Coping with Coronavirus Stress

stylized face with mask and virus floating around

Sadness, hopelessness, fear, rage, panic, minimization, rationalization, numbness, denial are just some of the reactions you might be having to the current moment. Whatever you're experiencing is your body's attempt at coping with a stressful and rapidly changing situation.

Being mad at your very human reactions or wishing you were responding in some other way will only increase your suffering. So try to be extra gentle with yourself. Treat yourself with love, warmth, and kindness, like you would a dear friend in need.

If you're caring for others, know that gifting yourself compassion enables you to have more compassion to gift others. And we all need more compassion to get through these challenging times.

Below are nine other ways of caring for yourself now. 

1. Lower your standards in all areas except social distancing, mask-wearing, hand washing, and disinfecting commonly used surfaces - e.g., request extensions for upcoming deadlines, stay in your pajamas if you want, leave the bed unmade, check email less often.

2. Although it's tempting to bombard yourself with news and social media, set boundaries instead with the goal of avoiding completely at least two hours before bed. [Make sure to boundary your kids' access to the news too.]

3. Sleep at least 7 hours nightly. This practice is good at all times but especially during stressful moments when your body needs rest to heal and reset.

4. Pay attention to being pulled into unhealthy avoidance behaviors - e.g., excessive eating, drinking, smoking, drug use. These behaviors amplify stress in the long run.

5. Make space for healthy behaviors that are soothing such as reading, drawing, art, mindful coloring, journaling, or yoga. 

6. Pause throughout the day to connect with the present moment. Doing so helps minimize time-traveling to the future or past, which can amplify your stress response. 

7.  Connect with loved ones via phone, not just text or email. While we may not be able to visit each other due to social distancing recommendations, talking on the phone can go a long way toward making the present moment feel a bit more manageable.

8. Start a gratitude practice by writing three things daily you're grateful for. Gratitude widens our focus beyond immediate or imagined threats, enabling us to see the beauty and wonder that are also present in our lives.

9. Finally, don't forget to play. Have a pillow fight with your kids, schedule a home movie night, dance around your house, sing some Prince at the top of your lungs, have a joke off with your partner...whatever you need to remind yourself sunshine lies behind the clouds.

I hope these practices bring a bit of peace to the chaos.

Stay well (and inside).

Roxanne A. Donovan, PhD, is the founder of WellAcademic, a clinical psychologist, and a Professor. Integrated with her professional identities are her rich, multilayered roles as spouse, mom, auntie, sister, daughter, friend. She writes and teaches about health, wellness, and social justice. 


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