Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19

The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has been stressful for many people and communities. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause a host of emotional responses. The list of resources below suggests ways to care for your mental health during these experiences and provides information for more help. It also includes descriptions of feelings and thoughts you may have during and after social distancing and/or self-isolation.

Resources for Coping:

During/After Social-Distancing & Social-Isolation:

What To Expect: Typical Reactions

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations such as an infectious disease outbreak that requires social distancing and/or self-isolation.

People may feel:

  • Anxiety, worry, or fear related to your own health status
  • Concern about effectively managing your life demands while choosing to isolate for your own safety and safety of others
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) and loneliness associated with feeling cut off from the world and from friends and family
  • Stigmatized or singled-out
  • Anger and frustration about having your movements in the world confined to one space.
  • Boredom and frustration because you may not be able to work or engage in regular day-to-day activities
  • Uncertainty or ambivalence about the situation
  • A desire to use unhealthful coping behaviors that interfere with normal sleeping, eating, and self-care behaviors such as excessive late nights, over-eating, and excessive use of substances.
  • Symptoms of depression, such as feelings of hopelessness, changes in appetite, or sleeping too little or too much
  • Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as intrusive distressing memories, flashbacks (reliving the event), nightmares, changes in thoughts and mood, and being easily startled
Ways To Support Yourself
  • Connect with others: Reaching out to people you trust is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety, depression, loneliness, and boredom during social distancing and isolation. You can use the telephone, email, text messaging, and social media to connect with friends, family, and others
  • Talk “face-to-face” with friends and loved ones using Skype or FaceTime
  • Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of the coronavirus
  • Maintain a routine and take care of your body:
    • Stick to a scheduled sleep routine
    • Eat healthy and avoid excessive use of caffeine, alcohol, or other substances
  • Infuse some variety into daily activities
    • Read
    • Do homework… stay connected with professors by email and keep up with classwork
    • Television
    • Time spent in meditation or just taking deep breaths and stretching
    • Journal about your experience during this time
    • Monitor time spent on social media
    • Engage in or develop a hobby… try something new you have not tried before to challenge yourself
  • Identify things you are hopeful for and grateful for in life.
  • Though time may seem to move slowly during this period, it does move and this will come to an end. Keep a calendar and mark off days to show/remind yourself that time does pass
  • Expect that this may be challenging at times and it is normal to feel a variety of emotions. Be sure to talk about how you are feeling with others.  FOMO is a normal thing to feel… use social media sparingly if you start feeling this way and turn your attention to things you enjoy and have conversations with others
  • Utilize the wellness app Sanvello to assist you in developing a personalized plan to engage in emotional wellness
What to Expect after Time Spent in Self-Isolation
  • It can be normal to feel singled-out and worried about how others may view and interact with you
  • Talk to others about your experience and how you are feeling
  • Re-engage in your daily routine: go to class, exercise, study, reconnect with others, etc…
  • Seek help if you feel distressed, anxious, depressed, and/or are having difficulty sleeping
How to Support Someone Engaging in Self-Isolation
  • Stay connected daily
  • Ask about how someone is doing and normalize feelings of anger, frustration, worry
    • Don’t try to fix these feelings while also reminding them that you care about them and that this will pass
  • Remind them to engage in healthy routines such as regular sleep patterns, eating healthy, and adding variety to their daily activities
  • Stay positive


Manage Anxiety & Stress

Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health: Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation During an Infectious Disease Outbreak (PDF)

Xenophobia & Racism Around Coronavirus

Stress, fear, and anxiety are normal reactions to public health crises, such as the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.  These feelings can fuel stigma and discrimination, such as xenophobia and racism, toward a particular group of people, whether done consciously or not.  Individuals of Asian descent, both international and domestic, as well as those perceived to be a part of these communities are being associated with the coronavirus. As a result, they are being stigmatized and subjected to racism and xenophobia in our country and communities.  Sometimes this xenophobia presents as a concern for hygiene, health, and wellness that nevertheless targets these communities and has a negative mental health impact on them that compounds the physical, emotional, and psychological stress already experienced as a result of the public health crisis.

We all can fall prey to our fear and anxieties and act on prejudice and bias. In order to prevent xenophobia and racism and instead promote inclusion during this time of uncertainty and crisis, we all need to:

  • Assess whether our views and reactions to the coronavirus come from a place of prejudice.
  • Challenge any biases in ourselves and in our social networks to reduce the stereotyping and stigmatizing of individuals and communities of Asian descent. Do not:
    • Assume that people of Asian descent have the coronavirus
    • Blame an entire group of people for the pandemic
    • Make jokes or comments that promote this stereotype/misinformation
  • Educate ourselves about social norms and practices in other countries:
    • It is a social norm in many countries to wear a facemask during cold and flu season
    • We should not assume that a person wearing a facemask is ill and that they should be avoided
  • Consider the impact of our actions on others:
    • People who are scapegoated and stigmatized can be more reluctant to seek out medical care when symptomatic
    • This stigmatization can affect not only their mental health but also their physical health, and indirectly, the health and recovery of our entire community

It is important that we not allow fear and panic to guide our actions. No amount of fear or anxiety can excuse racism or xenophobia.  Instead, we should have compassion, understanding, and empathy for one another, especially during such a challenging time.