By Grace Kim, Research Associate
The recent COVID-19 outbreak has brought many small- and large-scale changes to daily life. Many of us are facing altered routines, increasing financial pressures, and social isolation,1 all of which have the potential to increase stress and anxiety.2 Most of us carry fears about getting COVID-19 and the uncertainty of how it could affect us and the people we love socially and economically. Although social distancing is one of the best ways to help flatten the curve,3,4 it comes with its own stressors.
As many of us transition to working from home, coping with reduced work hours, unemployment, round the clock child-care, or continued social distancing well into May,5 maintaining mental wellness is more important than ever in the fight against the Coronavirus. It is normal to feel more anxious, angry, frustrated or confused during this time. Dealing with these transitions, on top of every day responsibilities can make it easy to deprioritize our emotional and mental health. Checking in with ourselves and taking time for self-care are necessary steps to maintaining physical and mental wellness.6-8 From simply staying hydrated to connecting virtually with family and friends, here are 10 tips to reduce to stress during COVID-19.
Establish a routine.
As social distancing measures continue, established routines may be disturbed by staying home. Adding some levels of structure and discipline in our daily routines and can provide a sense of normalcy and control. Wake up and go to sleep at a reasonable time. Create a weekly schedule to adhere to for things like work, exercise, self-care, and fun activities.
Get outside, if you can.
Social distancing does not require staying inside your home 24/7. Go outside to soak up some Vitamin D, take a walk, or go for a bike ride. Early mornings or later in the evening are best to avoid contact or crowds. If you cannot go outside, even opening a window and turning on the fan to bring in some fresh air can give a sense of outdoors.
Regular exercise is important for maintaining your physical and mental well-being. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150-300 minutes of exercise weekly, or at least 30 minutes per day9. There are YouTube videos that offer a variety of free classes, apps that offer limited free classes, and free resources online.
Apps like FaceTime, Zoom, Houseparty or even calling and texting can help us stay connected while still practicing social distancing. Have a virtual wine night, watch movies or tv shows together, play games together or have a workout session together! If you are spending too much time in front of a screen, the art of writing letters has recently made a comeback and is a great way to stay connected with friends and family. If you have kids, remember to help them connect virtually with friends and grandparents.
Stay hydrated and eat well.
As we continue to shelter-in-place, we may find ourselves over-indulging or forgetting to eat. Maintaining a healthy diet is crucial, not only reducing feelings of stress and anxiety,10 but for your immune system as well.11 Stay hydrated and eat a balanced, nutritious diet by learning how to cook something new online through either YouTube or apps.
Practice radical self-acceptance.
Practicing “radical self-acceptance” by accepting yourself as you are, your current situation as is, and your life without judgment or blame can be an act of compassion for yourself. It is an unprecedented time, there is no right way to live through this. Spending more time at home may not mean more free time, as many are balancing working from home, childcare and home-schooling duties. Reduced work hours or unemployment may increase financial pressures rather than meaning more free time.
Limit news and social media consumption.12
Constant media coverage on COVID-19 can “increase perceptions of threat and activate the fight or flight response,” which can increase stress and anxiety. Set a time limit for news and social media consumption and find a few trusted sources to check consistently. Avoid 24/7 news channels, apps, live feeds unless it is your business to do so.
Find a long-term project to dive into.
Paint a picture, play Monopoly together, read a book, binge watch your favorite tv shows and movies, learn how to cook your favorite meal or solve a puzzle! Now is the time to engage in activities that help you keep busy and engaged while taking a break from the outside world. You might also choose to clean out your closet or organize the pantry. Cleaning and organizing your space creates a sense of control and accomplishment.
Reach out for help.
It is normal to feel more stressed, frustrated, angry or even confused. Talking to your friends, family, and the people who care about you can help you to feel better and work through challenges. There are also many new virtual support groups and community groups forming, such as groups for parents new to homeschooling. Bonding with others who are facing similar challenges can be helpful. If you already see someone for therapy or counseling, reach out to them to arrange a virtual visit. If you are having trouble coping and are seeking out help for the first time, there are mental health providers ready to help. Many providers are available virtually whether via phone, text, app or through your healthcare provider’s designated app/website. There is always help and support, at any time of the day and week.
Remind yourself that this is temporary.
Although it can be terrifying living in uncertainty, it is important to remind yourself that this, too, shall pass. All things do. We will return to our normal daily lives in the days ahead, no matter how scary and difficult it seems now.
These tips were inspired by a list originally published by Eileen Feliciano, NYS Psychologist, as well as by the CDC Guide for Managing Stress and Anxiety during COVID-19.6,13
- Gostin LO, Wiley LF. Governmental Public Health Powers During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Stay-at-home Orders, Business Closures, and Travel Restrictions. JAMA. 2020.
- Organization WH. Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak. In:2020.
- Matrajt L, Leung T. Evaluating the effectiveness of social distancing interventions against COVID-19. medRxiv. 2020:2020.2003.2027.20044891.
- Prevention CfDCa. Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation. In:2020.
- House TW. Opening Up Amgerica Again. In:2020.
- Prevention CfDCa. Stress and Coping. In:2020.
- Prevention CfDCa. Taking Care of Your Emotional Health. https://emergency.cdc.gov/coping/selfcare.asp. Published 2019. Accessed2020.
- Worley LL, Stonnington CM. Self-Care, Resilience, and Work-Life Balance. In: Physician Mental Health and Well-Being. Springer; 2017:237-263.
- Services USDoHH. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. In:2019.
- Smriga M, Torii K. 2 1 Dietary Management of Stress. Nutrients, Stress and Medical Disorders. 2007:325.
- Kafeshani M. Diet and immune system. Immunopathologia Persa. 2014;1(1):e04.
- Garfin DR, Silver RC, Holman EA. The novel coronavirus (COVID-2019) outbreak: Amplification of public health consequences by media exposure. Health Psychol. 2020;39(5):355-357.
- Feliciano E. Mental Health Wellness Tips for Quarantine. Simon Frasier University Blog2020.