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Jan 05

How to Cope with the Stress and Anxiety Caused by COVID-19

If you’re like most people, you are doing your best to stay calm during the coronavirus/COVID-19 global pandemic.

But the social isolation and fear of getting sick can feel incredibly difficult at times. When not worrying about friends and loved one’s health, there’s also the conflicting information provided by the media and the economic ramifications of the virus that have people on edge.  Plus now we are supposed to wear a mask – nothing like wearing your anxiety on your sleeve!

Signs of Emotional Distress and 6 Ways to Cope

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, but most will exhibit some of the following signs:

  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

If you are experiencing significant stress right now, here are some ways you can cope:

1. Limit Media Consumption

Hearing the media constantly spread panic isn’t good for anyone. It’s important to stay rational and do your own research to uncover facts from fiction as well as stay positive. Pick some things or people to watch or follow and stick to them. Give yourself a schedule – allotting yourself specific times for media consumption.

2. Nurture Your Body and Spirit

Be sure to get outside for some fresh air and go for a walk. Moderate exercise is important – but not too much or too little.  Eat right and make sure to stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep. Avoid consuming too much alcohol and try and find fun ways to reconnect with those important to you.  Facetime or video conferencing is a great way to visit and feel more connected.  Check out NetflixParty or virtually play board games with old or new.

3. Tap into Your Sense of Fun

If you have kids – they need this from you.  But we all need to access fun and laughter during these really uncertain times!  Look for some good old-fashioned playtime. Play hide and seek in the house. Create an obstacle course in the back yard. Watch some of your favorite funny movies….or compile the best twitter videos that make you laugh.  Really left to my own devices, I think I would build a fort and sit in it for hours, astroturf my porch, and practice baking (and tasting!) extravagant things. Fun and laughter really is the best medicine so get plenty of it!

4. Support Your Local Community

Many local businesses are hurting right now. If you’re still getting a paycheck, consider buying a gift card from a local restaurant, gym, hair salon, etc. to give them revenue now and you can use the card later. This will make you feel great at the same time.  Maybe order take out from a favorite restaurant or even a place historically out of your reach – Chicago Tribune’s dining page has all kinds of tips!

5. Consider the Kids

Remember,  kids will ALWAYS look to you first to see how they should be thinking and feeling about something. So move about each day calmly and confidently and reassure your kids everything will be okay.  It might be counter-intuitive but you want to err on the side of having to address a wrong assurance later – if it happens.  I remember being a kid and learning about homelessness. Being an anxious kid, I started to really worry that would happen to us.  One night through tears I told my father who promptly assured me that he would make sure I always had a roof over my head.  I was so comforted!  What was important at that moment was my father calming my fears – and effectively punting the uncertainty present in anyone’s future that was causing me such distress.

6. Use Your Time Constructively

For many of us, there is a silver lining in this situation in the form of extra time.  Try to figure out a way to make this enforced stay at home time work for you.  For the most part, we are not in control of much right now.  What can you control?  Looking at this time as an opportunity to drill down and exercise your command over what you can control and step back from what you cannot is key. Although it is not a gift you wanted – see the extra time in your home as an opportunity to accomplish something you were struggling to find time for.


If you find yourself becoming too stressed or depressed during this time, I encourage you to connect with us. Speaking with a therapist can help you cope with the situation and navigate the days ahead.  PeoplePsych therapists are currently conducting sessions over the phone or via a secure HIPAA compliant video platform, so you don’t even have to leave your home while we’re in lockdown.  Contact us today to get started!