Managing Anxiety and Stress during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic feels overwhelming to so many. News of widespread disease can evoke fear and anxiety among people of all ages and backgrounds. Learning useful methods to manage the stress associated with COVID-19 will help you and your community stay resilient. 

Not everyone responds in the same way too stressful situations. Reactions to the COVID-19 outbreak hinge on a variety of factors: experience, emotional tolerance, education, resources, the community you live in and other factors. Some individuals may react more strongly to the burden of a pandemic. The people struggling most with this stressful situation may include: 

  • People who are helping with the response to COVID-19, such as physicians and other health care providers, or first responders
  • Older people and people with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for COVID-19
  • People who have preexisting mental health conditions
  • Children and teens 

People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms.

Stress can appear in different shapes and forms. Fear and anxiety during a pandemic can include: 

  • Worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Difficulty sleeping or focusing
  • Changes in eating patterns or sleep
  • Worsening of preexisting health problems
  • Increased use of substances like alcohol, tobacco or other drugs
  • Somatic symptoms: mental stress may cause physical discomfort (i.e.) headaches, joint-pain, stomach aches, or any other unidentifiable physiological symptom

It is important during these times to prioritize care. Being mindful of yourself, your family and your friends can increase both you and the community’s ability to cope with stress. 

The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress makes mention of some helpful ways to manage anxiety during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Activities to help manage stress 

  • Stay up to date about developments related to the infectious disease outbreak by using a reliable and accurate source of health-related information, such as the CDC
  • Stick to your usual daily routine (as much as possible)
  • Focus on positive aspects of your life and things that you can control
  • Seek social support from family members and/or friends and maintain social connections 
  • Engage in relaxation techniques for stress reduction
  • Engage in physical activity and other enjoyable activities
  • If you or a family member is feeling overwhelmed, seek (appropriately distanced) support from your health providers, friends, and peer groups

Be sure to take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Repeatedly hearing about the pandemic can be upsetting.

Relying on credible sources and sharing the facts about COVID-19 can make an outbreak less stressful. Having access to resources that accurately convey updates, risks, and information about COVID-19 is essential. Sharing accurate information can alleviate worry and enable better communication and connections within the community. 

If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others, please call 911.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517)

Mental Health Services in Massachusetts and Rhode Island

Southcoast Health provides behavioral health services in Fall River, Dartmouth, New Bedford and Wareham, MA, as well as surrounding areas of Rhode Island. You can confidentially reach out to Southcoast Behavioral Health in Dartmouth by calling 508-207-9800 or finding a psych MD in your area today.