Watching Mental Health in Transition

After a tumultuous 2020, the beginning of 2021 brought a small sense of relief, and several mental health capacities returned to pre-pandemic levels as a result. However, we knew the recovery would not be like flipping a switch, and March’s Mental Health Index is evidence of that. 

The data indicates that workers’ mental state remains vulnerable with the world still in transition, especially for those in the 40-59 age group. While a certain hope and excitement surrounds post-pandemic life, questions remain about how the new normal will look, and new anxieties can stem from these unknowns. Employers should not only continue to prioritize mental health, but also be cognizant of the needs of each employee demographic. Stressors have different effects on each group, and without the right support, people can easily fall through the cracks. 

Anxiety skyrockets for middle-aged workers 

This month’s data shows that employers should pay special attention to workers between the ages of 40-59, as some troubling mental health trends have emerged for this group. Fear and panic in middle-aged workers have increased by 12% and 9% respectively, since before the pandemic began. Considering these are symptoms of anxiety, it’s no wonder this group is demonstrating a risk of General Anxiety Disorder 86% higher than they had prior to COVID. 

As we continue inching toward the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel and companies prepare to bring employees back to the office, the adjustment to post-COVID norms can cause new stress and anxiety. Just as employees needed support transitioning to remote work and managing boundaries between their jobs and their home life while in lockdown, they’ll need help adapting to life after the pandemic. 

Middle-aged group struggles with high PTSD risk as well 

Middle-aged workers also saw huge increases in risk for PTSD compared to the beginning of the year. Risk for PTSD rose 51% for those aged 40-59 -- 63% compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

Employees in this age group are more likely to be parents of younger children and/or caretakers for older family members. Dealing with parenting, schooling and childcare while worrying about the health of elderly relatives has likely put an extreme amount of mental strain on this "sandwich generation" over the last year. 

These workers may need additional support to get through this transition period. Total Brain’s guided meditations and exercises like Resonant Breathing can be extremely useful tools for suppressing the fight-or-flight response and lowering stress levels. 

Younger and older age groups need continued support

On the flip side, younger and older working Americans recorded no changes in mental capacities and are generally experiencing less mental strain now in comparison to other points throughout the pandemic. However, just because they appear to be doing better does not mean they do not need support.

Empower your employees in these age groups to build on their improvements and guard against decline. They can practice tuning into positivity and reframing negative thoughts with exercises like Bubble Topia and Thought Tamer. Even something as small as a Victory Breath exercise or a quick listen to the sound of Relaxing Waves can help relax the mind and reduce stress. With consistent nudges toward positivity and calm, your team members can achieve more productivity and mental clarity.

Mental health support is not one-size-fits-all 

As you make considerations for how your office environment and culture will look after the pandemic, be wary of assuming that employees will bounce back with ease just because parts of life are returning to a perceived version of normal. Post-pandemic norms and changes will introduce new anxieties, and these will affect employees in varying ways. We will continue watching the trends and sharing our findings in the Mental Health Index so you can make well-informed decisions about how to support your company. 

Pandemic or not, mental health should always be a priority, and taking a targeted, evidenced-based approach to mental health support helps address workers’ struggles in meaningful ways. A comprehensive training and self-care tool like Total Brain that is personalized and addresses the brain’s four functions and twelve mental capacities can be extremely helpful for supporting employees’ individual needs.

If you want to see how Total Brain can help your team members benefit from tailored self-care and self-monitoring mental health tools, schedule a demo today. 

mental health in the covid-19 era