How to cope with covid anxiety and stress

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The emergence of COVID-19 and subsequent major changes to our day to day lives can be stressful for people.

Stress in these unpredictable times is a normal reaction but you can implement techniques that can help you, your coworkers, employees, and friends and family get through these challenging times.

The unfolding of this pandemic can lead to individuals experiencing a range of emotional reactions with accompanying symptoms that can occur at varying levels of severity. You may find yourself shocked, scared or traumatized by this experience. You may even cycle between these feelings, going from being scared for what the future might hold to later noting how well you can adapt to the new normal. Below you will find some tips on effectively coping with the stress and anxiety brought on by COVID-19.

Common Reactions to Stressful Events

Your response and the responses of people in your life can vary based on a multitude of factors including perceived risk from COVID-19 to yourself and others, financial status, mental health history, familial/social support, and those helping with the COVID-19 response such as health care providers.

Common Reactions:

  • Denial, shock, numbness
  • Feeling vulnerable, unsafe
  • Anxiety, panic, worry
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Withdrawal, isolation
  • Remembering other life traumas
  • Headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbances
  • Helplessness, hopelessness
  • Sadness, crying, despair
  • Irritability, anger
  • Appetite changes
  • Being hyper-alert

Coping Strategies

Stress and anxiety are common responses to scary events like COVID-19. It’s important to remember that psychologically speaking, anxiety and stress are not emotions. Anxiety and stress are physiological responses to physical or emotional threats. Our bodies get into fight or flight mode when we experience psychological danger just as it does when we experience physical danger. The more we can become aware of our emotions and effectively process them, the more you can effectively manage your anxiety.

Times like these can provoke a lot of fear, but how we manage our fear can make a big difference in how much psychological distress we experience. Many of us are prone to excessive worried thinking without the COVID-19 pandemic, but it may be even more likely given the current global situation. As much as possible, try to be aware of your thoughts, your emotions and what your body is experiencing. Much of the time we are on autopilot and not aware that our minds are going around and around on the same issues. Take a slow deep breath in and out. Check in with your body and see if you are holding tension in your shoulders, chest or jaw. What is your body telling you? Are you feeling fear, sadness, helplessness? What is the narrative going through your mind? Are you worried about the future or catastrophizing? Slow down, breath and count to ten. Now is a good time to remember that there are things that you can control but many that you can’t. Try to let go of the things that you can’t change and change the things that you can.

Some other good practices to cope with in these uncertain times:

Talk about your feelings – Use the time that you may have been commuting to work to talk to friends or family about your feelings. Instead of texting a friend you haven’t seen in a while, give them a call. Social distancing means that it is more vital than ever to make sure that you are still connecting socially by phone, video chat or in-person (as appropriate).

Take care of yourself – Feeling scared can make you act more impulsively. Take care of your body by watching what/how much you eat; your use of alcohol, drugs, caffeine, nicotine, sugar, and medicine. Be sure to get regular exercise by walking around your neighborhood or instituting a daily workout in your home. Now is also a great time to try out that meditation or mindfulness practice.

Take a newsbreak – In times of fear you may want as much information as possible, however relentlessly reading every article is likely to exacerbate your anxiety rather than relieve it. Get quality information that informs you rather than inflames you and try to limit the number of daily instances of looking at the news. Each time you read something you may be increasing your anxiety which will take time to dissipate.

Practice gratitude – Try to find things that you are grateful for. Try to reframe the shelter in place as an opportunity to spend more time with family, catch up on home projects or get outdoors and exercise.

Utilize self-compassion – Try to give yourself latitude and kindness during this time. Don’t expect that your level of energy and focus on everyday tasks will be the same as it was before. Expect that some days will be better than others.

Tips for Working Remotely:

Keep a routine – There are many things out of our control right now but having a consistent routine can help us feel more in control. Routine and structure are particularly important for kids during these uncertain times so try to maintain a routine as much as possible.

Take breaks – For many people at work, small breaks naturally occur as we interact with our coworkers and transition from task to task. It’s just as important to have breaks when working from home.

Set boundaries – As much as possible try to set a boundary between your work day and your personal time. If your computer is at your kitchen table, it’s very easy to never feel like you are off work so try to hold to your regular work hours.

Use video chat – We don’t know how long working remote is going to last but it’s important to remain connected to other people including our coworkers. Email in particular makes discerning someone’s tone very difficult, but the cohesion that is created through small day to day interactions can be lost if we don’t see each other’s social cues.

Notify others – Use a white board or place a note on your office door to let family members know when you are working.

Other Resources:

  • CDC recommendations on managing stress and anxiety
  • Stress resilience and mindfulness sessions through Staff and Faculty Health & Well-being
  • UCLA Mindfulness Center guided meditations

ASAP offers confidential, cost-free assessment, counseling, consultation and referral services to all UC Davis Campus faculty, staff, and their family members. Whether the problem is work-related, personal, career or relationship focused, ASAP can assist you in evaluating and resolving the problem.

You can call UC Davis Campus ASAP at 530-752-2727 for an appointment.

How to cope with covid anxiety and stress

As lockdowns and restrictions ease in various locations, some people find it extremely challenging to reacclimate to “normal” life. As the pandemic recedes, some consider this phenomenon as the next emerging mental health crisis.

How to cope with covid anxiety and stress

Share on Pinterest COVID-19 anxiety syndrome is an emerging phenomenon defined by compulsive symptom checking and avoiding leaving the house, even when the health risks are minimal. Paul Frangipane/Bloomberg via Getty Images

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub and follow our live updates page for the most recent information on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over a year has passed since SARS-CoV-2 began to spread across the world. Its appearance, which first caused mild concern, soon turned into serious worry as more people received a diagnosis of COVID-19.

In the beginning, scientists knew very little about this novel virus and the disease it caused. The unknowns and the virus’s remarkably rapid spread incited fear among health professionals, scientists, and the public.

Soon, restricted travel, lockdowns, mask mandates, and physical distancing protocols were implemented as a tactic to slow COVID-19’s spread. Widespread media coverage detailed every nuance of an ever-changing pandemic landscape as world leaders and health experts waged war on this invisible threat.

Worldwide, there have been over 150 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, with just over 3 million deaths attributed to the disease. According to official projections, in some countries, such as the United States, the rate of new SARS-CoV-2 infections is gradually declining.

This decrease is likely due to increased herd immunity and the introduction of vaccines. To date, approximately 1 billion vaccine doses have been administered across the globe.

As a result, some countries, such as the United Kingdom, are beginning to soften protocols initially put in place to stop the spread of the virus. As lockdowns lift, many people who were unable to leave their house are now going out and enjoying life as best they can while still being mindful of safety.

Yet, for some, going back out and mixing with other people is a concept filled with fear and anxiety. Despite vaccines and a decrease in disease prevalence, some people experience what scientists call COVID-19 anxiety syndrome.

Symptoms of this syndrome mimic those of other mental health conditions, including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). And, the pandemic and related factors appear to be the cause.

Uncertainty and fear are major triggers. Here’s how to cope

by Christina Ianzito, AARP, March 16, 2020 | Comments: 0

How to cope with covid anxiety and stress

Westend61 / Getty Images

En español | You head to your local grocery store and the shelves are empty of canned and frozen foods. Your usual social activities have been canceled, and the news is a constant stream of alarming stories about how the spreading coronavirus is upending life as we know it. Add to that the fact that older adults are particularly vulnerable to complications from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and you have a perfect storm for anxiety.

“This has been a big anxiety trigger for a lot of people,” says Stewart Shankman, chief psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University, of the coronavirus outbreak. But he and other mental health experts note that it’s important to learn how to handle anxious thoughts, and get help if necessary — in part because anxiety can impede the body’s ability to fight infection.

“Anxiety suppresses the immune system,” says Jane Timmons-Mitchell, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland. “So anything we can do to not be anxious is helpful.”

These ideas from the experts may help keep your anxiety under control.

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Limit news consumption

It’s important to know the facts and what you can do to protect yourself and to take all precautions — but it’s not going to help stress levels to obsessively watch the news, says Shankman.

Experts from AARP’s April 9th Tele-Town Hall discuss how the coronavirus may increase awareness of mental health issues.

“The biggest source of anxiety is uncertainty,” he says, “not knowing what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen, how long this is going to last. And we don’t know. So, trying to know, trying to resolve that uncertainty, is counterproductive. It’s going to make you more anxious.”

Shankman says that he’s not suggesting denial.

Rather, it’s “sort of accepting this is the current situation and not letting it interfere with your life.”

Practice calming techniques

Different people relax in different ways, but if you feel particularly anxious you might try deep breathing, taking a warm bath, or sitting with your pet, says Neda Gould, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medical School. “Alternatively, try mindfulness: bringing attention to the experience and kind of allowing it to be there, and not judging it and knowing that it will pass.” If you need mindful or meditative guidance, try free apps such as Calm; Breethe; UCLA Mindful, an app developed by the University of California, Los Angeles, Mindful Awareness Research Center; and Mindfulness Coach, from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Move your body

“If people are able to just do a little bit of exercise, just walk around or stretch — just to sort of calm the tension in your body,” it will help, says Shankman. “If you calm the tension in your body, you calm the tension in your mind.”

Connect with loved ones

Call, email or videochat with family members, especially if you are feeling isolated or you know that they are. You may find that they have more time to talk than they usually do because so many people are home from school and work, Timmons-Mitchell points out. “There might be some grandchildren that you don’t get to communicate with a lot, but now maybe they could because those people aren’t as busy.”

Listen to music, find activities that bring joy

With symphonies, opera houses, ballets and theaters shutting down or losing their audiences to quarantine measures, many are bringing their offerings online: The Berlin Philharmonic, for instance, gave a free livestreamed concert on March 12, while playing to an empty concert hall; it’s offering free access to its archived concerts through March 31. The Philadelphia Orchestra is offering its recent live performance of “BeethovenNOW: Symphonies 5 & 6” online, as well. “Watching a concert like that is going to help somebody feel better, and probably less anxious,” says Timmons-Mitchell.

How to cope with covid anxiety and stress

How to cope with covid anxiety and stress

Sonipat (Haryana) [India], June 21 (ANI/OP Jindal University): The second wave of the covid-19 pandemic is finally beginning to wane in India.

The virus still poses serious worldwide threats to public health, however, and interventions to disrupt its spread, such as quarantine and social distancing, can exert their own adverse effects on mental health.

Recent studies, including one conducted at Columbia University, find the global prevalence of depression and anxiety has almost doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. According to researchers at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, three groups–women, young people, and persons of low socioeconomic status–may be especially vulnerable to covid-related psychological trauma.

Under current circumstances, it is certainly understandable that some people experience stress and anxiety, characterized by feelings of nervousness, worry, or unease. People are concerned about becoming infected, the health and safety of loved ones, economic disruptions, instability in family routines, as well as uncertainty as to how India and the rest of the world will move forward over the next few years.

People may feel overwhelmed and unable to deal with day-to-day activities when stress and anxiety are persistent or extremely intense. Stress and anxiety can also weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to the coronavirus and all manner of physical illness.

Of course, there is no single uniform approach for dealing with the coronavirus. It is imperative, however, that everyone (especially those at higher risk) learn to mindfully manage stress and anxiety. Mental health is a collective responsibility and requires sustained efforts by individuals, families, and communities.

Providing guidance and counsel is one goal of the Jindal School of Psychology and Counselling (JSPC), the tenth school at the O.P. Jindal Global University in Sonipat, India. In August, JSPC welcomes its inaugural batch of students, who will gain both knowledge and skills related to psychology’s disparate disciplines, including counselling and clinical psychology.

The school is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of psychologists to assist those in need of psychological aid and to better prepare the country for future mental health crises. JSPC will also promote educational activities in the local community, serve as a repository for psychological findings, translate research into real-world applications, and disseminate pertinent information to the Indian and global public.

To that end, JSPC recommends the following tips and suggestions to overcome the psychological toll of covid-19 and improve one’s mental well-being. It is well established that the use of appropriate precautionary behaviour, including face masks and social distancing, can ease one’s anxiety, allowing individuals to feel more confident in their ability to effectively manage the virus.

Yet, sheltering at home and social distancing may have the opposite effect in some people, elevating anxiety. To help ease social anxiety it is critical to preserve existing relationships, even if relegated to the virtual or digital form. Alterations in sleep, including insomnia, are common symptoms of anxiety. It is imperative, therefore, to maintain a normal sleep-wake cycle and attain proper rest each night.

It is also vital to stay physically active and exercise. This can be difficult under lockdown, but maintaining a healthy body is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy mind. Finally, excessive consumption of licit or illicit substances, such as alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, or narcotics, should be avoided. Such substances may provide short-term stress relief, but they typically prolong and exacerbate anxiety in the long run.

Fortunately, a return to normalcy may finally be on the horizon after more than a year of living with the virus and all the societal changes made in its wake. While many people welcome a return to normalcy in terms of work, activities, and socializing, it can also be a source of concern or dread.

Post-quarantine anxiety may be reflected in returning to one’s workplace rather than working remotely from home or being in large crowds of people after such a prolonged period of limited social exposure. Indeed, the American Psychological Association found nearly half of all survey respondents (49%) feel anxious about a return to person-to-person interactions once the pandemic ends.

JSPC endorses a proactive approach to self-care and mindfulness to heal and repair the damage caused by the current pandemic and to assist in our eventual reemergence. Not everyone will recover quickly. Depression, anxiety, or other types of mental anguish that persist for extended periods of time may require the help of mental health professionals. Nonetheless, it is hoped that the increased distribution of vaccines in coming months will lead to the resumption of occupational and social daily activities and a return to better, healthier times.

This story is provided by OP Jindal University. ANI will not be responsible in any way for the content of this article. (ANI/OP Jindal University)

This story is auto-generated from a syndicated feed. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

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Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

How to cope with covid anxiety and stress

How to cope with covid anxiety and stress

Sonipat (Haryana) [India], June 21 (ANI/OP Jindal University): The second wave of the covid-19 pandemic is finally beginning to wane in India.

The virus still poses serious worldwide threats to public health, however, and interventions to disrupt its spread, such as quarantine and social distancing, can exert their own adverse effects on mental health.

Recent studies, including one conducted at Columbia University, find the global prevalence of depression and anxiety has almost doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. According to researchers at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, three groups–women, young people, and persons of low socioeconomic status–may be especially vulnerable to covid-related psychological trauma.

Under current circumstances, it is certainly understandable that some people experience stress and anxiety, characterized by feelings of nervousness, worry, or unease. People are concerned about becoming infected, the health and safety of loved ones, economic disruptions, instability in family routines, as well as uncertainty as to how India and the rest of the world will move forward over the next few years.

People may feel overwhelmed and unable to deal with day-to-day activities when stress and anxiety are persistent or extremely intense. Stress and anxiety can also weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to the coronavirus and all manner of physical illness.

Of course, there is no single uniform approach for dealing with the coronavirus. It is imperative, however, that everyone (especially those at higher risk) learn to mindfully manage stress and anxiety. Mental health is a collective responsibility and requires sustained efforts by individuals, families, and communities.

Providing guidance and counsel is one goal of the Jindal School of Psychology and Counselling (JSPC), the tenth school at the O.P. Jindal Global University in Sonipat, India. In August, JSPC welcomes its inaugural batch of students, who will gain both knowledge and skills related to psychology’s disparate disciplines, including counselling and clinical psychology.

The school is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of psychologists to assist those in need of psychological aid and to better prepare the country for future mental health crises. JSPC will also promote educational activities in the local community, serve as a repository for psychological findings, translate research into real-world applications, and disseminate pertinent information to the Indian and global public.

To that end, JSPC recommends the following tips and suggestions to overcome the psychological toll of covid-19 and improve one’s mental well-being. It is well established that the use of appropriate precautionary behaviour, including face masks and social distancing, can ease one’s anxiety, allowing individuals to feel more confident in their ability to effectively manage the virus.

Yet, sheltering at home and social distancing may have the opposite effect in some people, elevating anxiety. To help ease social anxiety it is critical to preserve existing relationships, even if relegated to the virtual or digital form. Alterations in sleep, including insomnia, are common symptoms of anxiety. It is imperative, therefore, to maintain a normal sleep-wake cycle and attain proper rest each night.

It is also vital to stay physically active and exercise. This can be difficult under lockdown, but maintaining a healthy body is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy mind. Finally, excessive consumption of licit or illicit substances, such as alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, or narcotics, should be avoided. Such substances may provide short-term stress relief, but they typically prolong and exacerbate anxiety in the long run.

Fortunately, a return to normalcy may finally be on the horizon after more than a year of living with the virus and all the societal changes made in its wake. While many people welcome a return to normalcy in terms of work, activities, and socializing, it can also be a source of concern or dread.

Post-quarantine anxiety may be reflected in returning to one’s workplace rather than working remotely from home or being in large crowds of people after such a prolonged period of limited social exposure. Indeed, the American Psychological Association found nearly half of all survey respondents (49%) feel anxious about a return to person-to-person interactions once the pandemic ends.

JSPC endorses a proactive approach to self-care and mindfulness to heal and repair the damage caused by the current pandemic and to assist in our eventual reemergence. Not everyone will recover quickly. Depression, anxiety, or other types of mental anguish that persist for extended periods of time may require the help of mental health professionals. Nonetheless, it is hoped that the increased distribution of vaccines in coming months will lead to the resumption of occupational and social daily activities and a return to better, healthier times.

This story is provided by OP Jindal University. ANI will not be responsible in any way for the content of this article. (ANI/OP Jindal University)

This story is auto-generated from a syndicated feed. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Now that you’re pregnant, explore our education information and resources to give yourself and your baby the best possible start. Check out the articles to the left and stay up to date with the latest advice for you to be healthy and strong.

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KEY POINTS

Keep a routine, stay active, and take breaks from watching the news and going on social media.

Ask your prenatal care provider to answer all your questions about your prenatal and postpartum care visits and what you need to do before you take your newborn for regular checkups.

Your provider may be able to help connect you with a social worker, counselor, or therapist who offers tele-therapy or mental health services online.

It’s hard to keep calm when we hear and see so much information about the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) flashing across our televisions and social media channels. For so many families, these are stressful times. We are living through a public health emergency that is creating a lot of fear and anxiety. Moms and moms-to-be need special support to cope and to have good mental health.

A change in our normal routines

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way daily life looks for all of us. Across the country, many leaders have taken action to help slow the spread of the virus. In some communities, this means closing businesses and schools. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local and state authorities have recommended avoiding social gatherings, that people stay home as much as they can and practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from others) to help slow the spread of the disease.
These new restrictions and rules are changing your daily life. This can make you feel isolated or confused. For new moms, caring for a new baby while feeling sore, tired and stressed can be a lot to handle. If you are pregnant, you may have many questions. Perhaps you may wonder how your labor will look like now that hospitals are managing cases of COVID-19. Or if you are able to get support from your partner, family member, or a doula while you are giving birth.

How to cope with stress

Here are some tips that may help you cope:

  • Get informed. Ask your prenatal care provider to answer all your questions regarding giving birth, your prenatal and postpartum care visits, or what you need to do before you take your newborn for regular checkups. Call the hospital where you are planning on giving birth and ask questions. Each hospital has different rules.
  • Taking care of yourself is one of the best things you can do for your baby. That’s why it’s important you go to all of your prenatal or postpartum checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. Your provider can tell you what your prenatal and postpartum care will look like during this time. It may be a little different. Some may be done virtually or by telehealth. Contact your provider and ask how to get the right care for you during this time.
  • Keep a routine. Every day, take a shower, eat healthy foods and regular meals, drink plenty of water, and get a good night’s sleep.
  • Stay active.Exercise can help reduce stress. You can walk in a safe area or do exercise videos at home. Do 30 minutes on most or all days.
  • Try relaxation activities. Some examples include prenatal yoga or meditation.
  • Take breaks from watching the news and going on social media. Keep in touch with people you care about and who care about you. Tell your partner, family and friends how you’re feeling.
  • Tell your provider if you feel very sad or depressed. Your provider may be able to help connect you with a social worker, counselor, or therapist who offers tele-therapy or mental health services online. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a NAMI HelpLine Coronavirus Information and Resources Guide.

By Joshua Gordon on March 16, 2020

These are confusing, stressful times for all of us. As the coronavirus pandemic affects numerous facets of our society, it also impacts each person in different ways. The disruptions to daily life are already being felt by many, my family included—my son has been sent home from college, my place of worship has closed, and the comforting social gatherings that usually fill my weekends are off-limits. We are all feeling uncertain about what could happen in the coming weeks, as we hope to slow the spread of this pandemic. Feelings of anxiety and uncertainty are completely normal during times like this.

Now imagine you are facing this uncertainty and have a mental illness. How much more challenging must it be to navigate this uncertainty? While we all are concerned about the future, for those with anxiety disorders, worry may be all-consuming. For those with schizophrenia, the concern that people are infectious may contribute to paranoia. And for those with depression, lack of social engagement and disruption in routines could increase symptoms.

If you need support coping with the events of the last few weeks, there is advice and help available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a webpage with information on dealing with fear, anxiety, and stress brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. A section of this CDC page is specifically geared toward those of us with children, as they can be particularly sensitive to uncertainty. For additional shareable resources for those with children, see this NPR story , which features an interview with National Institute of Mental Health expert Dr. Krystal Lewis.

For those with mental illnesses, be sure to continue your treatment regimens. Consider developing a plan for telehealth sessions with your provider if you (or your provider) are quarantined or must avoid exposures to the public for any reason. And, reach out to friends and family for support, virtually if necessary.

This last piece of advice is really important for all of us. It is important to realize that social distancing does not have to mean social isolation, especially with modern technologies available to many of us. Connecting with our friends and loved ones, whether by high tech means or through simple phone calls, can help us maintain ties during stressful days ahead and will give us strength to weather this difficult passage.

How to cope with covid anxiety and stress

As the events surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak unfold, it’s understandable that you might begin to feel increasing stress.

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Information is rapidly changing and can be confusing, overwhelming and even scary. You may experience fear and spikes in anxiety. But even if you’re managing your anxiety levels well, there’s still so much more to deal with.

Whether it’s dealing with at-risk family members or patients, a roller coaster economy, trying to juggle work, keeping kids occupied or homeschooling while schools are closed, or simply adjusting to a new, unfamiliar situation, stress can easily pile up and negatively impact you — both physically and mentally.

Clinical psychologist Amy Sullivan, PsyD, ABPP, stresses the importance of planning coping activities. “America is the engine of ingenuity,” she says. “Let’s be innovative. This is a time where we can really be creative and come up positive coping skills.”

5 steps for managing your stress

Exercise regularly. While gyms are closed and social distancing guidelines are in place, it’s still possible to get in aerobic exercise, like walking, running, hiking or playing with your kids/pets, all can help release endorphins (natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude). And there are other exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home. Dr. Sullivan recommends yoga and stretching as one way to both exercise your body and calm your mind and it’s easy to do by yourself.

Maintain a healthy diet. Stress can adversely affect both your eating habits and your metabolism. The best way to combat stress or emotional eating is to be mindful of what triggers stress eating and to be ready to fight the urge. “If you are someone who is prone to emotional eating, know your triggers, know what stresses you out and be prepared,” Dr. Sullivan says. Keeping healthy snacks on hand will help nourish your body, arming yourself nutritionally to better deal with your stress. “Helping to regulate your blood sugar throughout the day is going to keep your body stable and your emotions on a much better playing field,” Dr. Sullivan says.

Take a break. “As humans we want control over our lives and in this situation, so we have to learn to manage lack of control,” says Dr. Sullivan. While it’s important to stay informed of the latest news and developments, the evolving nature of the news can get overwhelming. Find a balance of exposure to news that works for you. This is particularly important for our children. We need to limit their exposure to the media and provide age-appropriate information to them. Whenever reasonably possible, disconnect physically and mentally. Play with puzzles, a board game, do a treasure hunt, tackle a project, reorganize something, or start a new book that is unrelated to coronavirus coverage.

Connect with others. “I can’t stress enough how important connection is during times of uncertainty and fear,” Dr. Sullivan says. “Fear and isolation can lead to depression and anxiety. We need to make a point to connect with others regularly.” Reach out to family members, friends and colleagues regularly via phone, text, FaceTime or other virtual platforms. Make sure that you are checking on those that are alone. Check in regularly with your parents, grandparents and your children.

Get sleep and rest. The ever-changing news environment can create a lot of stress, stress that gets amplified when you don’t get enough sleep. It’s especially important now to get the recommended amount of sleep to help you stay focused on work and on managing the stress the current outbreak can bring. Dr. Sullivan recommends avoiding stimulants like alcohol, caffeine and nicotine before bed. If you still find yourself too stressed to sleep, consider developing a new pre-bedtime routine, including a long bath or a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea. And planning for tomorrow earlier in your day can help alleviate stress related to what’s to come.

Following these steps to manage stress and add a sense of normalcy can go a long way to help you cope with the ever-changing environment and help keep those around you, especially children, calm and focused. If you are not able to manage your anxiety or depression on your own, reach out to a behavioral medicine provider for an in-person or virtual visit. “Take care of yourself and others around you,” says Dr. Sullivan.

How to cope with covid anxiety and stress

Yoga and meditation can help some people with cancer reduce their feelings of anxiety.

People with cancer often have feelings of stress and anxiety, and the COVID-19 pandemic can make those feelings worse. MSK psycho-oncologist Christian Nelson offers tips for coping.

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking an emotional toll on people all over the world. Feelings of worry may seem overwhelming, especially if you were already coping with the stress and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis or cancer treatment.

As a psycho-oncologist, Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Christian Nelson is dedicated to safeguarding the mental health and well-being of people with cancer both during and after treatment. “Feelings of uncertainty and a loss of control are some of the biggest sources of anxiety for people with cancer,” he says. “When you add COVID-19 into the mix, it makes the loss of control feel that much stronger.”

Dr. Nelson, who is Chief of the Psychiatry Service in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, adds, “COVID-19 causes such intense feelings of uncertainty because we don’t know how long the pandemic will last or when we’re going to get back to our normal lives. Until that happens, the most important message for people with cancer is that MSK is here to help.”

Dr. Nelson provides some strategies to help people with cancer cope with anxiety and gain a sense of control over their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. Acknowledge your feelings.

How to cope with covid anxiety and stress

Accept that this is a stressful time. There will be many emotional ups and downs. Many studies have shown that recognizing the sources of stress can help relieve it. “Acknowledging that others are experiencing the same stresses also normalizes the experience and can help you know you’re not alone,” Dr. Nelson says.

2. Create structure.

People going through cancer treatment are already knocked off their typical daily rhythms, and COVID-19 multiplies that. But having structure in your day can help lessen feelings of anxiety. Try to get up at the same time every morning. Take a shower and get dressed. Make a plan for what you want to do every day and schedule activities to help provide that sense of structure. “These things can help you feel more like yourself,” Dr. Nelson says.

3. Make connections.

Stay in touch with friends and family, whether on the phone or with video calls. It’s not the same as spending time with them in person, but it’s better than being isolated. Many community groups have created ways for people to engage with others online. Most religious organizations are running meetings and services by video. “My patients who connect with their friends through video calls tell me that it’s really helpful to not only hear people’s voices but to see their smiling faces,” Dr. Nelson says. (Devices are available to both inpatients and outpatients at MSK who would like to video chat with friends and family during an appointment or hospital stay.)

4. Engage in activities.

Brainstorm interesting, enjoyable, and meaningful activities that you can do at home, either alone or with others. This may be spending time with family, playing board games, reading, gardening, cooking, or some other hobby. Consider how you can give back to your community, too.

5. Focus on ways to destress.

Because of COVID-19, most people can’t do the things they normally do to relieve stress. Think about new or different ways to help reduce feelings of worry. It’s not one size fits all — it’s whatever works for you to relieve your stress. If you like to exercise but can’t go to the gym like you usually do, try online classes or go on walks. “One of my patients started journaling, and he found it helpful to write every day about his life,” Dr. Nelson says. “Meditation is also good for many people, and you can easily do it at home.”

6. Trust your cancer care team.

A common concern among people with cancer is that treatment has changed because of the pandemic. Maybe it’s been delayed or the time increments have changed — for example, a therapy might be given every four or five weeks instead of every three weeks. It’s important that people speak with their cancer care team about these worries. “I assure my patients that MSK’s oncologists are managing all treatments exactly the way that they should be and always have our patients’ best interests and safety in mind,” Dr. Nelson notes.

7. Take advantage of virtual resources.

MSK is making many channels of online support available for people with cancer and their families during social distancing.