6 Coping Strategies to Ease Your Pandemic Anxiety
Positive reframing and active coping are good defenses against Covid-19 stress.
Posted August 12, 2020 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
A growing number of studies show just how damaging the pandemic has been on the mental health of people around the world. By some estimates, approximately one in four people are experiencing clinical levels of anxiety and up to half of all people are experiencing symptoms related to depression.
But there is a bright spot: Psychologists, psychotherapists, and mental health practitioners are getting better at treating the mental health issues stemming from the uncertainty of the pandemic.
New research published in American Psychologist identifies a handful of coping strategies associated with psychological resilience in the face of the pandemic. Topping the list are active coping, positive reframing, instrumental support, religion, acceptance, and emotional support.
- Active coping is characterized by seeking information or social support, seeking help, changing one’s environment, and/or solving problems. An active coping strategy occurs when a person makes a conscious decision to fix something in his/her life. For example, people who seek out the support of a psychotherapist when going through a challenging time is a form of active coping.
- Positive reframing is when someone turns a negative into a positive or finds the best in a situation. It is the glass-half-full mentality. For example, acknowledging that the pandemic has caused you to learn a new skill or subject matter you might not have otherwise acquired, instead of stewing on the fact that you have been stuck at home, is a positive reframe.
- Instrumental support refers to the help others may provide you — for instance, by offering financial assistance, housekeeping, or childcare support.
- Religion. Coping with trauma or stress through the comfort found in spiritual or religious practices is another way to effectively deal with Covid-19-induced anxiety.
- Acceptance is about not getting caught up fighting against things that are out of your control. Instead, it involves responding to change in a way that aligns with your values.
- Emotional support comes from tapping into the warmth and nurturance that is derived from your core social circle. Spending quality time with friends and family, even if through a Zoom call or FaceTime, is another effective way to mitigate the stress of the pandemic.
Not all coping strategies are associated with enhanced psychological well-being. The team of researchers report that substance use, planning, venting, and denial actually do more to hurt the situation than to help it. They also found that humor and self-distraction neither induced a beneficial nor negative change in people’s well-being during the Covid-19 crisis.
To arrive at these conclusions, the researchers monitored changes in people’s psychological well-being between December 2019 and May 2020. Their sample was composed of 979 German adults. They found that well-being did not change much during the early months of the pandemic (December-March), but that it declined substantially from March to May.
The researchers believe their work offers a path forward for the many therapists and mental health workers seeking to understand how to best treat the effects of pandemic-induced anxiety and distress. They state, “These findings imply that the Covid-19 pandemic represents not only a major medical and economic crisis, but also has a psychological dimension” and that “psychological practitioners should address potential declines in subjective well-being with their clients and attempt to enhance clients’ general capability to use functional stress appraisals and effective coping strategies.”
Zacher, H., & Rudolph, C. W. (2020). Individual differences and changes in subjective wellbeing during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. American Psychologist.