How to Cope With Stress in the Age of COVID-19

Edited and medically reviewed by Patrick Alban, DC | Written by Deane Alban

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One of the best things you can do to help avoid a coronavirus infection is to keep your stress level low. Get specifics on how you can reduce your stress.

Stress is resisting what is.”
— Anonymous

We are living in stressful times.

The coronavirus pandemic is upending lives in so many ways.

It’s normal to feel more stressed and anxious when life gets worse.

In fact, that’s the evolutionary purpose of stress — to help keep you safe in the face of danger.

But how can you stay upbeat while lowering your stress level in the age of the coronavirus?

Fundamental COVID-19 Mental Health Advice

It’s paramount that you take care of your mental and physical health.

You can do this by minimizing both psychological and physiological stressors.

Stress, loneliness, and sleep loss can weaken your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to infection. (1)

COVID-19 patients with high levels of the stress hormone cortisol are more likely to exhibit severe symptoms and have increased risk of death. (2)

Two top authoritative health organizations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), offer this advice: (3, 4)

  • Eat healthy food
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Get physical exercise
  • Maintain physical distance, but stay in touch with friends and family
  • Prepare, but don’t panic
  • Stop obsessively checking news coverage
  • Meditate or take active measures to manage stress
  • Don’t take recreational drugs or abuse alcohol
  • If you feel overwhelmed, talk to a mental health care professional

But how do you DO these things?

Make the Most of Your Time

For some of us, life has changed dramatically since the arrival of COVID-19.

You may be working at home, working less, or not working at all.

You may miss outings with friends and family, summer vacations, and just having something to look forward to.

You may find that you have more time on your hands.

While at first it may be fun to binge-watch your favorite shows, this can ultimately contribute to rising stress. (5)

" Compulsively following the news is one of the worst sources of stress.

I checked in with my friends and family to see what they’re doing to stay engaged and positive:

Quilting

I’ve got several friends who are making quilts.

One friend is making a quilt for Quilts of Valor, an organization for veterans whose lives were touched by war.

There are other ways to use quilting to help others, such as Quilts for Kids.

I love this idea because doing for others is one of the best ways to make both you and the recipient feel better. (6)

If you’ve got the fabric and the talent, you may want to volunteer to make masks. (People still need them.)

You can search for organizations in your community in need of masks at Deaconess.com.

Learning French

One of my friends and her husband are taking French lessons.

They set aside one hour every evening to speak only French to each other.

Genealogy

Another friend is an avid genealogist.

Learning about your ancestors may give you a new perspective on our world today.

It can help you appreciate how much some of them endured and sacrificed.

It can also help you feel connected to your past.

You might even find some new family members to contact.

You can get started for free at FamilySearch.org.

Geocaching

A few of my family members are into geocaching.

Experts encourage getting outdoors to exercise (while practicing social distancing) and geocaching can make your outing a fun treasure hunt.

You can learn more and get an app at Geocaching.com.

Volunteering

My husband’s good friend volunteers for a grassroots political organization.

With an election coming up shortly, now is a perfect time to get involved.

My sister-in-law works with an animal rescue group.

If it makes sense for you, consider adopting a dog or cat.

Pets are wonderful buffers against stress and loneliness.

Baking

My hair stylist is also a baking enthusiastic who particularly enjoys the challenge of baking for people with dietary restrictions.

Her culinary creations are works of art that make her happy and bring joy to her clients.

Choose Media Selectively

You need to stay prepared and know what’s going on, but compulsively following the news is one of the worst sources of stress.

When you do check the news, get out of your filter bubble and get news from trusted sources.

The best sources for coronavirus information are reputable sources such as:

If you live in the US, you can find a link to your state’s health department website at USA.gov.

For other news, I urge you to stick with balanced websites and news organizations rather than those leaning politically either far right or left.

If you aren’t sure what those balanced sources are, check out AllSides.

This website scientifically analyzes news organization biases and categorizes them as Left – Lean Left – Center – Lean Right – Right – Mixed.

Avoid getting worked up by what you consider extreme viewpoints; this will only further fuel your stress.

Take this idea a step further and actively look for good news on sites like:

Additionally, avoid watching movies or TV shows that fuel your anxiety.

Focus instead on watching things you find uplifting or humorous.

Be Considerate and Grateful

We are all in this together.

Be patient with everyone, especially with those you care about and those you live with.

If you’re not used to being together 24/7, it’s stressful for everyone.

Consciously devise a system that gives everyone in your household some alone time.

When I go out to buy groceries or other necessities, I make a point of expressing gratitude to all employees I encounter.

Working retail is always challenging, and now these people are putting their lives on the line so that we have the essentials we need.

You Can Be Resilient

All of us are descended from very resilient humans.

If our ancestors had not survived their challenges, we wouldn’t be here!

You may find it helpful to talk to some of the seniors you know who have lived through wars, economic downturns, immigration, or similar upheavals.

You may be surprised to learn how they handled their problems.

My former mother-in-law used to pine for her World War II days in London.

She remembered them as the happiest times of her life because the shared struggle bound everyone together.

Life Is Different … For Now

One of my favorite definitions of stress is “resisting what is.”

Try to accept that life will be different for a while.

Embrace these changes as opportunities and look for good things happening around you.

Maybe you get to spend more time with your family, do projects you’ve been putting off, or enjoy not having to commute to work.

Or you may look inward to see how you can reorder the priorities in your life.

This is a good time to work on increasing your resilience.

Trauma experts have found that emotional resilience is not something you’re born with, it’s a skill that can be learned and mastered.

A resilient mindset helps you handle whatever life throws your way so that you can stay strong in the face of adversity.

How to Cope With Coronavirus Stress: Take the Next Step

While these are very stressful times, you can be proactive in lowering your stress level:

  • Follow healthy core lifestyle advice.
  • If you find that you have time on your hands, use it wisely.
  • Monitor your news consumption.
  • Engage in health-giving and uplifting activities.
  • Treat others with kindness and respect — we’re all in the same boat.
  • Believe in your own resilience and take measures to foster a resilient mindset.