COVID-19 has brought many changes to daily life. Even people who felt like they were coping well early on are feeling the stress of this event as it continues. You may be worried about work, paying bills or children going to school (at home or in person). You may be grieving old or new losses or wondering when it will be your turn to get the vaccine. Many of us missed seeing family and friends during the holidays.
You may find yourself feeling overwhelmed, anxious, afraid, easily frustrated, or angry. Some people may have trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping or sleep too much. Some people get upset stomachs or headaches. These are normal reactions to stress. How can we best deal with this stress and still keep the quality of our lives?
Physical distancing does not mean social isolation. Reach out through social media, texts, video chats and phone calls. Take the time to check in with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers – not just those living alone – but to anyone who may be having a hard time.
If you can, virtually include your friends and family in your daily routines.
- Share meals virtually. Use video chat to exchange your favorite recipes, then prepare and enjoy your meals together in your own homes.
- Try a virtual game night or dance party.
- Tune in to the same streaming concert, Broadway performance, movie or TV show, and compare notes afterwards.
- Invite a friend or family member to attend the same online workout class.
- Read the same book and then find a time to discuss it by phone or online.
- Meet new people through online groups on platforms like Facebook, Slack, Meetup and WhatsApp, or through neighborhood groups.
- Find an online worship service or schedule a live prayer session with others.
- Go for a walk with someone while staying at least 6 feet apart and wearing a mask.
- Choose just a small circle of people for in-person get togethers and be sure to keep everyone safe.
- Meet outside in a park or other open space. Avoid big gatherings.
- Keep at least 6 feet of distance between each other as much as possible.
- Have a mask and be sure to wear it correctly (fully covering both your nose and mouth).
- Leave plenty of space between your group and others.
Some people find they feel better when they do something to help others.
- Reach out to an older neighbor or relative to talk.
- If you are not sick and are not at high risk for severe illness, offer to shop for those who need help in your neighborhood or building.
- Support local businesses that might be struggling and post a positive review online.
- Contact your local nursing home and ask if you can send letters to their residents.
- Reach out to those with young children and offer to read or entertain them virtually.
- If you are doing okay financially, consider a donation to a food bank or homeless shelter. There are many people struggling right now.
Create new routines, try to relax, and take care of yourself
Try to keep some type of routine or structure to your day – such as when you wake up, go to sleep or the hours you work from home. Look for ways to adapt and make new routines. Routine can help us feel normal and less anxious.
Each day, try to think about one thing you are grateful for. Guided meditation, yoga, listening to your favorite music, or writing in a gratitude journal are things that can help lower stress. Exercise and healthy eating are great ways to lower stress while strengthening your body and mind.
Try to find a balance that works best for you between staying informed about COVID-19 and taking a break from news and social media for a time. Hearing large amounts of information over and over can be upsetting.
Set a positive example and provide support for children and teens
Children and teens look to their parents and caregivers as role models for how to react. Take time to talk with your children and teens about COVID-19 in a calm way with information that is right for their age. Tell your child or teen that they are safe and let them know it is okay to feel upset. They are also feeling the strain of missing out on social activities and milestones such as birthday parties, sporting events and graduations. Be patient as they struggle with their emotions. Keep up with routines as much as you can. Be alert for common, age-specific, reactions to distress.
People who work as part of the healthcare system, including administrators and maintenance staff have unique stressors and challenges. Supporting the well-being of healthcare providers is critical to reducing burnout and keeping these heroes safe.
If you are responding to COVID-19, remember that secondary traumatic stress (STS) caused by risk of infection, patient volumes, staff shortage, death toll and financial stress can affect your physical health and mental health. It is essential to take care of yourself so you can continue to care for others. While there are many things outside of your control, focus on the things that are within your control to help manage stress and anxiety and promote resilience.
Ways to manage stress
- Acknowledge and talk about your feelings.
- Monitor your health and check for physical symptoms or anxiety and depression.
- Take frequent breaks from your routine. Set aside time for nonCOVID-19 related activities and news.
- Create a friendly work environment with your team members.
- Acknowledge and respond to concerns of staff and other team members.
Ask for help and support if you are struggling
This is an extra hard time for people with mental health issues or those living with or in recovery from substance use disorders. This may also affect their caregivers and family members. People who are surviving abuse and violence in their relationships may be at greater risk of danger due to COVID-19 and staying at home more often during this time. If you or someone you know is going through increased anxiety, depression, abuse, is worried about staying sober or managing use of alcohol or other substances, there are people who can help.
Many counselors and therapists are using telehealth and 12-step meetings are being held online across the world. Other services are also available
- Call the Virginia C.O.P.ES warm line if you are feeling stressed by COVID-19 and need support. Virginia C.O.P.E.S., which stands for compassionate, optimistic, person-centered, empowering support, is a “warm” line set up to help people who are having trouble dealing with the changes in our lives due to COVID-19. Callers can receive emotional support and referrals for mental and behavioral health and other services. Unlike 911, which is used only for emergencies, a warm line offers support and gives people the chance to talk about their struggles and mental health. The COVID Warm Line number is
(877) 349-6428 Toll Free
9:00 A.M. - 9:00 P.M. Monday - Friday
5:00 P.M. - 9:00 P.M. Saturday and Sunday
Spanish speaking counselors are available
- Resources for family violence, sexual violence or abuse: Home may not be a safe place if you or someone you know is experiencing family or sexual violence or abuse. Below are free and confidential resources available 24 hours a day to call for help and support. For immediate emergencies, call 911.
- Family Violence and Sexual Assault Virginia Hotline: 1-800-838-8238
- LGBTQ Partner Abuse and Sexual Assault Helpline: 1-866-356-6998
- Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline:1-800-552-7096
- There are also instant messaging and text options available if it isn’t safe to talk on the phone. The Family Violence and Sexual Assault Virginia Hotline and the LGBTQ Partner Abuse and Sexual Assault Helpline have a confidential chat feature here, or you can text the hotlines at: 1-804-793-9999.
- For victims and survivors of abuse who need support, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7. Call 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-799-7233 for TTY. If you are unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522. The Virginia Department of Social Services also has a family violence and sexual assault hotline available 24/7 at 1-800-838-8238.
- 2-1-1 Virginia: Dialing 2-1-1 is a free, confidential referral and information helpline and website that connects people to health and human services they need, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 211Virginia.org also is available online here.
- Curb the Crisis is a website that provides resources for people with addiction to opioids. Opioid overdoses have gone up sharply since the start of COVID-19. This website can connect you to treatment resources and support. Other local, state and national mental health and substance use disorder resources can be found in the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services “Self-Help and Recovery Support Resources for Individuals at Home Guide," located here.
Be kind--we need it now more than ever.
Please be kind to:
- Your community by being generous, supporting local businesses, and being grateful for our caretakers.
- Healthcare providers and public health employees who are working hard to keep you safe.
- Essential workers in restaurants, retail and other businesses.
- Your friends and family. Reconnect. Pick up the phone, call your grandmother, tag your loved ones in an old photo.
- Yourself. Feel your emotions. Stay calm. Organize.
For more information:
- VDH's FAQs about Stress and Coping with COVID-19.
- VDH’s Healthcare Personnel and First Responders: Coping with Stress during COVID-19.
- CDC’s Stress and Coping for more on how you can plan, prepare, and cope with stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- CDC’s Ensure Children's Wellbeing During COVID-19: Parental Resources Kit for information on children and young people’s social, emotional, and mental health.
- WHO’s illustrated guide for coping with adversity for more recommendations on stress management.
- American Academy of Pediatrics’s guide on Mental Health During COVID-19: Signs Your Child May Need More Support for recognizing signs of stress in teens and children.
- Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Lifestyle Stress management for coping with holiday stress during COVID-19.
Page last reviewed: February 10, 2021