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Managing stress during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Are you feeling stress, fear and anxiety amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic ? If so, you’re not alone. The recommendations for masking and social distancing affect nearly every part of our lives, including finances, relationships, transportation, jobs and healthcare.

Some common causes of stress during the coronavirus pandemic are uncertainty, lack of routine and reduced social support, says Mark Flanagan, LMSW, MPH, MA, a social worker at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont .

Routines and COVID-19

As humans, we don’t like uncertainty and tend to thrive in routines , says Flanagan. Routines are essential because they create a sense of normalcy and control in our lives. This sense of control then allows us to manage the challenges that come our way. 

“When we don’t have a routine, much of our time is spent trying to establish one,” says Flanagan. “Without a routine, we often pay attention to the things that are most ‘flashy.’ When big news happens, we tend to focus on it more.”

Social support and COVID-19

Not only are our routines currently disrupted, but the routines of everyone around us are as well.

“When something goes wrong in our lives, we can usually rely on others to get a sense of calm,” he says. “But when everyone is experiencing the same sense of uncertainty, there’s no real ‘anchor’ to help manage some of the stress.” 

Stress affects your health

Stress management is essential for good physical health , and it’s especially important right now as our world addresses the COVID-19 pandemic .

“While short-term pressures and stress are normal and can help us change in positive ways , chronic stress causes a huge deterioration in our quality of life on a physical level,” says Flanagan. “When we are more pessimistic, depressed or anxious, our immune system goes down and produces more stress hormones, reducing our immunity and increasing inflammation.”

Stress can also put a strain on your mental health, relationships and productivity, he notes.

Stress reduction tips for COVID-19

“Rather than dwell on nervousness, focus on the things you can control,” Flanagan suggests. “When you move the locus of control from something outside yourself to inside yourself, you powerfully reduce anxiety and boost confidence.”

He suggests the following steps to regain control and reduce stress.

Follow the recommended health guidelines. These guidelines include getting the COVID-19 vaccine , frequent hand-washing, wearing a mask in public places, social distancing, practicing respiratory etiquette and cleaning commonly used surfaces. See the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) . Not only will you protect your health, but you’ll also protect the health of vulnerable people in your community, like older adults and those with serious or underlying health issues.

Create a morning routine. When you’re stuck at home, it can be tempting to let go of basic routines, but Flanagan says a morning routine can help you feel more productive and positive. Consider waking up at the same time each day, exercising, showering, meditating, journaling, tidying your home or having a healthy breakfast as part of your morning ritual.

Check in with loved ones regularly. Staying in touch with family and friends can help reduce stress.

Consider ways to help others. This can include picking up groceries for a neighbor and leaving them at their door, donating to a local charity, or purchasing gift cards from your favorite restaurant. By taking the focus off yourself, you can experience reduced stress and a greater sense of well-being.

Have a daily self-care ritual. Self-care can include exercise, meditation, walking outside, reading, taking a bubble bath, painting, journaling, gardening, cooking a healthy meal or enjoying a favorite hobby. Pick one thing and do it at the same time each day. It will help anchor your day and provide a welcome respite.

Limit news and media consumption. “When we constantly check our newsfeeds and see bad news, it activates our sympathetic nervous system and can send us into fight-or-flight mode,” says Flanagan. He recommends limiting how often you check the news to once or twice a day (ideally not first thing in the morning or after dinner), turning off news alerts, and obtaining information from one or two reputable news outlets.

Set boundaries around social media. “There’s this concept of toxic sociality where we constantly have to be connected, even in superficial ways, and when we’re not, it feels like part of us isn’t being ‘fed,’” he explains. “It’s important to practice social distancing with social media too. We may not think we’re having any effect on our newsfeed, but we can take steps to reduce the ripple effect of panic on social media.” He suggests posting positive messages online and being mindful of your likes, shares and comments. 

Meditate. Meditation can help restore your sense of control as you focus on your breath or a positive word or phrase. “ Meditation can help you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, and that’s an antidote to fear,” says Flanagan. “And when you’re more centered, you’re able to create a calm reality around you.” Try this guided meditation to get started. 

Encourage others. “Often, when we are scared, it can be tempting to repeat negative messages, but actively encouraging family and friends is really important,” he says. “Chances are, someone is having a harder time than you are. Your words matter and people will respond accordingly. It’s important to realize we are not victims; we are helping to create our environment and change it for the better. By sending positive messages out into the world, you’ll not only affect those around you, but those words will come back to you.”

Hope during the coronavirus pandemic

“It’s important to remember that this will pass sooner or later,” says Flanagan. “The world has gone through many different challenges, like disease outbreaks, war and uncertain times. For better or worse, these times always pass. That doesn’t mean this time isn’t significantly challenging, but if we focus on what we can control and do things that are good for our health and the health of those around us, we will come out of this in perhaps a more whole state and with a renewed perspective. It’s important to look toward the future and begin building for that future. You can always have hope. Hope never leaves us.”

For information on coronavirus (COVID-19), including symptoms, risks and ways to protect yourself, click here.

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Managing stress during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Parent stressing over COVID-19 drawing

Social distancing because of Coronavirus (COVID-19) is the best thing we can do right now to decrease the risk of spreading the virus in our communities. But social distancing and self-isolation can be really stressful.  The CDC says  the following people may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis such as this:

Even if you don’t fall into one of those categories, being cooped up in your house isn’t always easy. We have some recommendations for lowering your stress during this time of uncertainty.

Do virtual meetups or playdates.

Use whatever technology you have available (Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, etc.) to virtually meet up with those you love. If your kids are missing their friends from school or best friend from down the block, work with parents to arrange virtual playdates. If communicating this way isn’t your thing, become pen pals with people. Most people love getting letters in the mail and the anticipation of the return letter will help pass the time.

Make “me” time.

“Me” time is important for everyone in your home to practice. Set aside time every day for your kids to do something for themselves or have quiet time in their rooms, and during this time, treat yourself to something that will help you relax. Do 30 minutes of yoga, eat your favorite snack without having to share with your kids, or watch a new episode of a TV show—whatever it is that will help you unwind.

Cut yourself (and your kids) some slack.

When schedules and routines are turned upside down, everyone is off their game. You and your kids may feel cranky or frustrated, and there might be more crying than usual.  Remind yourself that some days are going to be harder than others, and don’t dwell on the things you could have gotten done or should have done differently. Instead, try to focus on the more positive moments throughout your day. 

Go outside when possible.

Social distancing doesn’t require you to stay in your home 24 hours per day. If the weather is nice, get outside and play! Or just read a book on your porch while your kids play. Either way, your whole family will benefit from busting out of your home and burning some energy.

Limit your time on social media and watching the news.

This can be tough for some people because scrolling through social media is often seen as a way of relaxing. But the constant exposure to the worries over COVID-19 can be harmful. Put a limit on how long you will spend on social media and how much of the news you’ll watch each day. Consider doing the same thing for your children. Their exposure to the news of COVID-19 can cause fear, worry, and stress, which can lead to irritability or acting out, unhealthy eating and sleep habits, excessive sadness, and difficulty with attention and concentration.

Check in with yourself and your partner about how you’re handling the stress as a parent.

It can be helpful to take a step back and evaluate how you’re handling the stress of COVID-19 and social distancing. Getting your partner’s feedback about whether you’re losing your cool often, raising your voice more than normal, or generally not acting like yourself is also helpful. Keeping open and honest communication is vital during this time. If you find that the stress and worry of the situation is causing more irritation or anger with your child than usual, remind yourself of the following:

Keep your routine (as much as possible).

With kids being out of school, and parents being out of work or working from home, routines are basically thrown out the window. But you can keep your family’s morning, mealtime, and bedtime routines consistent. This will give your kids a sense of consistency, and it will help you too. 

Plan activities to pass the time.

Doing puzzles, taking classes online, or playing outside are all great ways to spend time during isolation. This is a great time to review old “Bill Nye the Science Guy” videos with your kids and recreate some of his experiments together! If you usually get together with other families to play board games, cards, or watch movies, plan to still do those activities virtually. It might feel a bit odd at first, but it will help keep vital connections with others and help keep your mind busy.

This can be a stressful time for adults and children, but by tempering expectations of yourself and your kids, and finding ways to pass the time, you can get through this. If you find yourself struggling to cope with COVID-19 or social distancing, here are some helpful resources:

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Managing stress during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and beyond: Reappraisal and mindset approaches

Martin s. hagger.

1 Department of Psychological Sciences, University of California Merced, Merced California, USA

2 Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä Finland

3 Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Gold Coast Queensland, Australia

Jacob J. Keech

4 School of Social Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs Queensland, Australia

Kyra Hamilton

5 School of Applied Psychology, Griffith University, Mt Gravatt Queensland, Australia


The novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) pandemic is a global public health crisis of a scale not previously experienced in modern times (Kickbusch et al., 2020 ). Governmental ‘lockdown’ measures aimed at minimizing virus transmission including ‘stay at home’ orders, closure of businesses and places of congregation, and travel restrictions have had a substantive societal impact that permeates almost every facet of daily life (Gostin & Wiley, 2020 ; Shanafelt, Ripp, & Trockel, 2020 ). These widespread changes represent considerable sources of stress in the population and will have deleterious effects on mental and physical health going forward. As nations begin to emerge from ‘lockdown’, the collateral damage to human health caused by these restrictions has taken centre stage, and mental health issues, particularly stress‐related conditions and outcomes, are prominent among them. The imperative for strategies to assist in managing stress and minimizing concomitant health problems has become a priority. In this commentary, we outline how stress reappraisal interventions, which have come to the fore in recent years, may be a potentially efficacious, cost‐effective way to manage stress during and post‐pandemic, and minimize the health consequences.

The health threat posed by the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS‐CoV‐2), the virus that causes COVID‐19, and concerns about its effects on family, friends, and colleagues, represents a substantive source of stress itself (Hamel et al., 2020 ; Nelson et al., 2020 ). Beyond this, the social effects of the lockdown measures such as concerns over availability of food and household goods and social isolation also present as important stressors (S. K. Brooks et al., 2020 ; Garfin, Silver, & Holman, 2020 ; Hamel et al., 2020 ). In addition, enforced closure of all but essential services has left many at risk of unemployment and facing economic uncertainty. Many have lost their primary source of income, which raises the unwelcome prospect of inability to afford basic costs of living including housing and food. Such threats are particularly marked among those on low incomes and underserved communities who already live paycheck to paycheck and have limited access to healthcare or benefits and face housing and food insecurity. Economic uncertainty, therefore, represents a further source of stress particularly in vulnerable groups (Van Lancker & Parolin, 2020 ; Yilmazkuday, 2020 ). Individuals employed in frontline workforces are also among those at higher risk. These workers have been directly responsible for maintaining essential services during the lockdown and have been shown to experience substantive increases in stress and vicarious traumatization (Chen et al., 2020 ; Law, 2020 ; Li et al., 2020 ). Previous research in similar contexts such as disasters and other traumatic events (Brackbill et al., 2006 ; Garfin, Thompson, & Holman, 2018 ; Mills, Edmondson, & Park, 2007 ), coupled with data from areas first affected by the virus such as China (Wang et al., 2020 ) and South Korea (Park & Park, 2020 ), have noted substantive increases in community stress levels.

The elevated stress arising from the pandemic and associated lockdown measures are likely to be prolonged even after the threat of the virus has passed. In an encouraging development, nations that have been effective in achieving declining rates of daily COVID‐19 cases, a key milestone in the goal of gaining control over the pandemic, have begun the slow, phased process of easing lockdown measures and restoring economic activities (Kupferschmidt, 2020 ). Businesses and public services including transportation, elective healthcare services, and educational institutions have begun to reopen, albeit with strict guidelines on social distancing and use of protective equipment where appropriate. However, the pace of the emergence from lockdown is understandably gradual, given the high extant infection rates in many areas and the omnipresent threat of a ‘second wave’ of infections (Day, 2020 ). This means that the financial difficulties and economic concerns remain a very real threat and will do so for a substantive period of time after the pandemic itself has passed.

The prolonged exposure to stress arising from the crisis is likely to have insidious long‐term health effects including increased risk of physical (e.g., chronic disease risk) and mental (e.g., depression, anxiety disorders and post‐traumatic stress disorder) health problems (Cohen, Janicki‐Deverts, & Miller, 2007 ; Kuo et al., 2019 ; Wu, Chan, & Ma, 2005 ), impaired cognitive function (McEwen & Sapolsky, 1995 ), and reduced productivity and absenteeism in the workplace (Kirsten, 2010 ). Such effects are also likely to remain long after the pandemic ends and lockdown measures lifted given that economic threats will likely persist. Chronic stress is, therefore, an important parallel public health concern during the current pandemic and in its aftermath (Garfin et al., 2020 ). The development of effective means to mitigate and manage stress arising from the pandemic and afterwards should, therefore, be considered a priority. It is also important that means applied to manage stress do not place increased burden on healthcare services already at or exceeding capacity (Armocida, Formenti, Ussai, Palestra, & Missoni, 2020 ). The onus lies on behavioural scientists to develop effective low‐cost means to assist with the management during and after the crisis.


Stress‐management strategies that focus on stress reappraisal may be a promising approach. Increasing evidence suggests that individuals' beliefs about stress play an important role on their capacity to cope effectively with stress and mitigate maladaptive stress‐related outcomes (Crum, Salovey, & Achor, 2013 ; Jamieson, Peters, Greenwood, & Altose, 2016 ; Keech, Cole, Hagger, & Hamilton, 2020 ; Liu, Vickers, Reed, & Hadad, 2017 ). Many models of stress, such as the transactional model of stress and coping (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984 ), the biopsychosocial model of stress (Blascovich & Mendes, 2010 ) and the stress optimization model (Crum, Jamieson, & Akinola, 2020 ) suggest that stress appraisals and mindsets are central to determining whether individuals' responses to stressors are adaptive and lead to effective coping, or maladaptive and lead to ineffective coping and compromised health and functioning. A key prediction of these theories is that individuals who appraise stress as challenging, as opposed to threatening and hold beliefs that stress can be enhancing and facilitate pursuit of valued goals, as opposed to debilitating and suboptimal in goal pursuit, cope more effectively and exhibit better outcomes. These perspectives each propose two adaptive strategies that alter individuals' perspectives on stress and are likely to be highly effective in stress management: stress reappraisals and stress mindsets. Together, these strategies aim to alter the received perspective that stress is negative and leads to maladaptive outcomes including poorer health, reduced functioning, and impaired performance on tasks (A. W. Brooks, 2014 ; Crum, Akinola, Martin, & Fath, 2017 ; Crum et al., 2013 ; Jamieson et al., 2016 ; Jamieson, Mendes, Blackstock, & Schmader, 2010 ; Jamieson, Nock, & Mendes, 2013 ; Liu, Ein, Gervasio, & Vickers, 2019 ). Such approaches contrast with the majority of stress‐management strategies that typically aim to minimize the frequency or magnitude of felt stress and anxiety (Clough et al., 2017 ; Hagger & Stevenson, 2010 ; WHO, 2020 ).

Stress reappraisal interventions focus on prompting individuals to view their stress response as a resource or ‘skill’ that can be potentially beneficial (Jamieson et al., 2016 ; Jamieson, Mendes, & Nock, 2013 ). The goal of such interventions is to prompt individuals to interpret stress differently, such that higher arousal in situations once appraised as threatening and to be avoided, are instead appraised as challenging, to be approached and as facilitative of optimal performance. Such interventions are proposed to be particularly effective in contexts where the source of stress cannot be avoided and, therefore, represents a viable and adaptive alternative to strategies focused on reducing stress intensity. Stress reappraisal interventions usually involve the presentation of scenarios highlighting that stress can be effective in promoting better coping and performance, and have been shown to be effective in reducing acute stress responses and improved performance in contexts such as work and academic performance (A. W. Brooks, 2014 ; Jamieson et al., 2010 , 2013 , 2016 ; Jones, Hanton, & Swain, 1994 ; Liu et al., 2017 , 2019 ).

A complimentary approach is offered by stress mindset theorists, who propose that individuals holding a stress‐is‐enhancing mindset view stress as having enhancing consequences on functioning, performance and health (Crum et al., 2013 ; Keech et al., 2020 ; Keech & Hamilton, 2020 ). This is contrasted with a stress‐is‐debilitating mindset, in which stress is viewed as having debilitating consequences on outcomes. This perspective has arisen from perspectives on implicit or ‘lay’ theories, in which individuals ‘lay’ beliefs about phenomena are characterized as either entity or incremental (Dweck, 2000 ). Individuals holding entity theories view phenomena like intelligence or personal qualities as fixed and unchanging, while incremental theorists view these phenomena as malleable and changeable. A stress‐is‐enhancing mindset is consistent with an incremental perspective, such that individuals have a flexible perspective on stress and hold beliefs that stress is an opportunity for growth with the potential to facilitate performance and functioning. In contrast, a stress‐is‐debilitating mindset is more consistent with an entity perspective such that individuals hold a view of stress which is more consistent with the received view that stress is harmful. A growing body of research has demonstrated that individuals endorsing a stress‐is‐enhancing mindset report reduced physiological stress responses, greater positive affect and cognitive flexibility, better self‐rated health, higher life satisfaction, and better academic and work performance (Casper, Sonnentag, & Tremmel, 2017 ; Crum et al., 2013 ; Keech et al., 2020 ; Keech, Hagger, O'Callaghan, & Hamilton, 2018 ). Furthermore, research in multiple contexts has demonstrated that a stress‐is‐enhancing mindset can be induced through intervention and have been shown to be effective in mitigating negative outcomes to highly stressful events (Crum et al., 2013 , 2017 ; Keech, Hagger, & Hamilton, 2019 ).

Considering this evidence, stress reappraisal and stress mindset intervention strategies are highly efficacious, low‐cost means to assist in mitigating the deleterious effects of high levels of stress. Importantly, these strategies may be viable means to mitigate the maladaptive consequences of the considerable social upheaval and economic stress experienced during and after the pandemic and lockdown procedures, although formal evaluations of their efficacy in the context of the current COVID‐19 pandemic are needed. Such interventions may also equip those vulnerable to high stress with better capacity to cope with the easing of the lockdown and adjust more effectively to a return to work and the ‘new normal’. Stress reappraisal and mindset interventions also meet the need for a cost‐effective, low‐burden solution to pandemic‐related stress. Consistent with the broader need for cost‐effective, self‐administered behaviour change interventions (Hagger, 2010 ; Hagger, Cameron, Hamilton, Hankonen, & Lintunen, 2020 ; Hardcastle, Fortier, Blake, & Hagger, 2017 ; Knittle et al., 2020 ), stress reappraisal interventions do not require extensive client–practitioner interaction or a highly intensive administration protocol and can be self‐administered through messages and prompts delivered by remote means, such as via online, smartphone, or other devices.


A number of different techniques have been adopted to administer stress reappraisal and stress mindset interventions. Research in laboratory contexts adopt minimalist approaches aimed at manipulating stress appraisals or mindsets. For example, in stress reappraisal experiments, participants are presented with text‐based messages aimed at manipulating the appraisal process (Jamieson et al., 2010 , 2013 ; Liu et al., 2017 ). The messages often refer to a specific salient event (e.g., an exam or test), instruct the individual to acknowledge their feelings of stress, and present evidence that stress does not necessarily harm performance and can be facilitative. In mindset experiments, participants are presented with informational messages which advocate the enhancing nature of stress (Crum et al., 2013 , 2017 ). Such manipulations have demonstrated the malleability of stress appraisals and mindsets and their efficacy in producing adaptive physiological, psychological, and behavioural outcomes in laboratory settings when under stress.

In the field, stress reappraisal and mindset intervention research has translated intervention materials from the lab, often in more intensive interventions that require active engagement with the content. For example, Jamieson et al. ( 2016 ) provided community college students with stress appraisal materials adapted from laboratory studies that outlined research supporting the position that stress can facilitate performance. Students receiving the reappraisal intervention reported lower math anxiety and performed better on math tests compared to those receiving a ‘placebo’ instruction. These findings are important because the intervention was conducted in a community college setting and not on high‐achieving students. Importantly, participants were required to actively acknowledge they endorsed the position advocated in the materials. Similarly, building on imagery intervention research (Conroy & Hagger, 2018 ; Hagger, Lonsdale, & Chatzisarantis, 2011 ; Hagger et al., 2012 ; Hamilton, Keech, Peden, & Hagger, 2019 ; Pham & Taylor, 1999 ), Keech et al. ( 2019 ) developed a novel imagery‐based technique to induce a stress‐is‐enhancing mindset. Participants were initially prompted to identify typical stressors in their daily life, and then engage in a series of visualization exercises in which they imagined the potentially positive consequences of stressor and the actions they could take to experience these positive consequences. The intervention was found to be effective in promoting better coping with perceived distress, adaptive changes in positive and negative affect, increased proactive behaviour and academic performance among participants with elevated stress.

These findings highlight the potential efficacy of reappraisal and mindset stress‐management strategies in mitigating both short‐ and longer‐term health outcomes and functioning. These interventions have numerous advantages. They are based on strong theory (Crum et al., 2020 ; Jamieson et al., 2013 ; Keech et al., 2018 ) and an evidence base developed from basic principles and in laboratory‐based research to demonstrate proof‐of‐concept (Crum et al., 2013 ; Jamieson et al., 2010 , 2013 ). Importantly, they demonstrate good translatability from laboratory to field settings, with an expanding evidence base in multiple contexts demonstrating their effects with small‐to‐medium effect sizes (Jamieson et al., 2016 ; Keech et al., 2019 ). In addition, they are self‐administered and low burden, obviating time‐ and resource‐intensive in person administration, but they also require engagement with the material which ensures effortful, active attention on the part of the recipient rather than passive receipt, which may enhance their long‐term impact. Reappraisal and mindset interventions are also relatively ‘low risk’ in that they are non‐invasive and have good acceptability by participants in research adopting these techniques (Crum et al., 2020 ; Jamieson et al., 2013 ; Keech et al., 2019 ). However, as with many psychological approaches to stress management, there is a small risk that the process of reflecting on stress may evoke some highly traumatic stressful events in some individuals, particularly in the context of the current pandemic, which has had stressful consequences such as bereavements, loss of employment, and stressful work experiences (e.g., among healthcare and ‘frontline’ workers). Interventions that include reappraisal and mindset interventions as part of their content should, therefore, also be accompanied by information on where those who experience difficult or traumatic thoughts during the course of the intervention could seek advice and help. Taken together, these interventions stand as strong candidate means to assist with the management of stress for individuals experiencing high stress during the COVID‐19 pandemic and as nations emerge from lockdown.

Importantly, comprehensive examples of the materials for stress reappraisal and mindset interventions exist. These provide templates for adaptation to the specific contexts and populations. For example, the interactive ‘rethinking stress’ toolkits used by Crum et al. ( 2013 ) ( ) and the interactive videos, scripts, and materials used by Keech et al. ( 2019 ) ( ) are available online. In practice, such interventions may be embedded in health promotion materials that are delivered to the population in print (e.g., pamphlets) and online (e.g., websites and print media) formats. For instance, the primary content of Crum et al.'s ‘rethinking stress’ toolkits are interactive videos, which challenge individuals to reconsider their view of stress and provide tips on how such reappraisals can help manage stressors that arise in the course of a typical day. Similarly, Keech et al.'s interactive videos prompt individuals to engage in imagery‐based stress mindset exercises and can be tailored to make reference to the sources of stress pertinent to the individual. These exercises could be incorporated into stress‐management interventions delivered via the Internet or mobile devices aimed at those most at risk of stress. They may also be used by clinicians and behavioural health practitioners as part of existing programs to promote stress coping. The videos and accompanying materials would need to be tailored accordingly for application to the management of stress arising from current COVID‐19 pandemic and the associated lockdown measures. This would require some minor adjustments to the content of the reappraisal and mindset intervention strategies, and identification of effective networks for administration and distribution. However, such adjustments are comparatively minor and highlight the potential flexibility of these intervention approaches to novel contexts. The high level of translatability and potential for flexible, self‐administered format suggests that stress reappraisal and mindset interventions have excellent potential to be included as part of governmental and organizational health promotion campaigns to manage stress during the current pandemic and beyond.


Stress reappraisal and mindset interventions have high potential to assist in stress management during the COVID‐19 pandemic based on their demonstrated efficacy in laboratory and selected applied contexts (Crum et al., 2013 , 2017 ; Keech et al., 2019 ). Research demonstrating that such interventions are highly translatable and have consistent short‐to‐medium term effects on stress in ecologically valid contexts, suggests that it is reasonable to extrapolate previous findings to other stressful situations. However, it should be acknowledged that relatively little research has explored the effects of stress reappraisal and mindset interventions among individuals experiencing prolonged or chronic stress in the context of major stress‐inducing and traumatic events such as natural disasters or disease pandemics (Keech et al., 2020 ). We therefore call for research testing the efficacy of stress mindsets in mitigating stress in the context of highly stressful events, such as COVID‐19 and its aftermath, to address this evidence gap and provide definitive evidence to support their use in stress management in traumatic events such as pandemics. Such endeavours are important given that the current pandemic is likely to continue, with the potential for a ‘second wave’ and the need for greater preparedness for stress management in the event of future pandemics.


The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


Martin S. Hagger's contribution was supported by a Finnish Distinguished Professor (FiDiPro) award from Business Finland (1801/31/2015).

Hagger MS, Keech JJ, Hamilton K. Managing stress during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and beyond: Reappraisal and mindset approaches . Stress and Health . 2020; 36 :396–401. 10.1002/smi.2969 [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ CrossRef ] [ Google Scholar ]

Funding information Business Finland, Grant/Award Number: 1801/31/2105

COVID-19 and Vaccine Information

Masks are still required in healthcare settings per CDC and state health department guidelines.

Managing stress during COVID-19

October 15, 2020 | Wellness | Healthy You

woman walking two dogs on a fall day

Learn strategies to reduce stress and step away from the chaos of the coronavirus pandemic.

To put it lightly, these are unprecedented times. People in the United States – and people around the world – are working around the clock to reduce the coronavirus spread and care for the sick. This, so we can get back to our regular routines. In the midst of everything, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed by all the uncertainty and unknowns.

It seems like every minute we face nonstop news reports, updated health statistics and social media posts intended to keep us updated. However, these best intentions can bring worry and undue stress. Spattered within the messages of hope are unfortunate panic-inducing reports. While it’s important that we stay informed, it’s also important to do what we can to personally manage our stress and help our loved ones do the same.

Groups at higher risk for stress

We all deal with stress and uncertainty in different ways. But certain people can feel more stress, increased anxiety and heightened worry than their neighbors, friends and family. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and its stay-at-home orders. Those who might become more stressed during this crisis include:

Recognizing and coping with stress in a positive, healthy way can help you remain calm. And recognizing the stress of others and lending support can make everyone stronger.

Here are a few tips on how to manage stress.

1. throttle your media consumption.

Seek out reliable news sources – such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or your state health board – for the latest information about COVID-19. However, we recommend limiting the news to less than a few times per day. Check first thing in the morning and the late afternoon. But not before bedtime. Constantly tuning into the news increases stress and often draws attention to things that you have little control over.

 2. Get outside

No matter what the season, take an opportunity to get outside and experience nature – but be sure to follow any shelter-in-place and social distancing guidelines. Step away from your home office and take a walk around your neighborhood or a local trail – if opened. If you have kids, go on a nature scavenger hunt or play “I spy” in the yard.

3. Control What You Can

During this time of uncertainty, take the opportunity to control what you can in your home environment. Get the family to pitch in for some deep cleaning. Sort through your family’s clothing and set aside any donations for when donation centers open back up. Do some cleanup outdoors. In the fall, rake the yard and check the gutters, if you can do so safely. If it's spring, clean out your flower garden or prepare your vegetable garden for planting. Accomplishing tasks such as these can be rewarding.

4. Get Creative

Using your hands and your creative brain can be a great way to relieve stress. It helps you focus on the present and create something new. If you have arts and crafts supplies on hand, use them to create something special. If you need a little inspiration, check out this list of kids’ crafts to make with minimal supplies. There are also several fun crafts that artists of all ages and skill levels can make using household items.

5. Seek Help When Needed

If your stress is causing you to feel more anxious or depressed, don’t be afraid to reach out. Many experts are available to provide virtual support during these uncertain times. PeaceHealth Clinics are now accepting telephone visits without having to leave your home.  Learn more  to see if your appointment will qualify.

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How to manage stress during the COVID-19 pandemic

Worried about COVID-19?

> Know the facts

Change is stressful, and stress leads to anxiety, negatively affecting our mental and physical health. And while sheltering in place serves the public good, it can affect our mental health.

Susanne Ringhausen, manager of Mental Health and Psychological Services at OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony’s Health Center in Alton, offered some solutions.

“Feeling worried is a normal human response to change or challenge. It’s important during uncertain times to understand the difference between an expected reaction to stress and elevating levels of distress that may trigger a depressive episode or anxiety disorder,” Suzanne said. “Taking time for personal self-care helps us to maintain perspective and prevent concerns from becoming more serious.”

Know the signs of stress

Signs of stress include:

If you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions such as sadness, depression or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others, call 911 or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrative Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. Another option: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Manage your stress

Strategies for dealing with stress:

Know the facts

One sure way to defuse a stressful situation is to know the facts. Obtain the latest information from credible public health resources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or your state Department of Public Health ( Illinois – Michigan ). Misinformation spreads quickly and increases anxiety and alarm.

“You can experience some mixed emotions from isolation, worrying about your health and the health of your loved ones,” Susanne said. “Understand that it may take time to get back to your usual routine. Continue to communicate safely with loved ones. Knowing they are safe and healthy will reduce your stress.”

If you are experiencing increased anxiety or stress, you have 24/7 access to the OSF HealthCare online platform for behavioral health, OSF SilverCloud . OSF SilverCloud provides access to online behavioral health tools, and can connect you to in-person resources or telehealth services.

Last Updated: December 21, 2021

stress management during covid 19 essay

Stress Management during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Praram 9 hospital.

Stress during Covid 19

Dr. Dujrudee Apiwong

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major effect on our lives. Many of us, both adults and children, are facing challenges that can be stressful and overwhelming .   Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way will allow you, the people you care about, and those around you become more resilient.

Stress from WFH

Introduction to stress

3 impacts of stress, strategies to manage stress, sustainable stress management techniques during covid-19 pandemics, how covid-19 affects the mental health.

We may be aware of the infectiousness, morbidity and mortality of Covid-19, but it is also known to have significant negative mental impact on those involved directly or indirectly.

For patients diagnosed with Covid-19, these are some of the emotional stress they may face:

Impact of COVID-19 on Public Mental Health

People may also be stressed despite not being infected by Covid-19 due to several reasons:

Stress from WFH

>Back to contents

What is stress?

Stress is our physiological and psychological response towards change in our life, whether it is just daily change or impactful, unexpected change. 

Proper stress has advantages

Moderate doses of stress are beneficial to health. Humans have a flight-or-fight response, which is an inborn physiological reaction that occurs when they perceive threat.  Stress improves your cognitive function, helping you to fight obstacles, including the Covid-19 pandemic difficulties.

Depression is another significant negative effect resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. Here are some symptoms of depression:

3 Signs for depression

Depression is treatable

See a psychiatrist if you experience symptoms of depression for most of the day, every day, for more than 2 weeks.  Moreover, during times of extreme stress, people may have thoughts of suicide. Suicide is preventable and our psychiatrists at mind center are always available for help.  

Managing stress is all about taking charge: taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun – plus the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges head on.  Below are fundamental steps to manage stress. 

ASMR can help to relax

Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and those around you become more resilient.  After all, we need to adapt to “the New Normal” life post Covid-19.

Find new happiness while staying home

COVID-19 has affected our daily life tremendously.  Learning to cope with stress and adapting to our “New Normal” life post covid-19 is important.

Learning to manage stress will make you more resilient. However, if you are struggling to cope, there are many ways to get help. Contact our mind center if you find that you are struggling and we will be there to help you, offering personalized and novel treatment methods that suit your needs.

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Counselling & Psychological Services

This tipsheet covers understanding common reactions in yourself and others during the COVID-19 pandemic, what you can do to look after yourself and manage feelings of stress, anxiety, or distress associated with COVID-19, and helpful resources and support.

COVID-19: common reactions

As the COVID-19 pandemic and its far-reaching implications continue to unfold globally and in our community, it's normal for people to experience a wide range of thoughts, feelings and reactions including:

These experiences are all understandable in the face of this significant challenge. There has been loss of life, rapid changes to our way of life (e.g., study, work, social gatherings), and disrupted plans due to travel restrictions and social (physical) distancing measures in our efforts to slow the spread of transmission. People are naturally concerned for their own and their loved ones’ health and safety. There is still much uncertainty.

It’s important to recognise the seriousness of the public health challenge facing our community, and be mindful that reacting from a place of panic and fear is usually unhelpful, especially in the long-term. Looking after our wellbeing in times like this can help to reduce stress, and is crucial in enabling us to still take calm and effective action in the midst of this global crisis.

Strategies to cope with stress, anxiety or distress

When many things feel uncertain or out of our control, one of the most effective ways we can manage stress and anxiety is to focus on the actions that are in our control . Here are some ways you can take intentional steps to look after your physical and emotional wellbeing during this challenging time:

Learn how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. The Australian Department of Health has recommended important actions we can all take to protect against infection and prevent the virus from spreading including practising good hygiene , self-isolation , and social (physical) distancing .

Acknowledge your feelings. Whatever you are feeling right now, know that it’s okay to feel that way. Allow yourself time to notice and express what you’re feeling. This could be through journalling, talking with others, or channelling your emotions into something creative (e.g., drawing, painting, poetry, music). Mindfulness meditation exercises can help us stay grounded in the midst of an emotional storm. You can learn how to witness and let thoughts and feelings come and go in their own time, without getting overwhelmed by them.

Maintain your day-to-day activities and a routine as much as possible. Having a healthy routine can have a positive impact on your thoughts and feelings. Go back to basics: eating healthy meals, physical exercise (e.g., walking, stretching, running, cycling),  getting enough sleep , and doing things you enjoy. Even if you're in self-quarantine, or working from home, there are many ways to develop new routines and stay healthy .

During this time of change, it's natural for our minds to think of all the usual activities we may not be able to do at the moment. Make a conscious shift to focus on the activities we are still able to do, or those that we may have more opportunity to do if we're at home more often. Some ideas could be to:

Stay connected. Receiving support and care from others has a powerful effect on helping us cope with challenges. Spending time with supportive family and friends can bring a sense of comfort and stability. Talking through our concerns, thoughts, and feelings with others can also help us find helpful ways of thinking about or dealing with a stressful situation.

We know that it can be hard to connect sometimes, especially if you're new to Melbourne or living alone, especially at this time. A great way to connect with other students from home is via The Social Connection , where you can meet new people in small groups over Zoom!

Remember that physical distancing does not need to mean social disconnection.  There are many ways we can use technology to stay connected , and both give and receive support (remotely). You could:

Contribute.  Showing care towards friends, family, or vulnerable people in our community can be all the more important during times like this. It can foster a sense of hope, purpose, and meaning. Some ideas can be to:

Keep things in perspective. In a situation that’s uncertain, it’s natural to have many ‘what if?’ questions in our minds. In the absence of information, our anxious mind will often fill in the blanks with worst case scenarios, which can leave us feeling overwhelmed, helpless, or vulnerable. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to shift your thinking from catastrophizing to a more helpful mindset:

Seek accurate information. Finding credible sources you can trust is important to avoid the fear and panic that can be caused by misinformation. Follow sources like the Australian Department of Health , or the Australian Department of Education, Skills, and Employment for up-to-date fact sheets, including advice and support specifically for international students.

Set limits around news and social media. It’s understandable to want to keep informed and prepared. At the same time, constantly reading, watching, or listening to upsetting media coverage can unnecessarily intensify worry and agitation. When you get the urge to check updates, see if you can pause, notice the urge, delay acting on the urge, and let it pass without judgement. Schedule a specific time to check in with the news instead. It's also okay to take breaks from conversations with others about COVID-19 and suggest talking about other topics.

Stay up to date with university advice and support.  Check the University's student support website for important information, including course-specific updates and other advice for affected students.

Helpful resources and support

Tipsheets and online resources.

Mobile apps

Self-help programs

Check out the full list of recommended  mental health and wellbeing resources on our website, including links to mental health information, self-help programs, and apps.

Further health and wellbeing support

Within the university.

Other phone or online counselling support services outside the university

Crisis support

General counselling and mental health support

Specialist areas

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Coping with COVID-19-related stress as a student

With schools around the country closed, students are facing unprecedented change.

stress management during covid 19 essay

Your classes may now be virtual. You may have returned home, where you’re missing friends and finding studying difficult. Or maybe you’ve stayed put and worry about your family. Perhaps you’re juggling your children’s educational needs as well as your own. You might have lost funding or your job. Whether you’re a graduate student or an undergrad, you’re probably feeling anxious, sad and uncertain. These feelings are normal. And there are ways to lessen your stress.

Practice self-care

Basic self-care will keep your immune system strong and your emotional reserves full. Get enough sleep. Exercise regularly. Eat well. Try mindfulness apps.

Find activities that engage different parts of yourself. Do something physical like dancing. Occupy your mind with puzzles. Engage your senses with hot baths or fragrant candles.

Look for tasks you can postpone or simply eliminate from your to-do list.

Find ways to focus

You might feel unmotivated now. Recognize that the current circumstances are hard for everyone. Don’t judge yourself; just do the best you can.

Establish a routine. Get up, go to bed and do your work at the same time every day. Frequent breaks can help you re-engage in your work.

Try to create a separate work space, although you should reserve your sleeping area for sleeping. If family members are distracting you, use “I statements” to explain the problem--“I’m worried about my exam next week”—and work together to develop solutions.

Seek out social support

Your classmates have probably scattered. And having to stay home can be lonely. To combat isolation, come together with your dorm-mates or graduate school cohort via technology.

Even something as simple as turning on your webcam during virtual classes can help you and others feel more connected.

Help others cope

Your classmates and family members are anxious, too. You don’t have to fix their problems. It’s enough to let them know they’re not alone.

If you’re a psychology graduate student on a clinical track, you’re probably helping patients manage the same anxieties you’re facing yourself. Be sure to address your own concerns separately so you can focus on patients during sessions. Ask your supervisor for help.

Find ways to manage disappointment

Whether it’s an internship, dissertation defense or graduation ceremony, important events may not happen this year.

Grieve those losses, then reframe how you think about these life events. Think about how you can honor what you’ve achieved. Find new ways to celebrate. Consider recreating important events once it’s safe.

Limit your media consumption

Of course, it’s good to stay informed, especially about what’s happening in your area.

But too much news — especially social media — can add to your anxiety. To avoid being overwhelmed, set limits on your media consumption and smartphone use. Cut through misinformation by relying on reputable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization.

Focus on things you can control

Your classmates, friends or family members may be disobeying the rules about physical distancing or doing other things that add to your stress.

While modeling good behavior and staying safe yourself, recognize that you can’t control what other people do. You can only control your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Another thing you can’t control? The uncertainty about what comes next. Instead of worrying about our ambiguous future, focus on solving immediate problems.

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5 Ways to Manage Stress During the Coronavirus Outbreak

man running alone down a city street

As events regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to evolve, it’s understandable that you might feel increasing stress.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Information is rapidly changing and can be confusing, overwhelming and even scary. You may experience fear and spikes in anxiety. But even if you’re  managing your anxiety levels  well, there’s still so much more to deal with.

Whether it’s dealing with at-risk family members or patients, a roller coaster economy, trying to juggle work, keeping kids occupied, or simply adjusting to a new, unfamiliar situation, stress can easily pile up and negatively impact you — both physically and mentally. 

Clinical psychologist Amy Sullivan, PsyD, ABPP , stresses the importance of planning coping activities. “America is the engine of ingenuity,” she says. “Let’s be innovative. This is a time where we can really be creative and come up with positive coping skills.”  

5 steps for managing your stress

Exercise regularly.  While gyms may have mask requirements or social distancing guidelines in place, it’s still possible to get in  aerobic exercise , like walking, running, hiking or playing with your kids/pets, and these can all can help release endorphins (natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude). There are other exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home, too. Dr. Sullivan recommends yoga and stretching as one way to both exercise your body and calm your mind and it’s  easy to do by yourself . 

Maintain a healthy diet.  Stress can  adversely affect  both your eating habits and your metabolism. The best way to combat stress or emotional eating is to be mindful of what triggers stress eating and to be ready to fight the urge. “If you are someone who is prone to emotional eating, know your triggers, know what stresses you out and be prepared,” Dr. Sullivan says. Keeping  healthy snacks  on hand will help nourish your body, arming yourself nutritionally to better deal with your stress. “Helping to regulate your blood sugar throughout the day is going to keep your body stable and your emotions on a much better playing field,” Dr. Sullivan says.

Take a break.  “As humans we want control over our lives and in this situation, so we have to learn to manage lack of control,” says Dr. Sullivan. While it’s important to stay informed of the latest news and developments, the evolving nature of the news can get overwhelming. Find a balance of exposure to news that works for you. This is particularly important for our children. We need to limit their exposure to the media and provide age-appropriate information to them. Whenever reasonably possible, disconnect physically and mentally. Play with puzzles, a board game, do a treasure hunt, tackle a project, reorganize something, or start a new book that is unrelated to coronavirus coverage. 

Connect with others.  “I can’t stress enough how important connection is during times of uncertainty and fear,” Dr. Sullivan says. “Fear and isolation can lead to depression and anxiety. We need to make a point to connect with others regularly.” Reach out to family members, friends and colleagues regularly via phone, text, FaceTime or other virtual platforms. Make sure that you are checking on those that are alone. Check in regularly with your parents, grandparents and your children.

Get sleep and rest.  The ever-changing news environment can create a lot of stress, stress that gets amplified  when you don’t get enough sleep . It’s especially important now to get the  recommended amount of sleep  to help you stay focused on work and on managing the stress the current pandemic can bring. Dr. Sullivan recommends avoiding stimulants like alcohol, caffeine and nicotine before bed. If you still find yourself too stressed to sleep, consider developing a new pre-bedtime routine, including a long bath or a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea. And planning for tomorrow earlier in your day can help alleviate stress related to what’s to come. 

Following these steps to manage stress and add a sense of normalcy can go a long way to help you cope with the ever-changing environment and help keep those around you, especially children, calm and focused. If you are not able to manage your anxiety or depression on your own, reach out to a behavioral medicine provider for an in-person or virtual visit. “Take care of yourself and others around you,” says Dr. Sullivan.

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If the coronavirus pandemic is causing you increasing stress levels, you’re not alone. Try these 5 tips from our clinical psychologist to manage your stress.


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