Amid a global pandemic, climate change, racial unrest and a 24/7 news cycle, self-care is no longer a luxury — it’s a necessity.

Collective stress and anxiety have surged in 2020. Almost 50% percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 said they’ve experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression this year, according to a June survey from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Among those surveyed, women, Black and Latino Americans were more likely to be affected.

The impending election has also increased tension. According to a July 2020 report from the American Psychological Association, a majority of Americans said the current political climate was a significant source of stress in their lives.

“I’ve seen an increase in anxiety, depression, grief and loss in my clients this year,” said Erin Scott, a New Jersey-based licensed professional counselor and owner of The Healing Space Counseling and Wellness Center. Health concerns, family issues, job losses and national news can all play a role.

“I had an influx of clients who came to me this year as a result of everything happening with Black Lives Matter,” said Beverley Andre, a licensed marriage and family therapist, creator of Your Favorite MFT and the owner of BeHeart Counseling Services, which specializes in work with Black and brown women and couples.

“Many of them weren’t feeling safe in their workplaces because of the emotional and mental stress they’d been experiencing,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also heightened the intensity of many issues and events. “We were forced to sit still and pay attention to things we might have otherwise ignored,” Scott said.

Spending more time at home has led people to watch and read the news on an almost hourly basis, which Scott said can elevate stress, anxiety and grief.

On top of all that, many people have let go of their coping strategies, said Adolph Brown, a clinical psychologist, social justice advocate and motivational speaker. Without the ability to maintain a regular routine or see friends as usual, it’s easy to adopt habits that exacerbate any sadness or stress you might feel, he said.

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