How to Cope with the Stress of COVID-19

Perhaps the only people who might relate to the stress everyone is feeling these days are those few who were alive during the flu pandemic of 1918-1920 (yes, it lasted three years). Then, as today, the pandemic caused global industry shutdowns, overcrowded hospitals, mandatory closures, and people huddled in their homes in fear.

Our concierge doctors want to assure you that we’ve been in situations similar to what we’re facing today—and we somehow made it through.


Common worries

But we also realize that’s little comfort if you’re trying to find a way to cope with the stress that this virus has imposed on everyone.

Some of the common stresses that we’re all facing right now include worries about:

  • whether you or a loved one will contract the virus
  • whether you or a loved one will die as a result
  • if you have to be quarantined, how long it will last
  • whether you’ll lose your job, or whether your business will survive
  • whether the grocery stores will be able to remain open
  • your investments
  • your children’s future academic progress
  • whether you’ll lose your home
  • whether this will ever end . . .


In addition, some people are facing additional stresses.

  • People who are in abusive relationships are now stranded at home with their abusers
  • Those who are in recovery for addiction are finding it difficult to maintain the support systems they need to succeed.
  • Those with ongoing health challenges like lupus or malaria are facing shortages of their medication due to off-label use of hydroxychloroquine.
  • Those in need of such treatments as chemotherapy, physical therapy following surgery, or kidney dialysis face additional roadblocks to receiving regular care.
  • Those with preexisting mental health issues are finding they’re exacerbated by this new worry.

These are just some of the many large and small concerns that we’re all facing, and our point is that you are not alone. If you’re having difficulty coping, so are most other people, to one degree or another.


The result

Even those who are typically good at dealing with stress are having difficulties.

Some of the problems that result from constant anxiety include:

  • sleeplessness
  • increased irritability or anger
  • depression
  • forgetfulness
  • difficulty focusing

In addition, stress has been shown to cause or exacerbate myriad physical problems, along with suppressing the immune system.


How to manage

Here are some ways to help reduce the stress you’re feeling.

  1. Let it be okay

It’s perfectly normal—it’s a biological imperative, in fact—to be anxious or fearful when new situations arise. That hypervigilance is what kept us alive in caveman days. So don’t stress over being stressed. And don’t beat yourself up for not doing everything perfectly, from parenting to work.


  1. Limit your news intake

At this point, there’s very little real news coming out about the coronavirus that you can’t afford to miss. If a new cure or way to protect yourself is suddenly discovered, trust us: You’ll hear about it even if you don’t check your newsfeed or watch the cable channels ‘round the clock.


  1. Take care of your body

Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and sweets will all negatively impact your immune system. Seven-to-eight hours of sleep, a diet low in salt and high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean meats, as well as relaxation exercises (e.g., yoga, tai chi, meditation, long baths) will all help your body’s immune system and your mind’s resilience.


  1. Get moving

Exercise not only helps your body fight off germs, it’s also a proven stress reliever. If you can’t get outdoors, do sit-ups or jumping jacks, run up and down the stairs, or dance around the house.


  1. Breathe right

Take a slow, deep breath into your belly to a count of four, hold it for a count of four, release it to a count of eight. Do this several times for instant calm.


  1. Distract yourself

There’s nothing wrong with ignoring a situation you can’t do anything about. Once you’ve taken all the precautions you can to protect yourself and your family, read a novel, binge on Netflix (but maybe skip “Contagion” or “World War Z”), take walks, write your memoirs, look at the stars, play with your kids and pets, plant a garden . . . anything that will occupy your mind with something other than the coronavirus.


  1. Connect with others

Humans are hard-wired to connect with other humans, and the cruelest aspect of the fight against the coronavirus is the enforced isolation when we most need contact. So phone, write, Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook . . . reach out to others at a distance as much as possible. If you can do so safely, volunteer to help other people or organizations that need assistance now.


  1. Laugh a lot

Laughter is not only calming, it has been shown to reduce pain and improve the flow of oxygen to the heart and brain. It is impossible to feel anxious or angry when laughing, so do it as often as possible.


  1. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness means paying intense attention to what is going on around you at the moment: the laughter of your children, the taste of your food, the smell of wet soil . . . anything that anchors you in the present has a calming effect on your nervous system and reduces worry.


  1. Ask for help

If you are still feeling overwhelmed, let us know. Alternatively, call 911 if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, or call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


You can also visit the Disaster Distress Helpline, call 1-800-985-05990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746. If you’re in a domestic violence situation, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, call 1-800-799-7233, or text LOVEIS to 22522.

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