In a recent survey to Agenda subscribers, we asked, “What’s been the single biggest challenge for you during the coronavirus pandemic?”
Coronavirus is causing major financial strain for some. For others, it’s the cause of extreme boredom. At its worst, respondents say they’re losing loved ones or experiencing depression and anxiety.
Survey results: In an effort to understand Charlotte’s challenges during this time, we recently sent a survey to Agenda newsletter subscribers and asked for their biggest coronavirus-related challenge right now. More than 4,000 readers responded. Some responses were incredibly sad and made me feel helpless. Others made me laugh or gave me a little hope. But in all of them, there’s a common thread: Everybody is going through something.
It was one of the most common responses to our question. Whether you’re working from home, an essential worker on the frontlines, or recently unemployed, work is on a lot of people’s minds.
“Feeling terrified that I, as a nurse, will bring home the virus and hurt someone I love. Not having the right protective equipment and feeling like people aren’t taking this seriously while I’m risking my life.”
“Currently, I do not have a vehicle and I take the bus to work. This has been a challenge due to CATS operating on a weekend schedule. This change requires me to take a cab each morning to transit which enables me to arrive to work on time.”
“I’m an essential worker in mental health and my workload has increased probably times three. I had to transfer all my clients to telehealth immediately, and I had zero training or knowledge about what to do.”
“Collapsing two companies and trying to figure out a path to reopen them.”
“Working two feet away from my roommate everyday and her taking personal phone calls during my business meetings.”
“Teaching 60 staff members how to use Zoom and how to maximize technology to teach pre-school students. Literally had a staff member call me to ask how to ‘paste.’ She knew how to copy but couldn’t figure out the next step.”
[Related Agenda guide: If corporate Charlotte can be productive working from home, will office life ever be the same?]
Figuring out finances
Because work is on a lot of people’s minds, so is money. A strained economy has caused increased anxiety about paying bills and staying afloat.
“Job loss for my husband, an optometrist. He was supposed to have the stable job.”
“Financial uncertainty. We felt really good going into 2020 with our promotions, raises, and bonuses. We were finally out of credit card debt, and we were starting to build up our emergency fund. Now we feel like it might be too late.”
“Losing my job.”
“Trying not to freak out about the economy. Since I am retired, I have all the money I will ever have to live on the rest of my life.”
“Dealing with the unknown. I don’t like change and I’m a huge planner so not knowing if I will have a paycheck in two weeks time is a struggle.”
“Having to decide to lay off over 80 percent of our workforce, including myself. The financial insecurity is weighing on me.”
[Related Agenda story: Amid pandemic, 25% of Charlotteans say their jobs aren’t secure]
Taking care of the family
Worrying about kids was another common answer. Bored kids. Sad kids. Young kids. Old kids. Soon-to-be-born kids. Guiding children through this confusing time has proven to be another major challenge.
“We are new foster parents, and we definitely did not say ‘yes’ to this ever expecting to have them all home with us all the time. It’s a lot. And we’ve had to work extra hard to keep them in touch with their mom since visits and court hearings are all cancelled.”
“Getting my teenager to stay at home.”
“Not being able to see my grandbaby that was born on March 18 and other friends and family.”
“I am currently pregnant and it terrifies me that I could potentially get sick and put my baby at risk. I wonder what kind of world will this baby be born into? Will we ever return to normal?”
“F’ing children — ages 6 and 3.”
“We’re in the middle of trying to get pregnant. We did IUI last month and doing IVF this month — a decision forced by COVID-19 since IUI is no longer an option. We can’t afford to lose months of trying due to my age. This all means we might have extended quarantining if we actually get pregnant. I think we’re kinda hoping we don’t get pregnant and instead have lots of embryos that we can freeze and save for next year.”
“Coordinating with exes on what’s in the best interest of the children we share.”
“My son is a high school senior, and it was his birthday last week. Trying to keep him positive when his whole world is falling apart.”
[Related Agenda guide: Tired of cooking? 16 family meal deals, ranging from Del Frisco’s to Sabor]
The stay at home order is forcing most people to make significant changes to their interactions with family and friends. Face-to-face interaction is either at an all-time high or an all-time low. Either way, that change is hard.
“I have a family member in memory care in another state that does not understand really what is going on. It’s hard to explain one day, to have her ask again the next, why nobody has come to visit.”
“My cat. We’re not used to being around each other all day during the week. I didn’t realize he was on my counters so much. I’m pretty sure he’s ready for me to go back to my normal routine.”
“Not seeing my parents. I am doing their grocery shopping, and dropping it off and only being able to see them through the glass door brings me to tears every time.”
“The sheer volume of video calls I’ve had with friends. There have been so many with them, honestly I’ve been more social during coronavirus than before it.”
“Dating. Meeting them for dinner won’t happen, staying 6 feet away isn’t working either.”
[Related Agenda guide: Charlotte singles use FaceTime for video dates — and it’s working for some]
Anxieties while grocery shopping
The grocery store is one of the only approved places to go under the stay at home order so it came up a lot. Grocery shopping is causing stress, from having a hard time finding food and toilet paper to worrying about being exposed to coronavirus at the store.
“I find myself questioning how many people could have touched the apple that I want to buy.”
“Finding toilet paper and hand sanitizer.”
“Having to compete with all the simple-minded selfish hoarders.”
“Finding a Whole Foods delivery window. It is the new definition of insanity!”
“Getting certain food items. Apparently eggs are the new toilet paper.”
Staying at home has created strong feelings of isolation, especially for people who live alone. Not interacting with others is making people lonely.
“Combatting the feelings of loneliness and isolation. My mom died in January, and this time has been so hard because I just want to call and talk to her about everything.”
“Watching my friends still hang out and have fun but knowing I’m making the right decision by not joining in.”
“Being single, it’s the physical isolation.”
“Not getting hugs.”
“Living alone. I am now going days without seeing another human in person. It’s tough.”
“Managing my anxiety. I have had to limit my social media time and stop watching the news. You can really go down the rabbit hole reading one alarming thing after the other.”
“Dealing with the loneliness but trying not to complain too much because I don’t want to come across as ungrateful, when there are others struggling financially, health-wise, or risking their lives to help others.”
[Related Agenda story: Amid the coronavirus pandemic, could loneliness be our next public health crisis?]
Canceling big events
Putting life on hold isn’t easy. Having to re-schedule or cancel major life events is another big stressor.
“Had to cancel our April wedding.”
“My last semester of college suddenly ending. I won’t get to see my family celebrate graduation because it has been delayed until god knows when. It’s been really hard feeling like I have no control over my life.”
“Renovating the house we bought in February. Just learned that our kitchen cabinet fabricator has shut down until the end of the stay in place order. Our lease is up April 30 and it doesn’t look like the house will be ready for us to move into it in time.”
“I’ve been doing long distance dating (he lives in Australia, very long distance.) He was planning on coming to visit me this summer, but now with COVID-19, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to see him in person again.”
“My life being put on hold — my divorce being pushed back.”
Worrying about others
So many respondents were mostly worried about other people. Their concerns spanned from people they love getting sick, to people they don’t know ignoring the stay at home order, to the health of local small businesses.
“I grieve for my students. I teach a mostly low-income population. I feel sick knowing their home lives are unstable, they lack food, and are navigating life without the safety of school.”
“Waiting and praying for my adult child to get out of New York. She did and is quarantined in a friend’s empty house.”
“My roommate and her boyfriend are interacting with many more people than I am. I worry that they are not taking social distancing as seriously as I am. However this is not a conversation that I want to have with my roommate, as I really dislike confrontation. So after they leave or go to bed I just wipe down all the door handles and kitchen handles and hope for the best. I don’t want to lose friends (or my roommate) over this epidemic.”
“Paranoid. Wife in chemo.”
“Being a jailed grandparent. Our daughter has triplets, and it is HELL for her to take care of them all by herself. Everyone who was helping her is 60+.”
“I’m worried about the local spots we always go to such as Comet Grill and Sir Edmond Haleys. We support them by getting takeout, but over the years you become friends with owners and staff. I worry they won’t be able to hang on.”
Struggling to be productive
Staying productive during a global pandemic is no easy task. Though some people have more free time, in many instances, less work is getting done.
“It’s hard to get into a routine when you’re trying to apply for unemployment, apply for relief funds, do school work, and 20 hours of part-time work.”
“Getting my work done while trying to make sure my kid gets an education, staying fit, and keeping my patience all at the same time. I’m failing miserably, at most of it!”
“I work in public relations, so it’s my job to read/watch the news all the time. I feel like I’m overwhelmed by coronavirus coverage, and it really makes me anxious.”
“Staying consistently productive given how easy it is to take a nap, watch TV, or do anything else other than what I need to do.”
And other challenges for respondents stemmed from being home bound.
“Not being able to go to church. We are ‘gathering’ together online and the worship team is doing an amazing job but it’s not the same as being together.”
“I miss just going to a bar. I can recreate the individual elements — the drinks, hanging out virtually with friends/family, etc — but I just can’t recreate the general feeling of contentment that I feel from unwinding at a favorite watering hole with a few good people and drinks.”
“Alone time. I’m an introvert — having a swarm of kiddos around me all day means I get very little time all by myself. I love my little wonder-babies, but that has been the hardest part.”
“Trying not to gain weight with lowered activity and heightened food intake. I typically don’t stock unhealthy foods. But I panic bought so many groceries I don’t normally even eat so now I just have all this unhealthy food sitting in my house with me, and it’s hard to resist.”
“Not shopping online because I’m bored.”
Dealing with all this uncertainty
Multiple respondents said this difficult time is made worse by the unknown. Not having a clear end date for when life will go back to normal isn’t easy.
“Having no escape, loss of income, long days. It’s not like you can jump on plane or drive to another state/country to get away from it.”
“The unknown is the scariest, unknown of patients and when I will be able to see and hug my boyfriend and family again.”
“Thinking ahead. I’ve been fine the last few weeks, but realizing I’m going to be doing this for a much longer makes me anxious.”
“The unknown: Is everyone else really doing this? When will it end? Do I have enough food and toilet paper? Am I drinking too much?”
“That there’s no light at the end of the tunnel on when/how we come out of this, yet.”
“Having absolutely no sense of when an endpoint might be. Being afraid and superstitious about making plans for a future that is unknowable.”
[Related Agenda story: How will the coronavirus outbreak end in Charlotte?]