We are inching towards the end of the year. As I sit down and look at notes from my therapy sessions, there are five themes that seem to have lingered through 2022. They reflect how much has changed, and, yet, how much has remained the same. My observations are based on clients in the age group of 18-55.
Since 2018, I have been hearing clients tell me how they constantly feel tired and wired; this seems to have been exacerbated during the pandemic, with all work moving online. Even now, when most companies have moved to either in-person work on most days or hybrid work, I still hear clients tell me they constantly feel overworked—and that work refuses to end. A 48-year-old senior executive in therapy tells me, “I have never worked so much, it’s as if the mails, messages and work don’t stop at all. I am overwhelmed all the time.”
The hope was that in-person or hybrid work would bring some semblance of balance and allow for better boundaries. This, however, doesn’t seem to have happened and most people I meet seem to be struggling with work overload. Add to this the fact that many people across age groups are feeling a sense of purposelessness, wondering how to repurpose their life and career goals.
Feeling lost and purposeless is the second big theme that’s emerging over and over.
Thirdly, many people are reaching out for sleep concerns, whether it’s poor sleep, insomnia, difficulty falling asleep or not feeling rested. Sleep is one of the biggest parameters of physical and mental health. It plays a huge role in the regulation of our mood and emotions. A lot of clients are talking about how they manage to get five-six hours of sleep and often feel very tired.
Our inability to sleep is telling of the anxiety that a lot of people are feeling. It’s also a reminder that people are constantly wired, so, very often, even if they are tired, the body is taking time to settle in to sleep.
A 33-year-old female client tells me, “I think on most days since the pandemic, I have at least two of my meals either on the go or while attending meetings which I start and end at odd hours. There are so many times I just end up having two meals and I need to change this.”
The concept of lunch hour, or work starting at a fixed time, allowed people to settle in to work. Now, though, most people are eating while looking at screens and attending work calls. The mindfulness that needs to accompany mealtimes seems to be getting impacted and my concern is that this will have an impact on people’s gut issues, their relationship with food, and how satiated they feel after the meal.
We need to remind ourselves that two of our basic needs, food and sleep, are getting compromised. This is reason enough for us to pause and ask ourselves what needs to change.
Lastly, the loneliness and lack of connection people are experiencing in urban areas, where there is a craving for community and emotionally safe spaces, is quite worrisome. While technology has allowed for quick access and possibilities of social connection, it has also led to people feeling more distant from one another. There is data emerging on how social media is impacting friendships: While people know a lot about their friends through their stories, they are feeling less and less connected and satisfied in relationships. This trend has been present since 2016.
Our idea of what it means to lead a good life is being compromised at every level. These trends tell us that we have a big problem, which, if not addressed, is going to affect productivity, talent retention, life satisfaction, and, most importantly, the potential of young people to lead full lives.
Sonali Gupta is a Mumbai-based clinical psychologist. She is the author of the book Anxiety: Overcome It And Live Without Fear and has a YouTube channel, Mental Health With Sonali.