- Almost 78 percent of adults report that the pandemic has been a significant stressor in their lives.
- First steps to increasing resilience include getting vaccinated when you are eligible and seeking out accurate, up-to-date information.
- People feeling stress may benefit from a focus on taking care of their bodies, practicing gratitude, and engaging in meaningful activities.
Here you are, more than one year into the pandemic. Many people continue to face challenges and hardships related to COVID-19, isolation, finances, family and loved ones, and their own well-being. Even as vaccines become increasingly available across the U.S. and the world, people are trying to figure out how to cope as effectively as they can.
In October 2020, an American Psychological Association survey reported that the COVID-19 pandemic substantially affected the lives of Americans, disrupting relationships, education, work life, healthcare, and economics – with greater negative impact on some groups than others (American Psychological Association, 2020). According to this survey, almost 78 percent of adults reported that the coronavirus pandemic is a significant stressor in their lives.
A Health Tracking Poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation published in July 2020 revealed that a majority of adults in the U.S. worried that stress about the coronavirus pandemic was negatively affecting their mental health (KFF Tracking Poll, 2020). About one-third of respondents reported that worry or stress related to the pandemic was leading to difficulties with sleep, and another third connected the pandemic to poor appetite or over-eating. Younger adults were more likely to report that the coronavirus was having a negative impact on their mental health, as they struggled to deal with childcare, work challenges, children falling behind academically, and worries about their family finances.
More than one year into the pandemic, how are you coping?
Tips for Coping with Pandemic Stress
Here are six strategies to help you reduce your reactions to stress and strengthen your resilience.
1. Get vaccinated for COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and most experts recommend getting vaccinated as soon as you are eligible. For more information, check out the CDC website.
2. Continue to seek accurate, up-to-date information to help reduce feelings of stress and overwhelm. Even as the pandemic continues beyond year one, it’s important to have relevant, timely facts. New information and scientific knowledge continue to evolve.
Joseph McGuire, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins Medical Center (2020), recommends seeking solid up-to-date information from credible resources about the science, the illness, and steps you can take to prevent it. Two resources he suggests are the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC.
3. Continue to have supportive conversations with the children and teens in your life. Dr. McGuire (2020) also recommends tips to help young people feel calmer: Listen carefully to your child and try to share accurate information to help them reduce their concerns and their risk. Focus conversations on actions kids can do, such as healthy hand-washing and healthy routines for playing.
4. Practice gratitude. This may sound counter-intuitive during the pandemic, but it’s well established that acknowledging the goodness in your life can help you cope with the adversities. A daily gratitude practice can be a useful way to shift from negativity to a more positive worldview (Emmons, 2007; Emmons, 2003; Seligman, 2005).
One strategy is to think of a few things that went well today. For example: walking for 15 minutes, noticing the sun shining, talking to a loved one by phone or text. Reflect on what you are grateful for or what went right. It can help to write these gratitude items down.
5. Take good care of your body. The CDC (2020) offers recommendations for coping with stress, including:
- Eat healthy meals that are well balanced.
- Stretch, take deep breaths, meditate.
- Exercise regularly and take regular movement breaks throughout the day.
- Give yourself time to do activities that you enjoy to help you unwind and feel more balanced.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
6. Seek safe ways to interact with others, whether virtually or in person. Remember that relationships are an important contributor to well-being. Connect with other people safely, but do connect with other people, whether in person or virtually. CDC guidelines for encountering others safely in person continue to evolve.
7. Identify activities that are meaningful to you and create time and energy to engage in them. Even a few minutes weekly, focused on something you’re passionate about, can help reduce stress and build resilience. For example, contribute to your community in your own unique way, pursue a hobby or activity that you love, create a writing habit, expand a skill.
This post is for educational purposes and should not substitute for psychotherapy with a qualified professional.
American Psychological Association. (2021). Stress in America 2020 – A national mental health crisis. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2020/report-october
Emmons, R.A., et al. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389.
Emmons, R.A. (2007). Thanks! How the new science of gratitude can make you happier. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Hamel, L., Kearney, A., Kirzinger, A., Lopes, L., Munana, C., & Brodie, M. (July 27, 2020). KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) Health Tracking Poll – July 2020. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/report/kff-health-tracking-poll-july-2020/
McGuire, J.M (2020). Stressed about Covid-19. The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, The Johns Hopkins Health System. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/stressed-about-covid19-heres-what-can-help
Seligman, M.E.P., Steen, T.A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421.
Your Health: Coping with Stress. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. July 1, 2020.