaction with people face to face.”- R.C.

“Learning to cope with the additional anxiety and depression brought on from adapting to working from home. The constant stream of terrible news, including the struggles of the industry I work in, and the reminder that people are dying every day because we failed (and continue to fail) to get control of this virus.” – M.K.

“Loneliness.” – L.C.

I was lucky because my children are young adults and they came home for the first couple of months. After they left, loneliness and isolation are the biggest challenges.”- J.J.

Managing all the kids at home, virtual learning, work, and being cut off from many things I enjoy.” – S.D.

“The isolation of being older and alone the majority of the time. Also, the lack of touch and hugs.” – V.H.

Navigating the political disaster this year has been.”- A.K.

“Having to social distance. Not being able to hug friends, especially when my father passed away on October 18.” – S.Z.

The lack of social interaction in the work-from-home environment. The difficulty of meeting new people has been tough on someone who is partly extroverted but also introverted and shy with new people.”- B.F.

Social isolation and trying to keep household spirits up. We are very fortunate and made sure we recognized that aloud over and over so we didn’t feel sorry for ourselves.”- K.D.

“Feeling misunderstood by my family when I had to decline invites to social functions. It sucks to be the one to miss out AND feel like the bad guy for choosing not to gather with people who don’t practice social distancing or masking.” – M.T.

Employment impact

“The biggest challenge I faced was unemployment for five months. My content marketing contract ended the week North Carolina shut down. Unemployment money was significantly lower than what I was making previously.” – E.H.

“Working from home. I hate it and can’t wait to go back to the office and visit clients.”- M.G.

“Unemployment due to Covid-19.” – R.B.

The place where I work was in the midst of finally acknowledging some significant culture and HR issues. Having all of that unravel in the midst of transitioning to remote work, seeing my income decrease in the early months of the pandemic, having friends laid off, and having less stability in all areas of life has been hard and draining.” – A.M.

Leading our business through the pandemic. We have 60 people and not all of them can work from home, so we had to quickly implement totally new safety policies at our building to protect our employees, all while transitioning the other half of our team to work from home.” – B.D.

Teaching during a pandemic. As a public school teacher, it has been challenging. I love being with my students in-person and am more effective when we’re in-person learning.” – H.E.

I was laid off March 31, while my wife was fighting breast cancer. I am still unemployed.”- C.L.

Concern for loved ones

“Not being able to travel and see family.” – M.S.

“Dealing with my mother’s illness and death long distance and with Covid-19 restrictions.”- T.O.

I have been separated from my church and very disappointed in their response since they’ve returned in person. It’s made it challenging to feel like they are living out their mission.” – N.B.

Having two children at home doing virtual school and saving enough money to send the third to private school.” – S.P.

Having health scares with my Gram multiple times.” – K.K. 

Telling my 85-year-old mother daily that this is not our new normal, that life is still good, and we can travel again when safe to do so. Hang in there. Let’s use this year as a learning experience and set a goal for next year. Our goal: to fly her first-class to Germany to see her sister, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.” – D.C.

Visiting my father and watching him decline due to not being around people, not going to church, etc.”- M.B.

Missed milestones

“Graduating and getting a job in the middle of a pandemic.” – S.D.

“My son’s wedding preparations and helping him and his fiancé navigate the uncertainty, disappointment, changes of plans, and final decisions. We are among the lucky ones who have good health, a home, food on the table, and assets for our future.”- G.M.

We had my first grandchild born in Texas on November 9. We have yet to see him (or my daughter and her husband), as we are worried about getting them sick.”- M.S.

Pregnant during a pandemic. Not seeing family who live all over the country.”- K.M.

Becoming a first-time parent early in the pandemic. We’ve been sad that so many, including sisters and grandparents, haven’t met the little one who lights our life.” – K.M.

No matter what you went through this year or how little you think you accomplished, give yourself some credit. This has easily been the most stressful year of our generation, and you found a way to get by.


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