It’s common to feel stressed or anxious during this time. It may be especially hard for people who already manage feelings of anxiety or emotional distress. For example, for those of us with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), public health recommendations about contamination and hand washing may make it more difficult to manage our symptoms.
Recognizing how you’re feeling can help you care for yourself, manage your stress and cope with difficult situations. Even when you don’t have full control of a situation, there are things you can do.
Below we describe how to stay informed, take action, maintain healthy social connections and find resources for support.
Manage how you consume information
Equip yourself with information from credible, reputable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Be selective about how you consume news. It’s generally a good idea to stay engaged and informed. Having some limits on your news consumption can help:
• Watching or listening to the same news constantly can increase stress. Reading can be an easier medium to control how much and what kind of information you’re absorbing.
• Set limits on when and for how long you consume news and information, including through social media. It may help you to choose a couple of fifteen-minute blocks each day when you will check news/social media and limit your news consumption to that time.
• False information spreads very easily on social media and can have serious consequences for individual and public health. Always verify sources and make sure they are reputable, especially before sharing anything.
Follow healthy daily routines as much as possible
Your daily habits and routines can help you feel more in control of your own well-being.
Even simple actions can make a difference:
• Make your bed
• Get dressed
• Connect with loved ones
• Move your body
• Make time for breaks
- If possible, take regular short breaks during work or between shifts. During these breaks, go outside and engage in physical activity if you can.
- Practice good hygiene, especially by cleaning your hands
- Prioritize sleep and practice. Here are some recommendations for getting good sleep
- Getting enough regular sleep is critical for your immune system
- Eat nutritious food as much as possible, especially fruits and vegetables
Take care of yourself through exercise and movement
If you’re staying home, you may be less physically active than usual. It’s important to keep movement as part of your daily life, whether it’s exercise or light movement like stretching and making sure you’re not sitting down too long.
Exercise is a great way to care for your body. It is a powerful way to improve both your physical and mental health. Research suggests that when we exercise, our brain releases chemicals that help us better manage stress and anxiety.
Find out more about the link between exercise and mental health:
There are many different ways to exercise. Many of them are free, don’t require any equipment and can be done at home. Most people can find an exercise routine that fits their needs and abilities. If you don’t typically exercise or have health concerns, you may want to talk with your primary care provider before starting a new activity.
Some ideas of how to move more:
- Do yoga
- Do cardiovascular exercise
- Research suggests this helps with anxiety and sleep. If you have concerns about balance or joint health, ask your provider about low-impact cardio you can do at home.
- Try free exercise videos on YouTube (yoga, dance exercises, Pilates, cardio, HIIT, etc.)
Practice relaxing in the present moment
Mindfulness is a way of practicing awareness that can reduce your stress. It involves focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. It may also help people manage some mental health symptoms.
Many medical organizations support mindfulness as a research-based way to lower your stress and boost your physical and emotional health:
- Mayo Clinic: Tips for Mindfulness & Coping with Anxiety
- Mass Memorial Center for Mindfulness
- Mindfulness Program at Johns Hopkins
There are lots of online resources about mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises and more. Some organizations, including yoga studios, offer free classes online as well. Grounding exercises can help you notice the sights, sounds, smells and sensations around you rather than being absorbed in your thoughts.
- There are many types of meditation, but in general, they involve finding a quiet, comfortable place where you can observe your thoughts and focus on your breath. Meditation can help you feel calmer and more relaxed.
- According to the National Institutes of Health, “Some research suggests that practicing meditation may reduce blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression, and insomnia.”
- Meditation apps:
- Headspace (free and subscription content)
- Calm (free and subscription)
- Simple Habit (subscription)
- Intimind (Spanish language, free and subscription)
- Liberate (free content created by and for people in the Black and African diaspora)
- Breathing exercises can help calm your body and your mind. These exercises often involve controlling and slowing your breath. They may be especially helpful in managing feelings of anxiety and panic.
- Diaphragmatic breathing exercise
- Box Breathing
When you can, do things that you enjoy and that help you relax.
- Read a book/listen to an audiobook. Many public libraries’ websites offer free audiobooks.
- Learn a new skill
- Create art—draw, build something, etc.
- Journal or write
- Play puzzles or games
- Take an online course—various free online courses available
- Do tasks around your home. Organize, do crafts, garden, rearrange your living space.
- Cook something new with ingredients you have at home
Stay connected with others and maintain your social networks
Physical distancing (also called social distancing) can change how you usually interact with people you care about. Doing this is essential to lessening the impact of COVID-19. There are many ways you can build a feeling of connection, even if you can’t see people in person or go places you usually would:
- Make sure you have the phone numbers and emails of close friends and family
- Stay connected via phone, email, social media and video calls
- Offer to help others if you can
- Ask for help when you need it
- Share how you’re feeling with people you trust
- Regularly call, text or email with family and friends who may have more limited social contact—elderly people, those with disabilities, those who live alone, those who are quarantined or at high risk because of chronic health conditions
- If talking about COVID-19 is affecting your mental health, set boundaries with people about how much and when talk you about COVID-19. Balance this with other topics you’d usually discuss.
- If you are living with other people, communicate expectations about how to live well together while staying home
- Do virtual activities together
- Plan virtual dinners and coffee breaks
- Do at-home crafts and activities over a video call
- Watch a virtual concert together
- Read the same book or watch the same movie/TV show and talk about it
- Play online multi-player video games
- Join an online exercise class
Find a mental health community
Being in contact with people who can relate to your experiences can be helpful. It can help you learn information, find resources that suit you and feel supported by people who understand.
- Find a free online support group
- Contact your local NAMI Affiliate or NAMI State Organization for information on programs in your area
- Visit the NAMI Resource Library, an extensive list of in-person and online support groups and other mental health resources
Gather information about ways you can get help in a mental health emergency or when you want immediate support:
- Warmline directory: Non-crisis, emotional and preventive care support over the phone
- NAMI HelpLine: Call (800) 950-NAMI (6264) Monday through Friday between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm ET for mental health resources or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Crisis support resources
- Crisis Text Line: Text “NAMI” to 741741 to chat with a trained crisis counselor
- Free 24/7 text line for those in crisis
- SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline: Call (800) 985-5990.
- Provides 24/7 crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call (800) 273-TALK (8255)
- If you or someone you know is in crisis—whether they are considering suicide or not—please call the toll-free Lifeline to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7
- The Trevor Project Resources: Call (866) 488-7386, Instant Message a counselor on their website, or text “START” to 678678 24/7
- The Trevor Project is a national organization offering support, including suicide prevention, for LGBTQ youth and their friends
- TrevorSpace: Online international peer-to-peer community
- Trevor Support Center: Educational resources and FAQs
- Trans LifeLine: Call (877) 565-8860 24/7
- Trans LifeLine is a trans-led organization that connects trans individuals to support, community and a variety of resources
Connect to a spiritual or religious community
Connecting with a spiritual or religious community can be helpful to find strength and consolation in times of distress, loss, grief and bereavement.
- Harvard Divinity School has compiled some spiritual resources from their community.
Other mental health articles and tools
- The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has resources and tools related to mental health care and suicide prevention during COVID-19
- The National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse is a national directory of local consumer-driven mental health services. Includes crisis prevention/respite services, drop-in centers, employment resources, housing, peer case management and support. Allows you to search a directory of local CDS (consumer-driven services).
- Mental Health America’s COVID-19 Information and Resources
- VirusAnxiety.com – A collection of research-backed tools (articles, meditations, access to mental health experts, anxiety screenings, etc.) created by Shine App in partnership with Mental Health America
- World Health Organization recommendations:
- Coping with stress
- Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak
- The Anxiety and Depression Association of America COVID-19 tips and resources