10 Ways to Manage Stress in a COVID-19 World

By John Leverington, LMFT, LPC, LCSW

Life has become much more complicated and stressful in the last few months or weeks, depending on what country you are living in, as the Corona Virus spreads around the globe.  It has brought physical, emotional and spiritual challenges as we cope with the changes to daily life, relationships, personal space, church and team meetings. I have felt the effects on my own life, my family our counseling team and our counseling practice.  All of them are changing on a daily basis.  We are all feeling uncertain about what could happen next, as we listen to the news about the spread of this pandemic. Stress can affect the immune system, but short-term stress that is managed well is less likely to have this affect. Taking steps to manage and reduce your stress in a healthy way will make a difference.

Ten Ways to Reduce Stress

  1. Remember feelings of anxiety and uncertainty are completely normal during times like this.
  2. Take time to sit in a quiet place and simply be with God. You may need head phones to drown out the noises outside and/or the family activity inside.
    1. Express your fears, anxiety, pour out your heart.
    2. Listen for what the Great Physician and Counselor speaks to you. What do you hear?
    3. What emotion do you hear in His voice?
    4. What emotion does the sound of His voice and His words illicit in you?
    5. What is his posture toward you? What do you see?
    6. What emotion does His posture toward you reveal about who He is? How he feels about you?
    7. What do you notice is different about your breathing, your thoughts, your emotions?
  3. Limit your media exposure. Find a couple of reliable sources to get information and set boundaries on the amount of time you will spend listening to or watching the news.
  4. Connect electronically with teammates, friends and family on a regular basis.
  5. Limit your screen time. Watching movies can be an entertaining distraction but find other activities to occupy the time.
  6. Take time to stretch, move, exercise. Any physical activity, even if it is sitting on a chair and doing leg lifts helps relieve body tension. Just do it!
  7. Laugh – sharing humor and finding funny things to laugh about is a valuable asset. One thing I have observed across the world is that stock piling toilet paper is a universal human response to a crisis!
  8. Pet therapy – Pets can provide a source of calm and have proven to even reduce blood pressure when they are behaving well.
  9. Do the things you enjoy. Reading, listening to music, playing games or looking at family photos from the past.  Many musical performances are now being offered on-line.
  10. This can be a time to try a new recipe, learn more about a hobby or simply working on getting a project you have been wanting to do.

Stewart Shankman, chief psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University says, “The biggest source of anxiety is uncertainty, not knowing what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen, how long this is going to last. And we don’t know. So, trying to know, trying to resolve that uncertainty, is counterproductive. It’s going to make you more anxious.”  That doesn’t mean denying or trying to suppress your desire to know, but accepting that it isn’t possible to know.

We need faith and friends in this time of uncertainty to deal with the unknown.  I pray you will experience both in deeper and more meaningful ways as we deal with the current effects of COVID-19 on our lives.