Thanks to Ana Bulnes for contributing this article!
Our mentors and page authors are not necessarily psychologists or therapists. Even when they are, this page is not medical or psychological advice and they are not creating a doctor/therapist-client relationship. You should consult a professional if possible and they can tell you whether this advice applies to your situation. If this is an emergency, you should call your national emergency number, like 911, or a mental health hotline, like 1-800-950-6264.
Pandemics make for uncertain times. The recent outbreak of COVID-19 can create stress and anxiety for many. The fear and anxiety brought on by an unknown disease in what appears to be uncertain times can lead to strong emotions. This affects people of all ages and finding ways to work through it has the potential to strengthen our communities.
Overview of Stress
If you’re feeling constantly stressed because of COVID-19, this can manifest itself in various ways, which can in turn cause their own health issues. Some commons ways stress manifests are:
- Fear or worrying about health for you, your friends, and your family.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Changes in appetite or sleeping patterns.
- Difficulty concentrating or staying productive.
- Chronic health challenges becoming harder to cope with.
- Pre-existing mental health challenges flaring up.
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other substances.
If you feel like the combination of increased stress and its associated problems like irregular sleep, unhealthy eating practices, or changing work-related routines are getting to you, you are not alone. We are all in this together!
How we respond to the current challenges can be affected by our backgrounds and the communities we live in. Our ability to reach out for assistance with mental health can make the difference between feeling overwhelming or empowered.
Some ways to cope with current stressors are:
Take breaks from news, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting and create feelings of hopelessness. SelfControl and Cold Turkey are two free apps that allow you to block the internet.
Engage in self-care, whether that means going for a walk, reading a book, hobbies, or anything else that makes you happy, even in small ways. Everyone has special activities that they enjoy – it’s important to engage in activities that help you relax or enjoy the moment. Research suggests that taking a warm bath can really help with relaxation and reducing depression. We also recommend keeping a mood journal so you can notice what makes you happier.
Practice mindfulness. Go for a walk and notice the small details that we sometimes ignore while we rush through our fast-paced lives. A great free meditation app for learning mindfulness is Smiling Mind.
Spend time outside and exercise. Fresh air and movement are not just good for our mind but also have health benefits as well. If you have a companion animal, spend time with them. Studies show that animals are supportive and can provide companionship and improved stress responses.
Practice good habits. Take deep breaths, stretch, eat healthy, balanced meals, get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, and avoid alcohol or other recreational substances.
Connect with others such as friends, family, and loved ones. Talk with people that help you feel safe and accepted. Service and volunteering is also a great way to feel connected to the world and happier.
- Coping with Stress During COVID Outbreak (WHO)
- Managing Stress and Anxiety During Coronavirus (CDC)
- Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health: Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine and Isolation during an Infectious Disease Outbreak (SAMHSA)
- Coping with Sheltering at Home During COVID-19 (Red Cross)
- COVID-19 Resource and Information Guide
- How to Help Someone with Anxiety or Depression During COVID-19
- Behavioral Activation to Prevent Depression During COVID-19
- Emotional Wellbeing During the COVID-19 Outbreak
- Living with Mental Illness During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Obviously, you can contact one of the mentors on this page. We are all here for you.
Also, if you or someone you care about are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others:
Call the emergency number in your country. For a full list, see here.
Within the U.S., you can:
- Call 911.
- Visit the Disaster Distress (link to Disaster Distress hotline that we approve of), call 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
- Visit the National Domestic Violence (link to domestic violence hotline that we approve of) or call 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224.