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How to cope with the stress of a pandemic

How to cope with the stress of a pandemic

March 20, 2020 at 2:45pm

Stress levels are rising as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies.  

In a Q&A, developmental health psychologist Leslie Frazier provided FIU News with insights on how to cope and manage stress during this time.

Q: What are some ways to cope with the stress of this pandemic?

A: Managing stress well will help you stay healthy during the pandemic and will help you cope if you do become ill during the crisis. Successful coping means tailoring your coping to the stressor you are facing.

  • Use action-oriented coping strategies for things that you can change (e.g., practicing social distancing to stay healthy),
  • Use emotion-focused coping for the emotional toll this pandemic is causing (e.g., expressing your emotions, crying, meditating, listening to music)
  • Seek social support (e.g., spending time virtually with other people, staying connected, sharing virtual activities), remembering we are truly all in this together and people all around the world are dealing with this.

Q: What are some ways to remain positive?

A: It is really important to be self-reflective and mindful so that one can maintain good mental and physical health and well-being during this crisis. 

  • Stay calm and consult only reliable sources of information – those based on science and medicine. There is a lot of misinformation out there that fuels fear and anxiety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) remains the best source of information on the pandemic. In addition, the American Psychological Association (APA) website offers information on how to manage the stress of the pandemic and the constant media attention to it.
  • Be informed and keep things in perspective. This will help to provide a sense of control to manage the crisis on a personal level and help us make informed decisions about our own health.

Q: How to stay calm when statistics change by the minute and there seems to be no end in sight?

A: One thing to keep in mind about this pandemic is that it is unprecedented and most of us have never experienced anything like this before. It is disrupting many aspects of our lives including our personal health, our work, perhaps our finances, our schools and neighborhoods, and the fabric of our society. It is also unpredictable and happening largely outside our control. The only things we have control over are our thoughts, decisions and actions, and how we take care of ourselves and our families.

This pandemic and the stress associated with it can create an opportunity for us to self-reflect and make meaning from our experiences as well as to support and connect with others who may not be coping as well as we are. The negatives are clear but we can take control of our own thoughts and actions to protect our own mental and physical health.

Frazier is associate professor of psychology and director of graduate studies in the Department of Psychology at FIU. Her current research areas focus on stress and coping with life transitions in an effort to maximize mental and physical health outcomes. Of special interest is understanding the adjustment to living with chronic illness and the processes associated with developing resilience and avenues toward successful aging.