2022 in a Word: Permastressed

Neverending crises have caused unprecedented stress and anxiety. Before we can get better, we must acknowledge the seriousness of the problem.

Robert Roy Britt
6 min readDec 5, 2022

Image: Pexels/ David Garrison

“Why is everyone so messy right now?” the journalist Jasmin Malik Chua asked earlier this month on Twitter. I responded that messy sounded like the word of the year. “I would also vote for permastressed,” Chua wrote back. She’d heard the word when a CEO in a panel discussion said, “Being in a permacrisis means I’m permastressed.”

A whopping 27% of U.S. adults say they’re so stressed most days that they can’t function normally, according to a survey released in October by the American Psychological Association. Younger adults are particularly permastressed.

The rest of the country isn’t doing so well, either. Three-fourths of respondents said stress had caused feelings of nervousness, anxiety, sadness, depression, fatigue or a headache at least once in the past month.

The neverending crises

Rooted in political polarization, sowed by disinformation and online hate speech, and fertilized by a neverending pandemic of plagueish proportion, 2022 grew into a year in which stress and anxiety exceeded our ability to cope. Everyday concerns blossomed like a blood stain into chronic worry, anxiety, and stress that just won’t go away. Yes, we’re permastressed. And not by just one gut-wrenching crisis but by multiple ongoing permacrises.

I get stressed just generating a woefully incomplete list of the things that fueled permastress in 2022:

  • Russia invaded Ukraine.
  • We didn’t emerge from the pandemic.
  • A respiratory illness known as RSV began attacking children with unusual virulence.
  • Raging fires and floods brought the threat of global warming from tomorrow to today.
  • Mass shootings became even more routine and mind-numbing.
  • The stock market tanked again and crypto imploded.

Robert Roy Britt

Founder/editor of Wise & Well on Medium & the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com & author of Make Sleep Your Superpower amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB