Coping Emotionally

With the COVID-19 Pandemic

Our rapidly changing public health situation evokes a wide range of expectable emotional reactions in all of us.

Many people are experiencing symptoms of acute stress, which may include:

  • Shock, feeling unreal, emotionally detached, or numb
  • Anxiety which may include shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, and other panic attack symptoms
  • Hopelessness or feeling a lack of purpose in work and/or academics
  • Helplessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Increased irritability or anger
  • Crying more often than usual
  • Sleep problems
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Feeling more fatigued
  • Headache, stomach ache or other pain
  • Use of alcohol or substances to cope with stress

Most people are also struggling with reactions specific to the COVID-19 outbreak, including:

  • Worry about contamination
  • Anxiety about you and/or loved ones getting ill
  • Preoccupation with possible signs/symptoms of illness
  • Social withdrawal or feeling alone and isolated
  • Anger and/or lack of trust in people and systems
  • Media and information overload

Though our lives are more restricted, there are many possible ways to cope. Remind yourself continually of what you CAN control- and read below for some additional ideas on how to cope.

  • Remind yourself that this situation is temporary and will pass.
  • Think of other times you have overcome adversity.
  • Create new daily routines to build comfort and consistency.
  • Spend a little time outside every day, take notice of the sound of birds, the feel of the sun or rain, the smell of the season etc…
  • Don’t underestimate the power of BREATHING. Wherever you are, focus on breathing in… holding your breath for a few seconds… and breathing back out. See below for additional ways to practice breathing.
  • Focus on being mindful. Be present in your everyday activities. For instance, you can practice this when you wash your hands by focusing on the movements, sensations, smells and other aspects of this activity.
  • Prioritize healthy eating and sleep habits.
  • Participate in some physical activity, which can help boost your immune system and energy levels, improve your sleep, and decrease stress.
  • Meditate. It is not as hard as it seems. See the apps and links below to get a jump start.
  • Stay informed, but dose information to once or twice a day. Make sure your sources are reliable and do not listen to information before going to sleep.
  • Keep doing what you enjoy and what relaxes you: listening to music, watching TV, talking to friends, taking a bath, cooking, coloring, etc…
  • Focus on observations of good in this time (like acts of kindness, communities coming together, different and new ways to use your time, greater contact with others even if virtual)
  • Create regular “no-coronavirus” zones personally and with others.
  • See this as an opportunity to recognize and be grateful for all the people and good you have in your life.
  • Reach out to the people you love and value even from afar. Connections to people keep us emotionally healthy.
  • Seek professional support if needed.
  • Share your feelings with others or journal.

See the additional resources below. With knowledge, tools, and the support of others, we will all navigate through this uncertain time together.

For specific support and resources related to COVID, download the following:

COVID Coach App 

For immediate help and relief, try the following:

Body Scan Meditation
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Breathing Exercise
There are also many other similar resources online with different music, voices and methods.

If you like experiential apps,
here are some to download:


Insighttimer  (has sleep component)
Stop, Breathe, Think 
Headspace  (has sleep component)
The Mindfulness App
Mindfulness Coach


Calm  (has sleep component)
Relax Change Create 
Colorify (a coloring book to destress)


Yoga Nidra for Sleep
Relax Melodies


Journal for You
Gratitude Journal

For those who would like to read more, feel free to explore:

Shine’s Virus Anxiety Toolkit
From the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty
From the CDC, Mental Health and Coping During COVIVD-19
From the CDC, Reducing Stigma
From SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Coping with Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks
From the NY Times, A Brain Hack to Break the Coronavirus Anxiety Cycle
From The Conversation, 7 Science-Based Strategies to Cope with Coronavirus Anxiety
From Thrive Global, 6 Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Family from Anxiety about the Coronavirus
From Onbeing, A Listening Care Package for Uncertain Times (a collection of podcasts and poetry)
From Yoga Journal, Stressed About Coronavirus? Here’s How Yoga Can Help
From Mindful, How Mindfulness Can Help You Navigate the Coronavirus Panic
From Lizzo, A Meditation and Mantra to Promote Global Healing (30m)
From Yo-Yo Ma, Songs of Comfort
From NPR and Spotify, A Playlist with 6 Hours of Soothing Music


Adapted from the information Dr. Saler gathered from others and created for the Pace University Counseling Center website.

Please Note: Links to external sources are provided solely as a courtesy. I am not responsible for nor do I endorse or warrant in any way any materials, information, goods or services available through such linked sites or any privacy or other practices of such sites.