How to cope with COVID-19 stress

businesswoman standing outside with eyes closed 

Is coronavirus (COVID-19) adding stress to your workday?  You’re not alone.

During this time of added pressure to keep everyone as healthy as possible—not to mention navigating disruptions to your normal professional and personal routines—it’s more important than ever to utilize stress management and self-care strategies.

Here are some tips to help you cope:

Keep your body in good working order. Focus on nutrition, sleep, exercise, staying properly hydrated and, of course, good hand hygiene

Prioritize taking periodic breaks. Sometimes it’s important to take a break and decompress for five to 10 minutes. For example, you could:

  • Take a walk.
  • Sit still in a quiet space and close your eyes for a couple of minutes.
  • Put in some earbuds and listen to some soothing music.

Remember to breathe. Intentional breathing, slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth, can help you slow down and focus on the present moment.

As much as possible, focus on one thing at a time. Prioritize working on the things you actually have some control over. Worrying about things you can’t change wastes energy and doesn’t change the outcome of the situation.

Keep a healthy, balanced perspective. Manage your self-talk; what we tell ourselves about what’s happening really does matter.

  • Ask yourself, is what I’m saying to myself about this situation reasonable and realistic?
  • Challenge “all-or-nothing” thoughts; these tend not to be accurate, and they can fuel feelings of anxiety.
  • Challenge “should” thoughts; these tend to be counter-productive, and they can fuel feelings of anger or resentment.

Be compassionate. Remember that everyone (including you) is doing the best they can.

Seek out 3 good things each day to help balance out the negative. Celebrate successes (even tiny wins) throughout your day.

Limit social media engagement. Limit the amount of time spent scrolling social media feeds seeking more news and information about COVID-19. Instead, schedule device-free time to focus on doing things with your family.

Finally, remember what a talented, competent, capable and skilled person you are. Your contributions at work and at home really matter. We’re all in this together.

Arianna Galligher is a licensed independent social worker supervisor and the associate director of the STAR Trauma Recovery Center at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. 

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