As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in America topped 700,000 this week and the stay-at-home order in New York was extended to May 15, the reality that shutdown measures would likely not be lifted anytime soon began to set in for many. In the sixth installment of our weekly poll about how the coronavirus pandemic is changing the lives of New York readers, we asked how long they felt prepared to remain sheltered in place, and how they’re dealing with the associated mental strain. Here’s how 1,428 of them responded. (Note: Graphs show week-over-week responses, all other results are from week six only.)
How would you describe your emotional state right now?
Very anxious and/or scared: 15%
Somewhat anxious and/or scared: 40%
Slightly concerned: 10%
Totally fine: 4%
How sick do you feel right now?
Like I’ve been hit by a truck: 1%
Seasonally sick; feels like a common cold: 3%
Slightly under the weather: 9.5%
Relatively fine, I guess?: 63.5%
Picture of health: 23%
Do you, or anyone in your household, fear that your work puts you at significant risk of contracting the virus?
How often are you leaving your home?
Not at all: 12.8%
Just for essential errands: 79.8%
I still have to leave for work, but am not making many other trips: 6.8%
I’m living my life as normal: 0.6%
Has your employer reduced your pay since the outbreak began?
Not applicable: 32%
If your employer has reduced your pay, how much of a pay cut did you receive?
Less than 5%: 7.5%
More than 20%: 62.3%
Have you lost work or had your hours reduced since the outbreak began?
Not applicable: 24%
If you’ve lost work, have you applied for unemployment?
I’ve applied successfully: 26.5%
I’m trying to apply but can’t get through (site crashing/phone lines busy): 8.7%
I haven’t applied because I’m not sure if I’m eligible: 28.2%
I haven’t applied for other reasons: 36.6%
Has anyone in your household applied for unemployment?
They’re trying to apply but can’t get through (site crashing/phone lines busy): 4.6%
How much longer are you mentally prepared to keep isolating?
“It’s a day-by-day thing. Every day I think that I can’t do this anymore, and then the next day comes and it’s the same as the day before. I really couldn’t say, because two weeks from now already feels like an eternity. The changing quarantine lift dates feel like when you’re in a fitness class and the instructor keeps saying ‘one more rep!’ so you’ll try your hardest, but really there’s 10 more.”
“Until June or July, I think. We had planned a 200-plus person wedding for June and unfortunately made the decision today to postpone until September. I’m slowly mentally preparing to postpone it up to a year or more since it seems like large gatherings won’t be allowed for a long time. I’m heartbroken.”
“It varies from minute to minute. Sometimes I think I could do this forever if it would keep my family safe. Other times, I find myself plotting ways to see my family 1,000 miles away. I have a three-month-old baby. I have to protect him, but it breaks my heart that my family has to watch this special time in our life through FaceTime.”
“I feel like I was prepared for ‘one more month’ for a long time. But I’m not sure how much longer I can mentally keep telling myself that and feeling okay about it.”
“Who knows? My relationship with time isn’t well defined right now.”
“I think I’m prepared to do this as long as necessary, but on the other hand I can’t imagine a quarantined 4th of July, or the school year not starting up normally in August.”
“I hate all the articles and TV pundits I see trying to predict how long shelter-in-place rules and quarantine measures will last. It makes me incredibly anxious and a bit hopeless to think about doing this even a month from now, so I try really hard to take it week by week. I’m confident that I can do this and I believe it’s important to attempt to flatten this giant curve, but I find thinking far ahead painful.”
“I am prepared to social isolate as much as needed, but I fear how I will be able to transition mentally back into ‘normal’ life – boarding subways and buses, hanging out in busy bars, busy parks – without constantly fearing getting sick.”
“I have resigned myself to the fact that life isn’t returning to normal before the end of the school year but I am having a really hard time wrapping my head around the idea that summer might be canceled.”
“I can really only imagine a few more weeks. I’m an attorney who typically carries a 300-case load, and am used to being busy. Further, I’m currently isolating with my estranged husband. I am used to being out of the house 8-10 hours a day, so I’m going nuts.”
How’s your mental health right now?
“Stable, but my temper is easily triggered. My poor kids just being kids cause me to yell far more than I used to. It’s so stressful to work, have a husband who is a doctor right now working in NYC, and homeschool and still try to function. It’s just hard to function.”
“Mostly okay. Occasionally feel like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.”
“Something that has been useful to me is to think: ‘Un día menos para que esto termine’ which means: ‘One less day for this to end.’ I don’t know how many days are left … but I am sure that every day is one less. I feel hope, but at the same time I know that if I watch the news I will be very sad and stressed.”
“Some days are better than others. I had a long sob fest yesterday after cutting my finger with a knife, so obviously needed some release for which that was a catalyst. My husband and I made a rule that we can ‘call’ bad days — like the day you just are in an awful place is your bad day and there’s no judgment or anger and a huge attempt at 100% empathy by the others in our family. That helps.”
“Honestly, better than ever. I normally struggle with anxiety, depression, and am in recovery from anorexia. Right before the pandemic, I had just had a mild relapse and was scared when I thought about re-recovering while in quarantine. However, the recent inevitable shrinking of my world has greatly simplified my life and deepened my gratitude toward food and loved ones. Six out of seven days, I’m calm and fairly content (and eating normally!). This may sound selfish, but I actually believe this forced break from life was what I needed to put things in perspective and get healthy again.”
“I think I’ve firmly disassociated from the coronavirus discourse. At first I felt very anxious, but as the weeks have gone by I think I’ve adjusted. Although, my sleep has only been really disturbed this week (can’t fall asleep, scary dreams) when I started feeling okay about it. I have depression and anxiety (am on an antidepressant), and am continuing therapy by phone.”
“Better than I would have predicted. In the past, I’ve had anxiety attacks when feeling isolated, but during this self-quarantine, I think I’m handling this better because at least everyone is in the same boat, which is some consolation.”
“The first couple of weeks I was so anxious that I just kept being super active. If I stopped moving and doing things, I felt I would just cry. Now I don’t feel very much. I think it’s hard to be in a constant state of being on-edge before eventually you just accept what’s going on around you.”
“I accept that fact that I am going to sob at least every other day and that’s okay.”
“I’m starting to crack. I am 6 months pregnant, so I was already emotional. Then you add in the stress of the unknown and all these feelings of being out of control and it’s a lot to handle. Not to mention this overwhelming feeling that bringing a child into the world right now seems irresponsible given the precarious economic and health situations.”
“Most days I cry a little bit, get through the day working, then in the evening drink too much because a) what else is there to do, and b) it passes the time.”
“It’s been a lot. Earlier this year, I broke up with my spouse because I learned that he had been having a prolonged affair. My friends, family, and job really helped me through those early days. Then my job became an early causality of the pandemic. And the implementation of social distancing has made connecting with friends and family different and difficult. Add on the regular stressors of the pandemic that most people are experiencing (concerns about personally getting sick, fears about loved ones falling fatally ill, income insecurity, a feeling of powerlessness, a worry about our collective trauma) and it can be pretty overwhelming sometimes. I have regular tele-sessions with my therapist, which helps, and I try to remember that it won’t be this way forever. But I definitely miss the days when I was only just dealing with getting divorced.”
Note: Not every respondent answered every question.